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Modernization potential of Russian mentality: the socio-psychological approach


The urgent importance of this problem for modern Russia requires the detection, operationalization and measurement of cultural factors related to approaches and behavior facilitating or hampering socio-economic and personal development. In the context of this research, the problem of cultural predictors of socio-cultural modernization of Russia is examined from the point of view of social psychology.

The specifics of this approach on one hand consists of the fact that cultural values and their productive potential has been viewed through a prism of human individuality, for which motivation of economic prosperity of the country is as important as the motivation of personal welfare and happiness. Another aspect of this approach is to account for the indicators of social capital in society. Numerous studies have detected positive relationships between social capital and economic, political, and medical-psychological indicators in society and people’s lives.

The importance and specifics of this applied approach consist of the choice of methodology to research cultural predictors (values, characteristics of social capital, level of religiosity, time prospective) and socio-psychological indicators (attitude to economic and political behavior) of the success of Russia’s modernization.

The purpose of the research is to reveal the structure of the basic values of Russians from 1999-2005 and the interrelations of the basic values with the socio-economic attitudes of Russian citizens.

Tasks of the research:

  • To detect value orientations of Russians in 2005 and to consider value dynamics from 1999 to 2005;
  • To develop a new, culturally-specific methodology for research and interpretation of the structure of values of the Russian culture based on Sh. Schwartz’s approach;
  • To reveal economic and political attitudes of Russians;
  • To evaluate characteristics that form the socio-cultural potential of economic development: social capital, time orientation etc;
  • To model the influence of values and other culture characteristics  on the economic and political attitudes of Russians.

The empirical base of the research has been the data obtained in the socio-psychological survey within the research project Dynamics of basic values of Russians and their relation with economic behavior attitudes (1999-2005). Two generations of Russians (903 people) were surveyed in different Russian regions (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Penza, Balashov in the Saratov Region). The data has been analyzed through the use of two methodological approaches: culture-universal and culture-specific.

Research has revealed the following: In the framework of cross-cultural psychology and interdisciplinary approaches, suggested by G. Hofstede, R. Inglehart, Sh. Schwartz, M. Bond and K. Leung, the same conclusions about relation of cultural values and indicators of socio-economic development has been made. The analysis of Russia’s position in the cultural maps of the world has showed that:

  • In terms of Hofstede’s parameters, Russia is characterized by moderate marks on the scale of Individualism and high marks on the scale of Power distance;
  • In terms of Inglehart’s parameters, Russia is very close to the survival pole, but at the same time is very rationalistic;
  • In terms of Schwartz’ parameters, Russia is in the area of intersection between Affiliation, Hierarchy and Mastery,
  • In terms of Bond and Leung parameters, it is characterized by moderately high levels of Dynamic Externality and Social Cynicism.

This value profile indicates that Russia’s culture was formed within a difficult ecological environment and initially implied a high level of collectivism and hierarchy. Currently, Russians are pursuing individual success, which, combined with the values of Group Affiliation and Hierarchy, according to Schwartz, may facilitate a high level of corruption in the society. Institutions of democracy are poorly developed, and the value of personal freedom is low. At the same time, there is a clear potential and development vector, first and foremost, in the sphere of economy, which is evidenced by the high level of the Mastery value. Together with a growth in the Equality value, this may prompt not only economic development, but also democratization of political and social institutions.

The analysis of the impact of cultural values on socio-economic attitudes revealed that Intellectual autonomy and Mastery values meet the economic development and psychological welfare criteria, while the Affective autonomy value meets the criteria of economic development. Interestingly, both criteria go in pairs, proving that psychological welfare in modern Russia is probably impossible without economic growth.

Based on the factor analysis of Russians’ values, a new culturally specific approach to Schwartz’ survey value grouping was presented, dividing them into the following blocks: Stability of Life – Self-Realization, Dominating –Equality, Search for Pleasure - Spirituality.

Overall, economic independence attitudes prevail over economic paternalism among Russians. To the fullest extent, this trend is seen among the youth: the younger generation believes that its financial standing has improved over the last 2 years and expects further improvements. Adults, on the contrary, note the deterioration in their welfare over the last 2 years and believe that this negative trend will persist in the future. The research has showed that Russians are generally satisfied with their lives, but not with their financial standing.

The research has showed that potential competitive advantages of Russian values and cultural differences may be:

- a keen interest in creative work;

- Spirituality values (values of Postmaterialism).

At the same time, it is necessary to intensify the importance of the Self-Realization value and form the Long-term Perspective in people. Simultaneously, the importance of such values as Life Stability and Dominating should decline as they do not facilitate economy development, democracy and life satisfaction.

Moreover, it is necessary to encourage the formation of a new social capital of the Russian society: the level and radium of trust, power and positivity of civil identity.