Russia's "Generation Nyet"
During May of 1998, a major nationwide survey was taken of young Russians between the ages of 18 and 29. These young people, born between 1968 and 1980, had their lives and values shaped by the "era of stagnation" under Leonid Brezhnev, perestroika under Mikhail Gorbachev, and all the radical changes that have occurred since the collapse of Communism in the early 1990s. 24,500,000 Russians in this age group have come of age in a period in which the Soviet Union dissolved, Communist Party rule ended, and the state planning system was dismantled.
Personal and Professional Lives
Monthly income for the Russian young people surveyed ranged from $15 for army conscripts to $185 for industrial workers to $720 for young business owners. For professionals in law and medicine, monthly salaries averaged around $196, with accountants and engineers receiving slightly higher salaries ($238). Despite these relatively modest incomes, most Russian young people report that they or members of their family own a color television (91%), tape recorder (78%) or VCR (60%); two-fifths have telephones and one-third own automobiles. Approximately half say that they or family members have a dacha (house in the countryside).
While the vast majority of Russian young people expressed satisfaction with their friends and parents, they tended to be disgruntled with local health care facilities, cultural and recreational opportunities, environmental conditions and economic opportunities. Like their elders, a large majority said that the national government was doing a poor job of providing for Russia's defense needs, promoting economic growth and protecting citizens' rights.
Politics and Civil Society
When asked whether it is good or bad that the Soviet Union no longer exists, young Russians are twice as likely to say it is bad rather than good (57% to 28%). Survey results indicate that the feelings of Russian young people about the Soviet Union are more a disenchantment with the present than a yearning for the old order.
Values and Lifestyles
One source of alarm is the growing cynicism of many young Russians. In a recent article entitled "Russia's 'Generation Nyet' Finds Nothing to Be For," a young Muscovite used the label "Generation Nyet" because "all we have is 'no.' We don't want what we have - a troubled Russia - but we have no good ideas for what we want. Some of us turn to religion - we wear crosses and can repeat cliches from religious pamphlets, but few read the Bible. Some of us turn to the radical chic of dangerous new sociopolitical movements; we like the romantic railings, but we have no realistic programs. Wherever we invest our thought, we feel bankrupt and apathetic."
According to this young writer, the glitter of democracy and capitalism has faded into economic hard times and political uncertainty. "Generation Nyet" has had enough of Yeltsin, does not want the return of communism, but has no other viable choices. Increasing numbers of youth are now turning to extremist groups that have become fashionable in today's Russia. In his judgment, "It's hard for a romantic young person to escape the influence of such radicalism - especially in a country that has given its young people so little."
Russia's Transitional Generation
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Dr. John A. Bernbaum