The new issue of Pro et Contra explores the new values of parenthood emerging in contemporary Russia. The transformation of parenthood is an inevitable process, characterized in an important way by the creation of independent associations, both virtual and real, where parents can find help and support from peers without recourse to the state. Thus, the development of new practices of parenthood quietly helps to undermine statist paternalism.
The New Parenthood and Its Political Aspects
Maria Mayofis and Ilya Kukulin
Parenthood is both a micro- and macro-social phenomenon, involving principles closely linked to civic identity. Contemporary Russia is witnessing a transformation of the values of parenthood and childrearing. Although this hidden and rarely analyzed process is in itself not political, it could evolve into one of the factors that shape civic identity. Perhaps for this reason – though, possibly, for others as well – this process has elicited a quite energetic reaction from the political elite.
Going Beyond Justice: Defending the Defenseless
Crimes against children, involving a level of cruelty to which society is unaccustomed, are a legitimating frame for the demand for violence in general. “Defending the defenseless” is in Russia, as in many Western countries, the realm in which any degree of reactive violence is allowed. All of the aggression otherwise limited by international and domestic conventions flows into this channel. The battle against pedophilia and other (more or less) related phenomena is the one area in which society feels it has the “right” and is prepared to apply those means otherwise excluded from the legal arsenal.
The Organizations of Non-Civil Society
Svetlana Korolyova and Alexey Levinson
The problem of handicapped children reflects processes affecting society as a whole. Conceptions of how such children should live are changing, driven by significant transformations in Russian culture. As for the future social inclusion of handicapped children, we expect that Russia will eventually arrive at a “social” model, in which preference will be given to family inclusion and adaptation rather than to orphanages and care homes.
Russian Parents: New Behaviors and Worldviews
Contemporary Russian parents’ views of the future are blurry, and the parents themselves are often socially disoriented. This is because the new generation of parents does not have a stable understanding of the mechanisms of mobility from one social class into another. This social disorientation is the result primarily of the radical shifts that occurred in Russia with the fall of the communist system, as well as the peculiarities of Russia’s post-communist development.
New Values in Child-Parent Relationships
In contemporary Russia, the informational space of parenthood is a field of public discussion of values, which are once again (as in the early 1990s) being rethought. The way in which adults relate to children is changing, and communication and interaction are being reevaluated. The development of the market and the satisfaction of primary demands for even the least well-off parents has led to a perception of parents’ role not as materially burdensome, but as encumbered with significant social and ethnical responsibilities.
Parents’ Associations in the Realm of Culture
The practice of creating parents’ associations, which had already existed in the form of guardianship councils and parental committees and have been particularly widespread in education, is actively being applied in the area of supplemental education for children. The result is an increased parental responsibility for children’s socialization and, accordingly, a broader remit for parents’ associations than had been enjoyed by parental committees in the Soviet period. Parents today are involved in the resolution of strategic tasks.
START-2: To Be Continued?
The fact is, the United States and Russia are saddled with thousands warheads that are no longer relevant to the age we live in. Today’s real threats are more diffuse, more regional, more asymmetrical than during the Cold War. Nuclear weapons did not deter Osama bin Laden from the 9/11 attacks nor did they deter the Chechens from the Nord Ost theater siege. Nuclear weapons did not feature in Russia’s war with Georgia, either. They are increasingly militarily useless. They are not needed for deterrence. They are expensive and dangerous.
Masters of the Market
The process of modernization must bring the gradual separation of three elements of the institutional framework on which the structure of power relations is directly dependent: that of the ruler, the government and society. In power-centric societies, the complete division of these institutions is impossible, because daily interactions are rooted in power. If a process of differentiation does occur, it leads not to the creation of three co-equal elements, but of a pyramid with the ruler at the top, society at the bottom and the state in between.
Monuments of Contemporary Russia
In Russian history, monuments have traditionally been tied up with propaganda, a process driven from the center. The rulers of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union were interested in promoting those historical images that would serve to consolidate the country. In the new Russia, the situation has changed significantly, and the dominance of the state in issues of “monumental propaganda” has slipped into the past. More than ever before, decisions about new monuments are influenced by local logics.
Alexander Kustarev, Konstantin von Eggert, Igor Fedyukin, Dmitri Trenin