The "Soviet way" will finally die out only now

They say, the Soviet Union was destroyed not by the CIA and NATO but by the "Beatles". When Western rock music began to sound from almost every window of Soviet cities, it meant that the Soviet system had nothing to oppose the "corrupting influence of the Western mass culture", and therefore it remained only to wait until the young people "bowing before the West" grow up and can influence the mood, if not the state of affairs, in the then USSR.

It is no coincidence that the generation of the "sixties" was the first to shake the foundations of the system, which was previously considered indestructible. Of course, due to the social inertia, all this lasted for decades. But, one way or another, the Soviet system could not resist for a long time. First of all, because over time there were fewer and fewer people who wanted to defend it, including among the representatives of the Soviet nomenclature. The latter were to a large extent "intoxicated" by Western standards and ideas of the lifestyle a real social elite should lead. Therefore, all kinds of "members-only distribution centres" where they could stealthily buy goods unattainable for the "plebs" no longer satisfied them. After all, wealth and social status do have some value for their owners only if they may be flaunted.

So, if we talk about the "corrupting influence", it first of all it concerned the Soviet party and economic nomenclature, which, to be honest, was not distinguished by a high level of morality (therefore, there was not much to "corrupt" there).

This led to a gap between the officially proclaimed communist ideals and the real goals and values guiding people in their everyday lives. If the party officials had little in common with the ideals they were supposed to defend, then the whole system was perceived by ordinary citizens as a system of lies and hypocrisy. This is what sociologists call anomie, or anomic demoralisation, when there are no generally accepted values ​​and norms in society, or rather, they are proclaimed, but few people follow them. Communist ideas that turned into an empty formality could no longer serve as a basis of Soviet society, and it fell apart into "national components."

But, as it turned out, having got rid of the USSR, the Soviet people mentally remained in it – both the elite and "ordinary citizens". However, the former, unlike the latter, perfectly understood what they wanted, and most importantly, had all the means to achieve their goals – turning the status benefits they had during the Soviet era into property advantages, quickly taking former state enterprises.

All this gave rise to a new wave of anomie, described by Ukrainian sociologist Natalia Panina: "The destruction of normative models of social development, even those based on mass support, in the absence of new normative models with guaranteed institutional support, leads to an increase in social alienation among the people, between the population and the government in almost all major social groups.

Serious negative consequences included demoralisation of individuals and social groups, arising as a reaction to the shattered "democratic dream" of a prompt end to the crisis and raising living standards. Numerous data of public opinion polls conducted in Ukraine in 1990–2000 witnessed the growth of pessimistic attitudes in society, which were manifested primarily in negative assessments of various aspects of lifestyle and pessimistic forecasts of the future.

The development of anomic demoralisation naturally generates a normative reaction to anomie. In the conditions of long-term absence of normative regulators of social behaviour, people start demanding "a return to the good old days." Sometimes the mass consciousness sees a way out of the impasse in the emergence of an authoritarian leader who knows the "right" ways of doing things and can force others to follow them. These two types of normative reaction to anomie lead to the formation of corresponding types of value-normative subsystems: traditional-archaic (based on the demand to return the old system of values) and authoritarian (based on the need to bring to power a strong personality who will be able to establish a "new firm order").

As we can see, the ideas of "returning to the good old days" and the need for an authoritarian leader were fully manifested in Russia, with all their consequences. Similar trends appeared in Ukraine when Ukrainians, disappointed by the declared but never implemented reforms of Yushchenko's presidency, voted for Yanukovych in 2010. But if in Russia, Soviet nostalgia and authoritarianism became a long-term social trend, in Ukraine, Yanukovych's coming to power was rather an episode, a "pendulum swing" of public sentiment, which clearly contradicted the general trend of the development of social processes in Ukraine, so Yanukovych had no chance of staying in power for a long time.

By all appearances, in the end Yanukovych came to terms with this, but not Putin, who after Yanukovych's escape chose the path of aggression against Ukraine, being only a manifestation of his aggressive attitude towards the surrounding world in general (due to the fact that, as the Russian journalist Aleksandr Nevzorov put it, "objective reality has an anti-Russian character").

The official Russian social mythology, which is based on the idea of ​​"returning everything" and authoritarianism, in its development "stumbled over Ukraine" as the main obstacle. And it will not be able to bypass this obstacle, except by destroying Ukraine. Therefore, for the official Russian mythology, a failure in the war against Ukraine will mean a "mental catastrophe", the fall of the main "spiritual ties" on which the modern Russian socio-political regime, built on "Soviet nostalgia", rests.


Mykhailo Mischenko

Deputy Director, Sociological Service

Born in 1962 in Kyiv

Education: Taras Shevchenko Kyiv State University, Faculty of Philosophy (1984). Ph. D in Philosophy


1984 – 1990 — Sociology Department at the Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

1990 – 1998 — Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

1998 – 2003 — Ukrainian Institute of Social Research

February – September 2003 — Kyiv International Institute of Sociology

Since October 2003 — Deputy Director, Razumkov Centre Sociological Service

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