Posted 11 ноября 2021,, 17:04

Published 11 ноября 2021,, 17:04

Modified 24 декабря 2022,, 22:37

Updated 24 декабря 2022,, 22:37

Torture habituation: why civil society in Russia is tolerant to violence

11 ноября 2021, 17:04
The publication of videos of torture in prisons aroused indignation among people, but the people did not demand reforms in the FSIN system, the resignation and imprisonment of officials and security officials.

Moreover, recent polls have shown that about 20% of the population commit torture. Where does this urge for violence come from?

Victoria Pavlova

Yesterday they canceled and declared unjustified the initiation of a criminal case against Sergei Savelyev, a programmer who, with the help of the human rights organization Gulagu.net, released a video archive with recordings of torture of prisoners in the Saratov colony. Under the windows of the Prosecutor General's Office there were no crowds of many thousands demanding an end to the arbitrariness of the Federal Penitentiary Service and other security officials who justify torture and violence. People's dissatisfaction manifested itself only in social networks and telegram channels. In general, everything was calm. Well, they tortured, well, who are you going to surprise? Moreover, according to opinion polls, the figures show that the people are not strongly opposed to the use of violence by the security forces. Polls by the Levada Center (recognized as a foreign agent) show that only 66% of Russians believe that torture is not permissible under any circumstances. 11% are sure that torture is permissible in cases where it can save the lives of other people, and 9% adhere to the point of view that torture is permissible for people who have committed a serious violent crime. And 14% of respondents have no opinion at all about torture.

Novye Izvestia, together with experts, tried to figure out why people have such a tolerance for violence.

Violence in genetic memory

As Ph.D., psychologist Anetta Orlova explains, interest in violence to one degree or another sits in each of us, and this is normal. People tend to be afraid, people tend to crave what is forbidden:

- Interest in the forbidden is also characteristic of healthy people at all times, so this topic is always on the cutting edge. Latent cruelty is present in many people, proof of this is the crowds of spectators at public executions in the old days. Nowadays, this is confirmed by accidents, around which groups of onlookers always gather to watch and film what is happening on the phone.

Human rights activist Eva Merkacheva believes that such a tolerant attitude towards torture and violence among the population was formed because the majority simply did not feel on their own skin all the nuances of the work of the investigative and correctional authorities:

- People really do not admit the idea that this can happen to them. This is absolutely certain. Plus, for some reason, there is a "habituation" of torture - this term is now used - when they hear that someone was tortured, then beaten - they think that this is normal, that this happened in relation to people who deserve it. It seems to them that these are some kind of criminals, some kind of dark personalities, and if someone kicked them somewhere, then this is normal. And this addiction is just the worst thing.

And the figures confirm this state of affairs: the same studies by the Levada Center (recognized as a foreign agent) show that 89% of Russians have not faced either preliminary detention or places of imprisonment. Only 4% of the respondents ended up behind bars with close relatives, 3% of Russians ended up in pre-trial detention centers, bullpen and IVS, and 2% went to colonies themselves.

Plus, the awareness of the complete impunity of representatives of law enforcement agencies is added to everything - adds Merkacheva .

- Approval of the violence of law enforcement officers is also an understanding that for this violence no one is ever properly punished. We know that out of thousands of cases of unjustified, cruel violence or even torture, literally a few cases go so far as to initiate a criminal case. And all the same, the courts give in such cases either 1-2 years, or suspended sentences - that is, this is nothing. Accordingly, society understands that since this is not particularly punished, then it's okay. Here police officers were recently convicted who tortured a woman, a mother of many children - they were given 3 years. They detained her for the night, beat her, tortured her, put a sack on her head - they could not initiate a case for a long time, finally they instituted and gave them such terms. They will now be released on parole. The society looks and understands - that means it's okay, it means that the police can torture people like that.

In addition, violence in Russia against people, and especially in prisons, has a long history. This is almost a tradition, says political scientist Ilya Grashchenkov:

- Violence has always been inherent in Russian society. For example, in tsarist times, peasants and students were punished with whips. Domestic violence, military and post-war violence. One way or another, it did not cause shock. The absence of real civil rights gave rise to the attitude that there is the right of the strong. Modern violence also has its roots in the past. Especially the prison, because, unlike developed countries, the prison has its own way of life, which very rigidly regulates living in the zone, establishes castes.

“Violence is the norm” - this thesis has already firmly entered the way of life and thinking of people. Russians not only support state violence, but are loyal to it in everyday life. A study by the Levada Center last year showed that 28% of Russians are aware of cases of domestic violence against women, and only 61% of those surveyed consider domestic violence to be a serious problem. For 31% of the respondents, the significance of this problem is exaggerated. Another survey showed that only 57% of men believe that Russia should have a law protecting against domestic violence.

