Lukov Val. A.: Russian youth: The theoretical and empirical researches




A fragment of a monograph: Lukov Val. A. (ed.) Social and Cultural Value Orientations of Russian Youth: The Theoretical and Empirical Researches: Monograph / Val. A. Lukov, Vl. A. Lukov, N. V. Zakharov,  V. A. Gnevasheva,  O. O. Namlinskaia; Translation by B. N. Gaydin, Translation Editing by N. V. Zakharov; Institute of Humanitarian Researches; International academy of science. - Moscow; Innsbruck: Moscow University for the Humanities, 2007.


There are deep-rooted traditions of researches on the youth problems in Russia. By their trends and purposes they partly concur with the traditions of the humanities in Europe and America. In Russia in different times - it was the same way in the West - diverse youth concepts had been conveying and continue to express the society's expectations for new generations. This is in a sense a theoretical mirror of the natural process of generation change. Under modern conditions these concepts can be reduced to three directions: youth - "no man's land", youth - social danger, youth - hope of society. At the same time youth theories have the mark of the socio-cultural contexts and contexts of the development of the humanities in Russia. In this article these similarities and distinctions will be examined.

The development of youth theories in the world on the whole and in Russia in particular progresses in discrete steps. The three main schools of theoretical understanding of youth[1] were formed in the 1920s - the beginning of the 1930s. Indeed, there were minor deviations: for instance, the book "Adolescence" by an American sociologist G. Stanley Hall was published in 1904, the publications by a German psychologist K. Gross, which contained important states for the formation of youth theories, appeared in 1912, the "Diagnosis of Our Time" by a German sociologist K. Manheim, in which his earlier stated theses were evolved, was issued in 1943, etc.

The first school defines youth as a bearer of psychophysical features of adolescence. The researchers investigate not essentially youth, but adolescence as a life period of an individual (G. Stanley Hall, Charlotte Bühler, W. Stern, A. Freud, W. Reiche).

The second school interprets youth as a cultural group - through the aggregate of cultural characteristics and functions (E. Spranger, R. Benedict, B. Malinowsky, M. Meed and others).

The third school studies youth as an object and subject of the process of succession and change of generations - the social function of youth is in the foreground here (the sociologists of the Marxist school, K. Manheim).

The ascent of the youth sociology in the 1960s - the beginning of the 1970s (also with minor deviations beyond this period) proceeded in the same ways, primarily in the second (S. Eisenstadt, F. Tenbruck, T. Roszak and others) and third (H. Schelsky, L. Rosenmayer) directions.

We see the circumstances of the great advance in the theoretical understanding of youth in these two periods, because just at that time youth showed its worth through self-reference in the forms of youth movement especially vividly. The theoretical presuppositions for determination of youth as an object of special research had already been in the 19th century, but nevertheless they were not realized in the youth theories. There are the theoretical possibilities of development of the conceptions on youth in modern sociology, which has changed greatly with the propagation of phenomenological sociology and strengthening of the postmodern tendencies, but these possibilities remain mostly potential. In this fact we find the peculiarities of youth self-realization and its self-reference. Apparently, what is ascribed to the present youth subcultures is not enough for youth self-reference and in these forms what was typical for the mass youth movement of the 1920s and the 1960s is not attained.



1.1    Early Russian Researches


They began to conduct researches on youth problems in Russia quite long time ago. At least, from the beginning of the 20th century they were carried out in the order of the known autonomy in the context of social sciences being formed in that time -psychology, sociology, anthropology, criminology, etc. In particular, there were such researches on the student youth in several Russian universities, which were conducted in the 1910s[2]. But both the number of researches on youth problems and their range were very insignificant at that time, and as a consequence of it no youth theory was formulated.

Nevertheless, at the empirical level the material was being collected, which subsequently gave the impulse for framing of original theoretical concepts, connected with the comprehension of phenomenon of young people.

The main directions of the youth studies in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century reflect the new processes, which were expanding under the dynamic conditions of revolutionary changes. The Russian youth - an active participant in the three Russian revolutions, and any revolutionary transformation on the scale of the entire society leads to the renovation of the ruling elites due to the coming of young generations of politicians, public figures. The October Revolution of 1917 is not the exception.

Against the new public background the youth researches have followed the three main directions.

