Paradoxes of Memory of the Recent Past: USSR Under Brezhnev, Russia Under Yeltsin and Putin in Perception of the Current Generation of Russians

Paradoxes of Memory of the Recent Past: USSR Under Brezhnev, Russia Under Yeltsin and Putin in Perception of the Current Generation of Russians

Latov Yu.V.,

Leading Researcher, Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Professor, Plekhanov Russian University of Economics; Principal Researcher, Academy of Management of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia,

elibrary_id: 152966 | ORCID: 0000-0001-7566-4192 | RESEARCHER_ID: P-7344-2016

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2018.05.10
Rubric: Russia Today

For citation:

Latov Yu.V. Paradoxes of Memory of the Recent Past: USSR Under Brezhnev, Russia Under Yeltsin and Putin in Perception of the Current Generation of Russians. – Polis. Political Studies. 2018. No. 5. P. 116-133. (In Russ.).


Respondents (during a nationwide survey in October 2017) were asked to compare the Soviet Union under Brezhnev, a post-Soviet Russia of the time of Yeltsin and modern Russia in order to study what Russians think of their country’s recent past. The analysis of the data of this survey showed that the image of the recent past is built in the public consciousness on the model of a steep turn (roller-coaster). Russians believe that over the past 40 years there has been a transition from “excellent” life in the Brezhnev Soviet Union to “bad” in Yeltsin Russia, and then to “satisfactory” in modern Russia. This historical memory is paradoxical in many respects: it caricaturally hyperbolizes real trends, creating a “white legend” about the Brezhnev Soviet Union and a “black legend” about Yeltsin Russia. The author formulates several approaches to the explanation of revealed paradoxes of historical memory of Russians. On the basis of the data on property and age differentiation of estimates of those epochs, the most correct seems to be the concept, according to which the mythologization of the past is a form of the test moods of the most deprived social groups (elderly and poor). At the same time, both the pro-government “historical policy” and the cognitive effect of asymmetry in the perception of benefits and losses could have a strong impact on the folding of the steep turn model. 

historical collective memory; the mythologization of the past; social differentiation; politics of memory; bounded rationality.


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Content No. 5, 2018

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