Russians today increasingly like a dehumanized mass of orphans, Moscow psychologists say

Sport games of the Kremlin-financed "Nashi" youth movement.

Sport games of the Kremlin-financed "Nashi" youth movement. 

Analysis & Opinion, Russia

Two speakers at a Moscow conference of Russian psychologists and psychoanalysts say that Russians today, especially the residents of major cities, resemble a dehumanized and immature group of orphans who lack broader social ties or core values and who ever more often display fear, aggression and depression.

The conference, entitled “Ecce Home” and organized by Elena Gazarova of the Moscow Institute of Human Physiology, attracted such notable Russian psychologists and psychoanalysts as Tatyana Levi, Elena Mazur, Tatyana Zadernovskaya, Anna Nikitina, Vladimir Galata and Anatoly Korsakov.

Gazarova told the group that “the contemporary Russian individual is losing spirituality and soulfulness and becoming harsh, formal, mechanistic, programmed and unfree,” all signs she says that speak of a “dehumanization” that has gone so far as to constitute a threat to the human species there.

Dehumanization, the psychologist says, is “the washing out of the human from the individual,” a process which compromises his or her ability to be a member of society and to show concern about others and reflects a choice of temporary, short-term values over longer-term eternal ones.

It also keeps people from becoming mature, Gazarova continues. “The contemporary Russian recalls a youth aged 14” who has not yet developed the ability to distinguish between truth and falsehood and who thus acts accordingly, often in an increasing state of depression about the surrounding world.

The other speaker at the meeting, Karine Gyulazizova, focused on the consequences of this in demography. She argued that the mental state of Russians now is one of the reasons for the authorities focus on boosting the birthrate rather than reducing the death rate, something especially hard to do in a population uncertain of what the meaning of life is.

The analytic psychologist said that much of this is the result of the destruction first of the tsarist empire which destroyed the extended families in which people had been embedded and left them in the state of graduates of orphanages without normal ties to others. That shift predetermined, she says, the eventual collapse of the Soviet system.

(Gazarova interjected that in her view the problem of Russia’s depopulation has its roots in the terror famine and genocide of peoples in the 1930s, which created a situation in which many came to believe that such things were not only possible but permissible, a conclusion the current regime has done little to challenge.)

Gyulazizova continued with the following observation: Whatever one wants to say about the current rulers, they “are not fulfilling the parental functions” that the tsar did, something Russians very much need because for Russians, “the tsar is not on a throne but inside their heads.”

Instead, Russians have come to feel, she argued, that no values are fixed and consequently, they “like orphanage children” can pick and choose whatever is necessary for survival or immediately attract. “An orphan child has absolutely no sense” of broader connections or imperatives.”

Consequently, the psychologist said, “the present-day Russian people are orphans without families and therefore their choice will always be feverish and always be incorrect.” And that outcome is even more likely, she suggested, when the government makes the wrong choices about what to emphasize.

Commemorating World War II is fine, she continued, but the government has emphasized its glories rather than its sufferings, thus changing its meaning and making war attractive for young people. Those who fought in the war did so in order that their children wouldn’t have to, but the Russian government is sending a different message.

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  • evanlarkspur

    From my time in Russia, I would say that this seems accurate; at least the description of Russian action as “feverish” and the sense that there are no absolute values nor larger sense of society being a network of interconnected citizens, all with a set of obligations to one another that most people in the society agree on in general terms. Nearly everyone there behaves as if they are all out for themselves at all times, and you must be on guard against everyone else all the time, at every level. It’s exhausting, and makes impossible any sense of building toward the future, because everything could be taken from you at any moment.
    Russian society needs MAJOR changes to become part of the modern, inter-dependent, responsible civilized world.

    • lumpkins

      You just described perfectly a relationship I had with a liar. But about your experiences in Russia: have you lived there, or were you visiting as a tourist? If you were there as a tourist, it’s unfortunate but yes, like almost everywhere there is tourism, you were marked as someone to fleece. Tourists have to make peace with that and negotiate willingly or be so stupid as to not notice to avoid paranoia. Please do not make such damning declarations about “Russian Society” if you have not genuinely lived among Russians.

      • evanlarkspur

        I have family all over Ukraine and Russia, own an apartment in Donbas, and have spent a lot of time in both countries. You decide if I’m a tourist or not.

        • lumpkins

          Yes, you are a tourist. Your language is not good enough to be native, and you have married a Ukrainian girl (good for you, and I hope for her). I see from your unhinged response to my other question, and your cruel response to a Russian woman who was a student in the early 1990s/late 1980s shows me that you are either not bright enough to understand that packing boxes of aid isn’t enough, you also need a system of distribution that is not corrupt (oh, do you remember the pallets of rotting food from the “Feed the World” pop music initiative?), or you are so emotionally needy that just making an effort is enough to justify her being grateful all out of proportion.

