Culture and Civilization Matters

June 24, 2010

Societal Transition: From Soviet Serfdom and Control to Personal Freedom

Filed under: Term 5 St. Petersburg — Tags: , , — wadatripp @ 4:58 am


BBC Journalist Jonathon Dimbleby chronicles his journey at a particularly critical stage in Russia’s history trying to understand it, getting a sense of the past and the present, meeting a wide range of people in order to understand what Russia might be like in the Future.

In the following excerpts from Dimbleby’s journey we learn:

  • What it was like for the average person to live in communal apartments crammed with over 100 people to every floor and how Russians living in this situation have learned to separate their “life” from their “every-day life.”

  • How the hand-to-mouth existence of peasants on the margins of the economy have endured incredible hardship and famine and how, to this day, despite a lack of state support for their collectives,they remain as stoical and tenacious as they ever have been.


On his epic journey, Dimbleby also explored:

  • How things have changed in Russia since the collapse of Communism and how the Russian people feel about their newfound freedoms.

  • How the new found capitalist autonomy in Russia is influencing perspectives on freedom and democracy. In Russia, “Democracy is Death” they say, and the freedom they enjoy is found outside the Vertical Bureaucracy of Putin’s Kremlin.


Here Business Week’s Steve LeVine argues that newly liberated Russians have never in their history lived better than they are now. More Russians today are better off than they have ever been. So they are happy to indulge in their newfound freedom and support Putin’s increasingly authoritarian government.

Dibmleby explored this same question further with the next generation of Russians and found that many of them are also more than willing to back a strong autocratic leader to secure their position of power on the world stage.


  • Does Russian society really believe that things have never been better than they are today?
  • How comfortable does Russian society feel about navigating uncertainty to capture economic opportunity when its past is rooted in the planned and predictable path enforced under Soviet Rule?
  • How have the vestiges of Imperial/Tsarist and Totalitarian/Soviet rule influenced Society’s perspectives on freedom and democracy in Russia over the past two decades?
  • Why is Russian society so willing to support a strong Autocratic leader like Vladimir Putin? Will Russian Society always default to going along with the Czar?
  • Does the the perceived separation of the free-market consumer society from the Vertical of Power in the Kremlin present any issues for Russian Society today and in the future?

Click HERE to return to the Russia main page.


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