The first direction is elaboration of working youth problems. This category was practically beyond the field of scientific interests in the pre-revolutionary period of Russian history (some attention was paid to separate aspects - chiefly in the connection with analysis of child labour problems - by Russian Marxists, but it is better to call them just fragments than proper researches). In the 1920s a wide range of literature on studying of working teenager, young workers in the aspect of psychology, pedagogy and sociology was being formed. Among the works of this kind there are books of interest even for today, e.g., I. A. Ariamov "Working Teenager"[3], V. A. Zaitsev "Labour and Life of Working Teenagers"[4], B. B. Kogan and M. S. Lebedinskii "Way of Life of Working Youth"[5], etc. Quite often working youth was studied beyond exact disciplinary frames in these works. It is especially typical of pedological researches, in which pedagogical, psychological and sociological aspects of studies on young workers were interlaced. Taking integral tendencies in the field of modern social knowledge into consideration the interdisciplinariness of many 1920s works seems to be of current importance.

The second direction is research on studying youth. In the 1920s the tendency to integral generalization more often on the basis of the pedological concepts is also discovered here. Despite the controversiality of these concepts the most important for the further researches on youth theoretical and methodological positions (e.g., of such outstanding scientists as P. P. Blonskii, 1925; and L. S. Vygotskii, 1928) were formulated within their frames.

The criticism at "pedological perversions", which was leveled in the USSR, and the prohibition against pedology in the 1930s changed the key points of studies on pupils and students. Not all of the changes were fruitless for science (although it is evident that under the circumstances of strict ideological control and political repressions a certain part of researches was a kind of imitation and they were solving the problem of survival for the scientific society). Among the most productive for the further decades theoretical and socio-design constructions, which have their heuristic significance even today, we should mention the A. S. Makarenko's conception of child's and youthful collectives[6]. Nowadays in Russian science it is interpreted ambiguously. Accusations against Makarenko as the author of the conception, which allegedly leads to totalitarian submission of person, were especially typical in the beginning of the 1990s. The period of faultfinding has passed, but a new understanding of Makarenko's conception in the connection with the tasks of work with children and youth in the modified Russian conditions (including the phenomenon of increasing number of homeless children and teenagers) has not appeared yet. We consider it to be a serious omission in both the scientific and practical/applied aspects[7].

The third direction is research on youth movement. In the 1920s an unusual attention was paid to this question. This was clear not just by accident. Firstly, exactly at that time the beginning of youth movements assumed a clear organizational form on the different poles of the ideological and political spectrum. The political youth organizations and other organized forms of youth activity were rapidly developing. There was an increase of contacts of youth organizations on the international level. The international youth associations were being formed. Secondly, in the early period of Soviet history the social subjectivity of youth had a great potential for possibilities and diverse forms of realization. Activity as a trait of personality and collective was claimed. It was the most important ideological direction and could not be beyond the scientific understanding.

On the whole the researches on youth in the 1920s, partly in the 1930s - a wide field for different scientific experiments, explorations, theoretical innovations. Some themes were introduced into the circle of scientific subjects under the obvious impact of Freudism. The psychoanalytical inclination was very evident in those years[8]. The ideas of psycotechnics were being broadly used, pedagogical experiments were being conducted. Scientific exaggerations (vulgar sociologism, pedology) and a strict discussion in the scientific community were usual phenomena of those years.

From the beginning of the 1930s the authorities were increasingly interfering in the scientific polemics. Adherence to that or another scientific theory was more and more often evaluated from the position of political loyalty and reliability. So, the analysis of the scientific achievements in the investigation on youth problems in the USSR in 1934 (the year S. M. Kirov was killed and the mass repressions in the milieu of scientists in the sphere of social sciences followed) can be made today only when the real conditions of the Stalin epoch for the scientific creative work in the field of social sciences are taken into account.



1.2 Researches of the "second wave"


For the contemporary knowledge about youth the researches - theoretical and empirical - which were being conducted from the mid 1960s, when new conditions for the development of social sciences appeared in the USSR, are of great importance. Sociology revived and the situation in psychology, pedagogy, etc. considerably changed. The group of the sociologists attached to the Komsomol Central Committee, established in 1964, became the first (after the long interruption of several decades) proper sociological laboratory in the country. It is not occasionally that the development of sociology as a field of science is closely connected with the elaboration of youth problems and providing the researches, which were being carried out under the organizational and financial support of the Komsomol bodies[9].