          “Your assumptions about my certain behavior if I’m a man and/or in business say a lot about you and your society.’

          You are a nasty piece of work – I am Ukrainian, and it is a shame someone like you is among us even part -time. If you are truly married to a Ukrainian girl, I pray for her safety and happiness -no doubt she is worth more than a few of you. It is easy to play pretend on the internet as a keyboard warrior. No decent person ever ridicules someone – a woman, at that – for being cold and starving. I doubt that you have a business and that you are respected. Your behavior on these forums shows your character and reading comprehension to be rather low. You seem like the kind of person who will slam a door or kick a dog when frustrated by something on the internet, then write stupid and cruel things on the internet because you were frustrated by something in real life.

        • lumpkins

          It sounds like you were an online wallet.

  • LES1

    Kartashev, an OGPU investigator, willingly spoke of his part in persecuting kulaks: “By my personal count, I shot thirty-seven people and sent many more to the camps. I know how to kill quietly. Here’s the secret: I tell them to open their mouth, and I shoot them close up. It sprays me with warm blood, like eau de cologne, and there’s no sound. I know how to do this job — to kill.”

  • LES1

    There are well over a million orphans in Russia. Most get drafted into the army when they turn 18, because they are not “allowed” a higher education. Then the kremlin sends them to Ukraine to murder Ukrainians. Then they become the kremlin’s cannon fodder. Then they are buried in mass graves, or sent to crematoriums. { I can only pity the orphans that become kremlinoids. }

    How will “Russia’s soldiers’ mothers” know how many orphans were sent to Ukraine as cannon fodder by the savage, uncivilized, pagan, “uneducated barbarians in the kremlin” – when there is no one to mourn the Russian orphans ?

    Meanwhile, I have seen hundreds [thousands?] of Ukrainians kneeling and praying on the side of the main road to town – as a coffin with a murdered Ukrainian solider is brought back home.

    Putin is a mass murderer and a serial killer who has murdered thousands of Russian children, and Russian intelligentsia also, etc.. – while the kremin’s “TV tribe” salivates as Putin takes his shirt off.

    If you watch the documentary “The Soviet Story”, you will learn that in 1934 [after the Holodomor] there were millions of orphans – and the kremlin ordered all orphans over 11 years old to be murdered. The younger Ukrainian children were brainwashed to be “Good Little Russians”. Many people in Eastern Ukraine [and Russia] who think that they are Russian are actually Ukrainian.


    According to Murray Feshbach, a Georgetown professor emeritus and the dean of Russian demography in the United States, Russia’s working-age population is also declining by a million people a year, a faster rate than the decline of the overall population, which in 2013 stood at around 143 million, 3 million less than when Putin took office.

    Moreover, only 30 percent of Russian babies born are born healthy. Eberstadt told me that many unhealthy Russian babies are “discarded” —sent to government institutions where they often develop cognitive difficulties.

    Unhealthy children grow up to be unhealthy adults: half of the conscripted Russian army has to be put in limited service because of poor health.

  • LES1

    A Letter to the Rulers of Russia, From Oleg Kashin

    Posted 4 October 2015

    In Russian society today, even obvious questions about good and evil have become impossible. Is it okay to steal? Is it okay to cheat? Is murder ethical? With each of these questions, it’s become customary in Russia now to answer that things aren’t so simple. All your good works have left the nation demoralized and disoriented. Lies and hypocrisy are convenient tools you use to control the masses, and it works for you and it’s comfortable, but each time you use these instruments it’s another painful blow to society, and every next blow could be fatal.

    You like to think of yourselves as the heirs to two empires, Tsarist and Soviet. But the tsars sent criminals to hang; they didn’t put them in governors’ chairs. You take pride in your neo-Soviet militarism, but if anybody told Dmitriy Ustinov, who created the USSR’s military-industrial complex, that a man was beaten with steel pipes and it was passed off in accounting as an official defense project, paid for with official state funding, Ustinov would have thought he was hearing a nasty anti-Soviet joke. Veterans of Turchak’s factory told me that, twenty years ago, the young future governor would ride around the grounds in a black Volga, firing from a pistol at stray cats. The portrait of your era and your elites will be full of details like this, and you’ve got no reason to expect anything more.

    Your main problem is that you simply don’t love Russia. You treat it like another disposable resource that’s fallen into your laps. And whatever your confessors tell you, know that God won’t forgive you for this.