Posted 10 марта 10:20

Published 10 марта 10:20

Modified 10 марта 10:40

Updated 10 марта 10:40

Why did the Russian opposition quarrel again

10 марта 2023, 10:20
Дмитрий Некрасов
The analyst listed several deep reasons for the total inability of Russians to trust and cooperate with people of other, "alien" views.

Another loud scandal has broken out in the Russian opposition camp: now two camps are quarreling to death, professing different methods of struggle – hard and soft, but representatives of both camps have long been recognized as foreign agents in their homeland. This paradox becomes even more surprising when you consider that almost no one calls for the quarreled oppositionists not even for peace, but at least for a temporary truce: social networks are clearly divided into supporters of one camp or another. This once again confirms the sad truth: Russian citizens are chronically unable and, most importantly, do not want to seek compromises, without which no serious political life is possible at all, and only a series of riots and reactions is possible.

Political analyst Dmitry Nekrasov writes about the underlying reasons for this state of affairs in his blog:

"I started writing this text after reading Alexander Baunov's book "The End of the Regime", and because of the vastness of the topic, I abandoned it... We will talk about compromises and why they are so bad for Russians.

Other people's experience testifies in favor of compromises

Baunov, wrote a book about the experience of transit from dictatorship to democracy in Spain, Portugal and Greece. I send those who want to study the course of events to the author, two lines are important for us:

  1. The history of the transit from Franco to democracy, in which both the government and the opposition and the various wings of the latter agreed peacefully with each other, is described in comparison with the parallel dismantling of the dictatorship of Salazar in Portugal, where no one could agree with anyone. The comparison of the results is clearly not in favor of Portugal both in the moment of two years of chaos and in terms of long-term economic consequences.
  2. The example of the Spanish compromise transit has occupied me for a long time along with the similar experience of South Africa. However, despite some familiarity with the history of the issue, I was repeatedly surprised to the depths of my soul, reading the stories of individual opposition leaders from Baunov. Their willingness to give up "principles", "overshoot" and sacrifice their personal mercantile interests for the common good of the country is amazing. Even the Communists, whose friends were shot by the Francoists and who were personally in prison, made compromises with their executioners, and compromises that not only leave the executioners unpunished, but also reset their own political future of the oppositionists. However, they are useful for the country as a whole.

Representatives of the post-Francoist power elite did not seem to me so much different from the current Russian ones (there are very different people among those and others). But the Spanish oppositionists, compared to the Russian ones, are just aliens from another planet. From our supporters of lustrations, the search for enemies and the purity of the ranks, if a similar story suddenly arises, one cannot expect a hundredth part of Spanish sanity.

However, the purpose of this text is not to denounce the progressive public. She's doing pretty well on her own. (If in doubt, read social networks).

The question I want to talk about is "why Russian culture does not tolerate compromises." Next, I will present several unrelated arguments on this topic.

Religious-historical aspect: not cold, not hot

Yuri Lotman writes "the binary structure implying the division of everything in the world into positive and negative, into sinful and holy, ".." is characteristic of Russian culture throughout its entire course. It is already found in medieval literature with a sharp division of the world into the world of sin and holiness, with the denial of the "middle" — not sinful, not holy, but neutral layer "..." The idea that the "middle" layer — "not hot and not cold" — is actually a sinful layer, deeply "..."in the historical roots of Russian culture"

Interestingly, Yuri Slezkin in the "Government House", when describing the Bolsheviks as a religious sect, also repeatedly quotes John the Theologian "oh, if you were cold or hot! But as you are warm, and not hot and not cold, I will spew you out of My mouth" to illustrate the unacceptability of compromises and the rejection of doubters in the Bolshevik, and more broadly, opposition to tsarism environment.

These references echo the arguments about the impact on the culture of the absence of purgatory in Orthodoxy and other similar things. However, I will not venture into theosophical reasoning, due to my poor acquaintance with the material. Due to lack of time, I will also not delve into the history of how Yeltsin and the parliament or the SPS and Yabloko "did not agree" after 1905, between February and October 1917.

Linguistic aspect: Woe from Wit!

There are so-called "language corpora" - sets of many thousands of texts written in this language (artistic, journalistic, scientific, business, etc.). The corpora are created for different languages. They contain tens of millions of words.

The corpora allow you to compare the frequency of use of certain words or groups of synonyms in different languages. From this, we can draw some interesting conclusions about the significance of various constructs in different cultures, which I wrote about in detail. For example, in tens of thousands of Russian-language texts written over the past 200 years, the word "motherland" is used 35 (!) times more often than in English-language texts over the same period.

Corpora also allow you to statistically assess the emotional coloring of a word in the language. For example, it is possible to statistically identify 10 or 20 epithets most often encountered with the studied word and compare the frequency of use of positive /negative epithets.

For example, only the word "friend", but not the word "buddy" is characterized as "true", "real", "sidekick", etc. The evaluation contained in the words insane and reckless is not unambiguously negative in Russian (unlike, for example, the word soulless). While, for example, in English, words associated with the lack of intelligence and rationality have unambiguously negative connotations (statistically). The Russian language is characterized by a positive "crazy" (from someone / something), with a negative - in the words "smart" and "smart".

So: according to the research of Anna Vezhbitskaya, one of the striking differences between the Russian language picture and the picture of Western European languages is the fact that the word "compromise" and synonyms in the West have a statistically pronounced positive connotation. At the same time, in the corpus of the Russian language, the connotation of these concepts is ambiguous and epithets to the word compromise of the type "reasonable" occur with approximately the same or even less frequency than epithets of the type "rotten".

Just stating a fact. Conclusions about the causes and, moreover, recipes for correction are not visible here.

Not competition, but a struggle for destruction!