Empirical researches on youth problems obtained a grand vim in the 1960s-1980s. Conducting of All-Union, regional and local surveys of youth (namely question surveys were associated with sociology as a field of knowledge) became constant and customary for Party and Komsomol work. Scientific groups and separate scientists were specializing in different thematic blocks. The problems of labour and working education, ideological and political training, social activity, value orientations of youth, start of life, and so on were the most actively studied. The scientific authority of such nowadays prominent Russian sociologists as N. M. Blinov, B. A. Grushin, S. N. Ikonnikova, I. M. Il'inskii, A. I. Kovaleva, I. S. Kon, V. F. Levicheva, V. T. Lisovskii, M. N. Rutkevich, M. H. Titma, V. N. Shubkin, and others was formed in these researches.

It is very important for today's state of researches on youth problems that for several decades - sometimes in the competition of scientific schools, but more often in the joint collaboration - firstly, the academic institutes, and mainly the sociological institutes of the USSR Academy of Science (nowadays - of the Russian Academy of Science), secondly, the leading universities and institutes of higher education of the country - in Moscow, Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Barnaul, Ekaterinburg, Krasnoiarsk, Novosibirsk and in some other Russian cities and, finally, thirdly, the biggest specialized in the field of youth problems studies scientific complex in Moscow Veshniaki Area, - the Highest Komsomol school (1969-1990) and its Scientific-research center (1976-2002), the Institute of Youth, which was sooner established on this basis (1991-2000), Moscow Humanitarian and Social Academy (2000-2003), and today Moscow University for the Humanities (since 2003) - all them have been concurrently working out on these problems as their basic.

These "three whales" of Russian sociology of youth were in desperate straits in the beginning of the reforms (especially in 1990-1993), but mainly they did not lose their scientific potential and recently have begun to conduct All-Russian and regional researches again. The revival of youth sociology in pithy and scientific-organizational sense is evident.

The state reports on the condition of young people in Russian Federation have become a special form of scientific knowledge development. The first report was written out under the scientific direction of I. M. Il'inskii in 1993, the second is under the scientific direction of I. M. Il'inskii and A. V. Sharonov in 1995, the third is under the direction of Val. A. Lukov in 1996, the fourth and fifth were made out under the direction of Val. A. Lukov, V. A. Rodionov, B. A. Ruchkin in 1998 and 2000, the sixth is under the direction of V. A. Rodionov and E. Sh. Kamaldinova in 2002, the seventh is under the direction of Iu. A. Zubok and V. I. Chuprov in 2003. It should be mentioned that if in other countries quite often such reports are not of vital significance as forms of scientific knowledge presentation (it is essentially considered to be a reference book in which a departmental viewpoint of little interest for a researcher is expressed) then there is a different situation in Russia. The state reports (and regional in the same pattern) have determined the present-date mechanism of collection and analysis of great amount of various information on youth. The original All-Russian researches were carried out because of preparing of the reports. The work on the text of the reports is being carried on in the atmosphere of scientific polemics among outstanding scientists in this field are representatives of different schools in sociology, social psychology, demography, criminology, etc.

After the collapse of the USSR and radical transformation of the social system in Russia new thematic spheres were outlined in the researches on youth.

Firstly, projects on organization of social work with young people in the new conditions appeared on the basis of the researches. They began to attach significance to the analysis of the world experience in social youth work and its adaptation for the Russian situation[10].

Secondly, the research practice in the study of different kind of problem points in the state of young people has essentially broadened. In the textbooks on youth sociology there are extensive sections about deviative behaviour of youth[11]. Thorough researches on narcotization, alcoholization of young people and so on have appeared[12]. The impact of new information situation on young generation is being actively studied[13]. Youth socialization is being investigated on more fundamental basis, including the specificity of socialization of such categories of youth, which had not been analyzed in this aspect before, for instance, deaf youth[14], youth with specific needs[15].

New aspects of researches on youth showed up as the assertion of phenomenological concepts and qualitative research methods were being made in several Russian scientific schools. Micro researches on youth communities[16] became more well-grounded in this aspect.



1.3 Development Problems of Theories on Youth


The empirical researches on youth problems have been conducted since the 1960s with close relation to theoretical understanding of social phenomenon of youth. Before the 1990s the searches in these fields had been being made on the basis of recognition of the Marx-Lenin theory and methodology of study of society. At least, the historical materialism was declared as a methodological basis of such researches (although in practice it was not always so). The class approach to youth was being elaborated most thoroughly. The dogmatic interpretation of Marx's theses was widespread, but this did not impede the researchers of real processes to deepen their theoretical understanding of youth in the Soviet society. They did it through the analysis of its social structure, the interpretation of reproduction of social and professional structure with specificity of professional orientation[17], the working out of the theory of youth social development[18], the study on the problems of the difference between generations[19], etc.

