In particular, it attempts to evaluate to what extent the changes in the social structure of the Russian society were induced by the processes similar to other post-industrial countries and to what extent – by the processes specific to Russia’s context, which corresponds to a unique constellation of cultural, historical, socioeconomic an demographic developments.
In particular, one part of the project analyses changes in the system of social stratification, i.e. the distribution of various resources in the population. Following certain conventions in stratification research, we distinguish economic, human, cultural, social and administrative resources. Using data from repeated cross-sectional surveys conducted in 1994, 2002, 2006 and 2013 we (1) corroborate the fact of increasing social differentiation throughout the post-Soviet period, (2) find that generally rising living standards of the population were coupled with a striking impoverishment of leisure and cultural consumption, 3) and provide evidence of increasing amorphousness of occupational classes, suggesting that the latter have not crystallized in Russia as ‘real’ social groupings, in contrast with many Western countries and/or countries, which have succeed in their market transition.
The analysis of changes in social stratification is complemented by the analysis of changes in intergenerational social mobility from Soviet to post-Soviet cohorts. Following the arguments of the two famous hypotheses in the literature on social mobility (Maximally Maintained Inequality and the Featherman-Jones-Hauser hypothesis) as well as being informed by several earlier studies, we anticipated (1) a trend towards lesser (rather than greater) openness in the late years of the Soviet era, (2) a temporary discontinuity of mobility patterns during the turbulent 1990s and (3) the tightening up of social mobility regime in the more stable years of Russia’s post-Soviet history. If any such trend existed, our findings suggest that it was directed towards decreasing intergenerational transmission of educational advantage in the post-Soviet era, rather than the other way around. Also, quite contrary to earlier findings and theory, the pattern of occupational mobility remained surprisingly invariant to historical and institutional context.
In addition to the above mentioned analyses, the social transformations in post-Soviet Russia are discussed from a broader theoretical perspective. The corresponding section presents an overview of the theories attempting to explain societal developments in the XXth and XXIst centuries. It concludes with highlighting several processes, which accompanied Russia’s post-Soviet development, but are not specifically unique to its context: the rise of social inequality, the degradation of the ‘middle class’ and other manifestations of the neo-feudalism, accompanied by increasing status inconsistencies.
A separate section deals with comparative analysis of radical social changes in Russia and other post-socialist countries of the Central Europe and the former USSR. The analysis concludes that the market reforms in most of these countries had what could best be described as mixed results. In particular, the modest economic growth, which they enjoyed after the reforms, was not accompanied by an adequate improvement of human development and living standards for the majority of people.
Another section explores the historical continuities in contemporary Russian socio-economic order. In particular, it traces down the historical roots, which help explain the persistence of estate-based (rather than class-based) social stratification, the weakness of the property rights and the generally authoritarian rule. This section concludes by conceptualizing the contemporary Russian socio-economic order as a hybrid system, in which the more archaic institutional system of ‘power-property’ co-exists and interacts with the modern system of free markets and private property.
A peculiar aspect of Russia’s social transformations in the post-Soviet period is highlighted in the section dealing with the impact of increasing cross-cultural interactions between Russian and expatriate workers in certain occupations. These interactions are viewed as an important source of potential social and economic change, since many of these cross-cultural interactions occur in the more advanced occupations and sectors of economy. The empirical analyses are carried out using in-depth interviews with Russian and expatriate highly skilled workers. The findings reveal that expatriate workers generally promote the role models and practices, which are more compatible with creative and economically efficient work, than the role models and practices dominant among the Russians. In this respect they potentially exert some ‘modernizing’ influence. However, the study also shows that the Russian culture is characterized by a striking degree of persistence to this influence, leading to suggest that cultural factors need not be neglected in theorizing social change on a more aggregate level.