The ideas set out in the book by Alexander Prokhorov (not an oligarch) "The Russian Management Model" deserve special attention. It substantiates an interesting concept that competition at the personal level prevails in the West, which is much easier to transform into cooperation, and in Russia competition at the level of teams and schools, which is more often expressed in the struggle for destruction.

Just to quote:

"the very nature of the activities of these schools in painting, literature, theater [in the West] was not as aggressive as in Russia. In the West, they aimed to gain a larger market share with the help of their colleagues in the scientific or painting school, raise the circulation of the publication, attract more viewers and, thus, capture this market, gradually displacing competitors to the periphery.

In Russia, similar schools and directions acted differently. They were not concerned about capturing the market through free competition. From the very beginning, scientific, artistic and literary schools were determined to crush a competitor, to create confidence in the public and the state in the pseudoscience and malicious squalor of everyone else.

The new theater school is not just fighting for existence, it proves that every normal person can only go to the performances of this theater school. And close all the others and ban them. Scientific schools claim to liquidate hostile research institutes, hostile departments, and close scientific journals. In literature — the constant beating of hostile groups on magazine pages and in oral speeches as the norm of literary life."

He has many similar examples about business and civil service, and not only Soviet, but from the history of the Russian Empire and the 1990s.

Pure ad-libbing: it's all about the complexity of the social structure

6000 years ago, humanity lived in a social environment of approximately the same complexity. For the past 100 years, most of humanity has also been living in a social environment of comparable complexity. However, between these two periods, many generations existed in different conditions.

Among hunter-gatherers, cooperation and cooperation were realized only in small homogeneous groups and were of a simple nature. At the same time, dispute resolution through direct open personal or group conflict was a common practice. Competition between tribes or within a tribe was often built on the principle of "us or them". The conflict often ended with the physical destruction of the opponent. The practical benefits of compromise were often not obvious. A stranger was almost always an enemy.

In more developed agrarian societies, the mechanisms of cooperation became more complicated, and the resolution of direct conflicts increasingly became the lot of specialized groups (warriors, nobility). Bloody conflicts among ordinary peasants or slaves were suppressed or punished. Thus, despite the fact that wars could be even more bloody than in primitive society, the general practice of everyday life of the absolute majority of the population was reduced either to subordination to superiors or to finding a compromise with equals. The resolution of the conflict in the logic of "us or them" became the lot of specialized groups and was too risky for most. The losers of the conflict, instead of annihilation, more often simply lost their social status. Trust begins to spread to a wider group of people than a family or tribe: to co-religionists or subjects of the same tsar.

The ability to compromise and cooperate is a necessary condition for the development of complex societies with a large proportion of the urban population: guilds, workshops, the neighborhood of different religions, division of labor, complex political alliances. The ability to build mutually beneficial cooperation based on multiple compromises becomes the most important factor in both personal and intergroup selection. In addition to the ability to rally "their own", the ability to trust and cooperate with "strangers" and not similar becomes no less important.

Conflicts and competition in such societies are more complex and less likely to lead to the destruction of opponents. Often, destruction is simply not profitable. The ability to obey and follow the rules becomes more important for natural selection than the ability to fight for a place in the sun until the last breath. Conflicts where life is at stake, in the logic of "us or them" in the vast majority of cases, are the lot of specialized groups of nobles or bandits. Even in the military, the ability to obey orders gradually becomes more important for success than personal aggressiveness. And natural selection works accordingly.

Recently, there is more and more evidence of the influence of genetics on the level of cooperation and trust in strangers (see, for example, David Cesarini, Christopher T. Dawes,. "Heritability of cooperative behavior in the trust game"). Richard Dawkins wrote in detail about the influence of genes on the strategy of behavior in conflict, according to which the line "aggravation of conflict — avoidance of conflict" is programmed genetically, and culture and upbringing rather determine the form in which this strategy is clothed in specific circumstances. Behavioral traits are also inherited and subject to selection. (Those who categorically do not like it, genetics can replace genes with "cultural patterns").

In my opinion, millennia of life of different human populations in such different conditions of social interaction and selection have led to the fact that different peoples today have on average slightly different skills of cooperation, trust and behavior in conflicts. There are different people everywhere, but in a society that is five generations away from hunter-gatherers or primitive agrarian societies, the percentage of people whose genetics are more conducive to compromise and trust will be objectively less than in a society that has lived in cities for the last 100 generations.

An individual who is not inclined to compromise and cooperation can be quite successful in a modern developed society, where networks of trust and cooperation are supported by the majority of the population. However, if in society as a whole there is a high percentage of people who are not inclined to trust and cooperation, who perceive conflicts in the logic of "us or them", then building a stable system of reaching compromises and taking into account interests in such a society is a much more difficult task. No matter how well-thought-out the institutional platform for reaching a compromise is, the probability of achieving it still depends on the average genetic propensity of the participants to negotiate. In a society where the propensity to compromise is genetically lower, the choice between civil war and dictatorship is more likely.

It is clear that there is no strict scientific justification for the genetic nature of such differences at the moment, but if you replace the word "genetics" with the word "culture", the conclusions will not change much.

At the beginning of the 19th century, about 5% of Russians lived in cities, at the end – 15%. In northern Italy or Flanders, according to the most conservative estimates, 20-25% of the population lived in cities by the end of the 13th century. We will not even remember about antiquity. The ratio of hunting-gathering with agriculture among the Eastern Slavs for many centuries was also somewhat different than that of most of the ancestors of modern Europeans. This is not the only factor. There are counterarguments, and the degree of urbanization is not the only line. You can take, for example, sea fishermen – rice farmers, irrigation societies and those built on slash-and-burn agriculture, and so on…