In some works, in which their authors try to represent the historical way of sociology of youth development in Russia, the idea that two orientations were typical for the researches on youth of the 1960s-1980s is approved. The one consisted in the implementation of the authorities' ideological order, the other - in the active opposition to this order and the development of researches, which were aimed at the study on youth as a subject of social life[20]. This myth is not created on the reality. In the actuality the leading sociologists of the country, who were working in the field of youth problems, were cooperating with the officials. And only because of this they had an opportunity to conduct painstaking researches on youth problems. In particular, this circumstance contributed to the development of sociology of youth in the country and its recognition in the world scientific community (in the framework of Research Committee 34 "Sociology of youth" of the International Sociological Association, international symposiums in Primorsko and others). There is no sense to draw the political watershed between the Soviet scientists who were specialists in the sphere of youth problems.

It is more righteous to divide them among scientific schools, where one can see some nuances of the interpretation of the theoretical theses concerning youth, even when the authors stated in one accord that they adhered to the Marx-Lenin methodology of social analysis. The differences appeared in the generalized works on youth, published as early as in the end of the 1960s - beginning of the 1970s[21]. The I. S. Kon's position confirmed in the understanding of youth at that time. According to it youth is a social-demographical group, which is distinguished on the basis of totality of age-specific descriptions, features of social status and determined themes, and other social and psychological traits[22]. V. T. Lisovskii's approach, which relates the conception of youth with the socialization process, remained without proper attention. (It is related to the fact that representatives of the official bodies were leveling criticism at the term "socialization").

We see a potential in the Lisovskii's approach, which is not realized enough. Although in some recent works the emphasis on the structural characteristics of youth remains, the analysis of dynamical characteristics is becoming more productive. It reflects the paradigmatic transfer from social and economical to the socio-cultural orientation of sociology of youth. In Russian practice the analogous transfer took shape in the end of the 1980s and was most noticeable in the researches on the informal youth movements (V. F. Levichev, E. E. Levanov, E. A. Orlova, S. I. Plaksii and others), mental culture of youth (T. A. Kudrina, A. I. Shendrik), and also was spreaded in the researches on wider fields of problems (I. S. Kon, V. T. Lisovskii, in the analysis of delinquent youth subcultures (G. M. Minkovskii) and foreign youth movements and subcultures (Iu. N. Davydov, V. Ts. Khudaverdian) and others.

At the same time the main part of the researches on youth stayed within the course of interpretation of social determination of behaviour and youth consciousness in labour activity (E. D. Katul'skii, V. I. Mukhachev, O. V. Romashоv, I. M. Slepenkov, N. S. Sleptsov, V. G. Kharcheva and others), during the change of educational status (N. A. Aitov, F. R. Filippov, V. N. Shubkin), in the political process and management activity (I. M. Il'inskii, Iu. P. Ogegov), etc. The fact that sociology of youth development consisted of even opposite viewpoints, but it nevertheless did not lead to the war between scientific schools and currents, should be considered to be a certain advantage.

On the break of the 20th and 21st centuries, as one would expect, the tendency towards the theoretical understanding of youth appeared again. It is noted that there was an aspiration to sum up the long-term researches. Such are the mentioned above V. N. Lisovskii's book[23], summarizing works by I. M. Il'inskii[24], the book on the theoretical questions of youth sociology by A. I. Kovaleva and Val. A. Lukov[25], the collective monograph "Russian Youth: the Problems and Decisions" (2005) and others. These works - some more, the others less - advance the theoretical understanding of youth from the viewpoint of the new social experience of the last decade. I. M. Il'inskii in his books gives, in particular, a meaning of philosophy of youth afresh, interpreting it as a value, and raises the question about new generations in the light of the global challenges of the 21st century. Il'inskii conceptualizes the youth problems on the basis of the experience of the past and the present and forms the approaches to youth policy, which is adequate to our times.

In several recent summarizing works the understanding of the empirical material, which reflects new aspects of social life of the last decade, is presented more thoroughly on the theoretical level. Such are, particularly, the results of studies on risks[26].

