Why Russian youth has disappointed hopes for democratic change

Eurozine_Zorkaya_Russia-400x0-c-defaultNatalia Zorkaya at Eurozine:

At the beginning of the 1990s, prospects for modernisation and democratic change in Russian society were linked to the younger generation. Sociologists identified the bearers of new values not only in the educated classes, or in the modern, more complex social environment of large cities and megacities, but first and foremost amongst the youth. At the beginning of the 1990s, young people stood out from other generations for their inclination towards liberal-democratic values, civil rights and freedom, their openness towards the West and their attitude towards social achievement and success. Even at the start of the economic reforms, when – after a short period of euphoric expectation that things would rapidly change for the better – the majority of the population was plunged into a state of frustration and confusion and increasingly took the view that any changes in the country were imposed from above, young people demonstrated a more positive attitude and were more content with their own lives.

Hopes that young people would be able to quickly adopt western ideas and democratic principles were also characteristic of the liberal and democratic parties and social movements of the 1990s. Ideas about how Russian society and its economy might be modernized emerged directly from the educated classes – primarily residents of large cities and youth – and involved complex ideas of justice, human rights, a democratic state, the independence of the judiciary, the protection of private property and so on. These social environments were expected to encourage the institutional consolidation of the values of democratic rule-of-law state, civil rights and freedoms and the displacement of former Soviet stereotypes and complexes.

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