Russias "Generation X": Where Are They Headed?
In the July issue of this newsletter, we noted that Russias "Generation X" is deeply disillusioned about their countrys future and profoundly skeptical of political revolution and economic experimentation. They are a twentysomething generation that knows what it doesnt want -- the old days of the Communist Partys repression -- but is unsure with what to replace it.
A Case Study at Kuban State University
Most Russian students at Kuban State University were not opposed to democracy, according to Professor Dark, and they generally associated liberal democracy and free markets with economic and political progress, stating that they hoped Russia would move in this direction. However, many also felt that Russia was not "good enough" for democracy and that Slavic people had a cultural disposition which prevented them from wholeheartedly embracing democracy. Although they might believe democracy is the best political system, they feared that "immature Russia" would turn democracy into anarchy, and anarchy was worse than authoritarianism. As a result, many of Darks students concluded that a non-ideological form of authoritarianism was their "best bet" (pp. 79-80).
A Second Case Study
Students had to compete on the basis of their English-language competence to gain entrance into my course, in large part because of the excitement over the fact that I was the first Western scholar to ever teach at the university and one of the very first Americans to enter this city, which Stalin had "closed" to foreigners in 1932. My students were very bright and had an appetite to learn that was unmatched by any class I had ever taught in the States. But my greatest surprise was their fatalism and hopelessness, even at this early stage of Perestroika.
At the conclusion of the course, I asked my students to evaluate how the experience of democracy in America might be relevant to the struggles which were underway in their own country. The first obstacle I encountered was dealing with their lack of experience at expressing their personal views in front of the class. Faculty members who attended my class told me afterwards that the students were never asked what they thought. They were hesitant to do so now because all of their previous experience taught them to remain silent and unobtrusive.
When I finally was able to coax them into a discussion, I discovered an overwhelming sense of helplessness and fatalism. Professor Dark said his students lacked "all utopian ambition" (p. 85), a judgment with which I would concur. My students also thought democracy was "good for America," but probably not applicable in Russia in light of her history. In the opinion of most of my students, a "strong hand" was the best solution. Without the cultural underpinnings of religion and moral values which they recognized in Americas history but thought were absent in their own countrys history, they did not consider democracy as a viable option for Russia.
The Secularization of Russias "Generation
Dr. John A. Bernbaum