Toilet ideology

January 28, 2024

St. Petersburg’s Governor Oleksandr Beglov recently spoke about his meeting with the "special military operation" participants and said that when fighting in Donbas, they were most of all impressed by was what they allegedly saw their own eyes in Ukrainian schools: "instead of two [toilet] rooms — for girls and for boys, three rooms — for girls, boys, and neutral gender. After they saw it, it is no longer necessary to explain to them what values we stand for, they do understand what for they are fighting."

And since the war in Ukraine now makes the ideological core that cements the entire Russian society, it can be said that as a result, every Russian is supposed to understand what he is fighting for and what he lives for. As it turned out — for "correct toilets".

It looks like just another example of the madness of the Russian authorities, but the problem is much more serious: "toilet" ideas arise because, in fact, the Russian authorities have nothing to offer to Russian society as a goal of social development and a common purpose for every member of that society.

So, officials begin to improvise on a set theme "within measure." This "measure" is set on the basis of Putin's quotes as the only source of truth, just as in Soviet times, official speeches always had to refer to the decision of the latest congress of the Communist Party or plenary meeting of its central committee. In particular, Beglov's statement above is clearly a variation on the theme of Putin's speech to foreign participants of the Valdai Club in September 2013:

"We see how many Euro-Atlantic countries have actually gone down the path of renouncing their roots, including the Christian values that form the basis of the Western civilization. Moral principles and all traditional identities — national, cultural, religious or even sexual — are rejected. A policy is being pursued that puts a large family and same-sex partnership, belief in God and in Satan on equal footing. The excesses of political correctness reach the point where there is serious talk of registering parties whose goal is to promote paedophilia. People in many European countries are ashamed and afraid to talk about their religious affiliation... And they are trying to aggressively impose this model on everyone, on the whole world. I am convinced that this is a direct path to degradation and primitivization, a deep demographic and moral crisis."

As the Russian sociologist Igor Eidman writes, "the Russian authorities simply have nothing more to offer to the population as the values they supposedly protect, except orientation and toilets. In the USSR, the ideological justification of the Cold War was based on a detailed ideology and the experience of a unique social experiment (albeit unsuccessful and even criminal, as we know now). The current attempts to ideologically substantiate a new confrontation with the free world are merely stupid and poor. They testify to the intellectual poverty, if not the mental backwardness, of the Russian authorities."

Any war ("cold" or "hot") requires justification of its goals. In Soviet times, it was much easier — confrontation with the West was reasoned by the need to liberate humanity from the "power of capital", to build a new, fair society world-wide, and the Soviet Union that was called to fulfil this historic mission. These ideological postulates justified both confrontation with the outside world and reprisals against fellow citizens who disagreed with the existing system.

Currently, Russia lacks a clear and understandable ideology that could more or less consistently justify its policy in a situation of confrontation and war. And under such circumstances, the only thing that can be useful is the ideology of Russian nationalism (which in Russian political rhetoric is designated as "patriotism") and stigmatization of the "decaying West", which is taking on absurd forms. All this — despite the fact that the population of Russia continues to follow social and cultural standards (of consumption, lifestyle, mass culture) coming from the West, as it did fifty and a hundred years ago.

The situation with Russian film distribution is illustrative. After February 24, 2022, the largest Hollywood studios stopped working with Russia. In 2022, this led to the closure of 41% of Russia's 5,700 cinemas. As a result, cinemas seeking to survive invented the practice of "gray cinema distribution", in particular, through the so-called double-feature service, when viewers officially buy tickets for a short movie by a Russian director, before which they are shown a three-hour long Hollywood blockbuster supposedly "for free".

And the Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council Dmitry Medvedev, who in recent years used to openly relay the "secret thoughts" of the Russian political leadership, directly called for stealing Western cinema products: "Search for the right pirates and download them. If they left us — Netflix and others — then we will download all this, and will use it for free."

The most important thing is that no one in Russia is talking about a possibility to do without the cultural product of the "damned West". In other words, the cultural situation of the Soviet times repeats itself: the West is supposedly rotting, but Russian citizens, despite all their "spiritual superiority", continue to emulate and follow it.

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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