But there is also a different opinion. Political scientist Yekaterina Shulman is sure that Russian society is very humanistic, especially against the background of other states, and that everything very much depends on how the question is posed. For the sake of safety in Western countries, a much larger proportion of people are ready to accept torture than ours:

- As for other countries. “Can the government torture potential terrorists?”: 59% in the US agree. In France - 45%, in Italy - 39%, in the UK - 38%, in Spain - 28%. In Germany - 30%. Countries that have experienced totalitarianism are a little more careful when the state tortures someone there. Bombs are ticking in the movies, but they are tortured in real life. In terms of value, our society looks great. A little intimidated, but his basic values are quite humanistic.

Philosophers have written more than one treatise on humanism and its causes, trying to get to the bottom of the truth. But sometimes, when the authorities go too far, the reasons for people's behavior begin to play with new colors.

Power does not frighten criminals, but the people

Sergey Smirnov, Doctor of Economics and a leading researcher at INION RAS, believes that 20% of Russians in one form or another justify violence and consider torture acceptable, because they are used to trembling before the authorities:

- These 20% are ready to support everything so that the world is clear to them, so that they can understand it from A to Z. These are people who are not used to making independent decisions, and from here, purely psychologically, it seems to me, they have envy to those who behave, to put it mildly, differently.

Experts are of the opinion that people in Russia are deeply afraid of the state. Therefore, the people are very careful about allegations of torture, if they are held under the motto "for the sake of saving lives." Although many understand that they are being tortured not in order to find out the truth, but in order to obtain a confession. Ilya Grashchenkov notes that our law enforcement agencies themselves are no longer very different from criminals:

- Our law enforcement agencies are the fruit of violence. There is little difference between a prisoner and his guard. Just today one suffered, and tomorrow another. The thieves' system spreads over everything and scales to the size of the colony, to the size of the country, leads to violence, which gives rise to violence. If a person was raped with a mop, then, probably, after that he will recoup a weaker person.

And Ekaterina Shulman confirms the thesis about fears of power with specific figures:

- In the past three years, fears of state violence began to appear in the first places. The arbitrariness of the authorities in 2021 is constantly feared by 58% of respondents. This is more than being afraid of attack by criminals and poverty. Fear of a return to repression - 46% are afraid. Fear of a world war was transformed into fear of their own power. Over the past three years, these fears have gone beyond the politicized metropolitan public and have become truly national .

Most of the questions remain for 9% of people who support the use of torture against those whose guilt has already been proven, from whom it is not required to obtain vital information. Anetta Orlova explains this by mental disorders.

- There is a category of people with latent psychopathology, they enjoy watching when other people find it hard, difficult and bad - this applies to both physical suffering and emotional experiences. This is required by their sadistic part. Such people may not admit it in themselves, but they are unrestrainedly drawn to content that contains cruelty, violence, suffering, humiliation. Inside such people, there is a combination of cruelty, reduced empathy, an irrepressible desire to rule over others and an important point, anxiety about their failure, in other words, an inferiority complex. You have to understand that cruelty and violence is an example of malignant, unhealthy aggression. It is not aimed at the struggle for survival, at the extraction of resources, competition, which are in any human population .

Silence or shout?

In Russia, society can be divided into several groups: the intimidated population, the security forces, who may already be broken as well as prisoners and suspects, and people psychologically prone to violence. The third category is perhaps the lesser of evils. As the experience of developed countries and statistics on the commission of crimes show, the educational and law enforcement system successfully copes with them. But the security forces, who consider torture, violence and arbitrariness to be acceptable, are the main problem. After all, they themselves are interested in maintaining the status quo, and they are protecting themselves.

Can we count on the growing intolerance of Russians towards violent methods of resolving all issues in such a situation?

Sociologist, associate professor of Shaninki Alexey Titkov notes that society's attitude to violence is a flexible, mobile reality that can change before our eyes:

- Over the past decades, there has been a flexible list of norms, the attitude towards which has become more problematic than before. Activists appear who encourage the society to discuss the problem, they begin to discuss it, and in the course of this discussion the attitude towards it changes. In the case of violence, the situation is the same.

And the task is rather tactical for those activists who are engaged in this, so that such problems become more understandable for people than they were before. This is what we need to do, and not look for the roots of people's position in what was there in history 500 years ago. Do not look for explanations of why something is not there, but do everything in order for the situation to change. In the same way, people began to smoke less in the society of others and to wear seat belts.

To say that society is gradually becoming less tolerant of violence depends on how much this problem is being discussed. For the issue of torture in colonies to become significant, work is needed, efforts are needed. When a campaign is on, people become more aware of these kinds of issues. When there is silence, this topic simply ceases to be interesting.

But the only problem is that there is a big problem with the activists. Ilya Grashchenkov speaks about the absence of those who could become a mouthpiece for voicing problems. Notes in news feeds alone are not enough for this:

- To cause a powerful resonance, there must be a group of people who can act as an information trigger. Now in Russia there is practically no such group. Previously, such a trigger could be, for example, Alexei Navalny. But now there are no independent people who could convey their opinion popularly and critically. Although the facts of torture in themselves are shocking, there is nowhere to put this shock. People try to forget this information, otherwise it becomes scary for them to live in the country.