Реферат: Democracy in Russia

Svetlana Levanova, gr. 512Democracy as I See It Exercised inRussiaEssay

Life has changed entirely in Russiasince the beginning of the nineties, when democracy as the state’s policy wasintroduced. Not only lifestyles, fashions and technologies were changed butalso there was a turnover in people’s mentality.

We, the generation, which was born inthe 70ies – early 80ies, witnessed a great fracture in the whole system oflife. We experienced the break in our minds, viewpoints and attitudes, but weare the generation to build up new Russia from its cornerstone.

Russia today is a materialisticsociety. Sociologists say that a materialistic society is one in which materialpossessions are important. People are concerned about financial well-being andsecurity or even physical survival. Various hardships, first of all economic,coerced Russians into fighting for survival, caring only about most essentialthings for life. Such democratic values as, say, inalienable rights are notrelevant for discussion among those who do not have money to buy some bread. Ifsomeone takes advantage of the right of speech and enjoys it to the full, ifthis person states his or her disagreement with the boss’s point of view onsome subject, he or she will be fired immediately and join the army of theunemployed. The unemployed in Russia differ from those in the USA who can liveoff welfare and sometimes be quite satisfied with their actual status. InRussia unemployment is synonymous with poverty and hopelessness.

As soon as the new state policy wasintroduced it began to cause a shift in values. Not much changed in universalvalues such as family, work or leisure, whereas the newly borrowed democraticideas were somewhat perverted. Due to the cultural factor, peculiarities of Russia’shistorical development and current economic situation people adopted democraticprinciples and customized every item on the list to their needs and culturallevel.

One can sometimes hear an opinionthat we live in a democracy so we are free to do whatever we want, meaning thatdemocracy entitles people to unlimited liberties. This erroneous propositionfinds its root in political ignorance. Sovereigns have always governed theRussian people; first they were czars then communist tyrants. Most of them werecharismatic personalities able to keep the whole country under their iron hand.Totalitarian regime implied regimentation of every aspect of life. Ideology,economy and even people’s everyday routine were supervised. Russians weredeprived of the opportunity to judge, make personal decisions and express theirgrievances. It resulted in political passiveness and lack of any interest inpolitical procedures.

In early nineties census datadisplays a great leap of interest and involvement among Russians. It was normalthat people spent leisure time watching TV programs about politicians or livebroadcasts from rallies and conventions. But then without tangible benefitsfrom the new government their enthusiasm soon ceased. Irrespective of the timespent at the TV sets Russians didn’t grasp the principles of democracy. Havingbeen brought up and educated in a totalitarian society, which rejected theculture of democracy, they only acquired the concept of freedom. Unfortunatelythey were unaware of what accompanies freedom — competence and responsibility.

We may ask why Russians arediscouraged from participating in political procedures and asserting theirrights as citizens of a democracy. All plausible answers are interconnected andknitted into a seemingly perpetual cycle.

One of the most essential concepts ofdemocracy is the idea of rights and duties. For instance, no state, no lawshould impinge upon the right of speech and the right to assemble. But in factin Russia there are no special mechanisms that would help its citizens forminitiative groups and alliances in order to be heard by the government. That’swhere passiveness and incompetence begins.

A diversity of all possible politicalparties should represent the needs of the population, both majorities andminorities. As we plunge into Russian reality we can find out that all thevariety is a mere illusion. Political arena in Russia reminds of a theater witha single actor who appears on the stage under different names.

It is necessary to regulate normalfunctioning of democratic institutions, but the question is what to begin with.Probably it should be democratic culture or loyal but competitive opposition ormechanisms that would help people stand upon their rights.

Russia is not yet ready for democracy.A country should have certain cultural, political and economic background asprerequisites for democracy. Culturally Russians are influenced by the doctrineof Orthodox Church and long-term pressure of authoritarian regime. Tradition isinculcated in the Russian mind, which makes the nation almost unsusceptible tochanges. Political and civic consciousness is not well developed. So thiscountry should be ruled in a different way. It doesn’t mean that Russia isbehind the time or democracy is too far ahead to be exercised in such acountry. This nation unlike any other in the world is so very special,contradictory, so contrary to logic that we have to find very special means tomanage it.

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