Faced with Any Kremlin Action, Russians Want Explanations Not Change, Kirillova Says
(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, August 9, 2015)
Many analysts in Russia and the West are speculating about whether the burning of food at the Russian border will finally be enough to spark major protests in Russia. But they are missing the point: faced with any Kremlin action, no matter how absurd and immoral, Russians want explanations rather than change, according to Kseniya Kirillova.
Even when Russians recognize that what is being done is fundamentally wrong, their “chief instinct,” the commentator writes today, is “not a desire to change the situation but rather a searing need to receive an explanation of why it was done.” And the Kremlin is only too willing to provide that (nr2.ru/blogs/Ksenija_Kirillova/Rossiyanam-obyasnili-zachem-nuzhno-szhigat-edu-103428.html).
Conformism, of course, is a characteristic of human nature, Kirillova argues, and is even “one of the necessary conditions for the survival of people as well as animals. The ability to come to terms with what one can’t change is a kind of transformed instinct of self-preservation which gives an individual the chance to survive in what are at times inhuman conditions.”
But there are other adaptation mechanisms as well, including a sense of concern, feelings that something is abnormal or immoral, and a willingness to fight for one’s rights, but “for the majority of Russians as a result of their sense of irresponsibility, inertia, and deep fear of a pitiless and unpredictable state machine, all these instincts except conformism have atrophied.”
The ordinary Russian today is “convinced that he will not be able to change anything and doesn’t have the right to try and that struggle with the state is something like sacrilege,” but “nevertheless, particular decisions of the government all the same will get him off his knees, less often in the realm of morals and more often in the sphere of personal comfort.”
In those cases, Kirillova says, “such people are disturbed by their sense of discomfort more than by the decision taken by the authorities. The illusion of comfort and stability in a person of this type is the only compensation for the lack of freedom and rights and the sense of illusory defensibility.”
It is in short, “the last refuge to which he runs from a frightening reality.”
And that explains why his chief desire is “not to change the situation but only to return the comfort he has lost. The chief means of that return is little by little a logical explanation that the latest hit on his normal life was correct, true and intended for his good,” however much the world around him suggests otherwise.
In a totalitarian society, the commentator writes, the individual sees in such explanations “the only means of psychological survival in a world gone insane. It is a matter of indifference to him that the explanations on offer contradict objective reality, legal and moral norms, and in principle that boundary which separates a healthy mind from schizophrenia.”
he Russian authorities understand this perfectly and consequently, “the work of all analytic and media structures in this country are directed not at the solution of problems but at the explanation of the ‘normalcy’ of their appearance.”
“Unfortunately,” Kirillova continues, “the Western world even after having recognized the need to struggle with Russian propaganda” generally fails to understand that reality. Instead, its politicians and journalists try “to convince Russians that they do not have free media,” something that the Russians know very well but consider “perfectly normal.”
Russians today have been “convinced of the necessity of the main principles of totalitarian society: censorship, controlled media and an obligatory ideology. Earlier they were convinced in the need for war with Ukraine while maintaining the faith that there was no such war, as well as militarism, the need for lies, the justification of crimes and repressions, the rejection of western products … and much else besides.”
Regarding the destruction of foodstuffs at the Russian border, she cites the explanation offered by Maksim Vilisov, a researcher at the Moscow Center for the Study of Crisis Society, whose words she suggests in their “bravura Komsomol manner are in complete correspondence with the spirit of the 1930s.”
According to Vilisov, “the decision [to destroy food at the border] was never more important. In a political sense, it demonstrated the decisiveness of the president to act in the direction he has chosen. The position of the state must be firm – illegally imported goods must be destroyed … therefore under legal conditions they cannot even be given to the needy.”
That is an explanation many Russians find persuasive even though they view the actual destruction of foodstuffs as stupid or even immoral, Kirillova continues. And she points out that the authors of such propaganda themselves share many of the views of those they are trying to convince.
It is worth noting, she suggests, that “the author of this text ad his ‘patriotic’ colleagues do not for a second cast doubt on the stupidity and shamefulness of the decision itself about ‘anti-sanctions.'” That is not what they are talking about or what their audience is really interested in hearing.
Thus, they “in principle do not raise issues of morality or law or elementary good sense.” They simply provide an explanation that people can use even if it rests on ideas as flimsy as the ones Vilisov and his ilk offer.
“The pathological conformism of the Russian majority has learned not to take note” of this or to be concerned about issues that touch on “law, morality and even logic.” But Russians have not lost all the other aspects of self-preservation. They retain “the animal instinct: a feeling of hunger, cold, pain and danger.”
From this it follows, Kirillova says, that “the collapse of the regime will come when the animal instinct of Russians comes to dominate conformist and a desire for explanations and justifications. Whether this will occur now with the case of the destruction of foodstuffs or somewhat later, only time will tell.”
For the present, she adds, one thing is clear: “the need for propaganda explanations of the insanity and crimes of the authorities is still very strong among the [Russian] population.”
Article also appeared at windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/08/faced-with-any-kremlin-action-russians.html