The broadening of problems of researches on youth and the arrangement of theoretical generalizations of empirical material in the context of modern social science have revived the elaboration of the integral science of youth. This position, being discussed actively as early as the 1970s, became the subject of substantiation in the works by V. V. Pavlovskii again. He suggested guiding the integration of knowledge about youth in the framework of a special science of juventology[27]. E. G. Slutskii and his colleagues[28] are developing the same idea, although in some other interpretation. In the context of the integration of the modern humanitarian knowledge such a position is natural, though it is not essential, because any of the social sciences, which have no severe limits (as it was typical for the beginning of the 20th century) on an object, subject and method of investigation, can serve as the integral function in reference to problems of youth.



1.4    The Thesaurus Conception of Youth


The theoretical elaboration of youth problems, as we understand it, must chiefly follow the path of solution of a number of contradictions, which have been formed in the practice of empirical researches. It is also closely connected with the question about the sociological providing of youth policy, social and youth work and other theoretical scope of scientific knowledge about youth. Many attempts of Russian researchers are aimed at the development of a theory of youth, which would be more adequate to practical purposes. One of such theories is based on the thesaurus approach[29]. Within this theory, the youth is interpreted as a social group consisting of:


(1) People, who assimilate and appropriate a social subjectivity, have the social status of young people and identify themselves as being young;

(2) Thesauruses, which are prevalent in this social group;

(3) The symbolical and physical world, which expresses and reflects these thesauruses.


Such components of the concept and such a connection between them, which is understood as reflection of the social reality, change the very view on sociology of youth.

The thesaurus concept of youth gives an opportunity to make the ways of development of youth social subjectivity clear and find out its controversial traits both as an "objectivated" activity and in facts of self-consciousness, which perform an important regulative function.

The circumstance that institutionalized world is not much assimilated by a young person demands compensatory actions from himself, i.e. self-independent and predetermined interaction in peer group. Gradually he is familiarizing with area, rules, realities of this world. The mechanisms of this familiarization are construction and projecting of social reality. The constructions and projects of a young man can essentially differ from constructions and projects of a "responsible adult" (parents, teachers, etc.) and besides dynamically change. One of the peculiarities of youth milieu is combination of several thesauruses. It causes event-trigger hyperbolization of one of them, which is considered to be the most suitable in this particular life situation.


The general arrangement of social reality construction includes:

(1) adaptation for conditions of environment (trial and mistakes; recognition of parts of environment and rules; alteration of behaviour according to rules; understanding and legitimation of a part of environment through "our");

(2) completion of building of reality (symbolization through "good" and "evil", construction of symbolic universe; compensation for the inaccessible; activities for protection of "my world", separation of independence zone);

(3) restructuring of environment conditions (ignoring of unimportant; change of proportions and combinations according to thesaurus; action beyond "my world" in compliance with own symbolic universe).


These positions realize themselves as a factual result of vital functions and fulfillment of the project.

Reality construction is obvious in the actions of different youth groups. The aim is not to settle on these well discernible behavioural and symbolic complexes, which are quite often distinguished by an exterior observer with negative evaluative attitude. Activity of youth in social construction of reality constitutes the most important condition of its socialization and in this respect refers not to separate, but all youth communities.






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       According to our classification. See: Kovaleva and Lukov, 1999.


  To the description of the modern student body, 1911, and others.


       Ariamov, 1928.


       Zaitsev, 1926.


       Kogan and Lebedinskii, 1929.


       Makarenko, 1983.


       Lukov Vl., Lukov Val., Kovaleva, 2006.


       Zalkind, 1925.


       Sotsiologiia molodezhi, 1996.


      Kolkov, 1997.


      Lisovskii, 2000; Volkov and others, 2001.


      Sheregi and Arefiev, 2003; Actual problems of narco-situation in the youth milieu, 2004.


      Karpukhin and Makarevich, 2001.


      Kovaleva and Reut, 2001.


      Zhulkovska, Kovaleva, Lukov, 2003.


      Omel'chenko, 2004; Lukov and Agranat, 2005.


      Cherednichenko and Shubkin, 1985.


      Chuprov, 1992, 1994.


      Filippov, 1989.


      Semenova, 1998, Volkov and others 2001.


      Lisovskii, 1968; Boriaz, 1973; Ikonnikova, 1974.


      Kon, 1974.


      Lisovskii, 2000.


      Il'inskii, 2001; 2006.


      Kovaleva and Lukov, 1999.


      Chuprov, Zubok, Williams, 2001; Zubok, 2003.


      Pavlovskii, 2001.


      Slutskii, 2002; 2004.


      Lukov, 2003.