Lukov Val., Lukov Vl., Zakharov N.: Russian youth's value orientations

 

RUSSIAN YOUTH'S VALUE ORIENTATIONS

Lukov Val., Lukov Vl., Zakharov N.

According to many conducted public opinion polls of the last 15 years they state in their conclusions that there is a general value-normative crisis concerning the Russian youth. This crisis consists in the revaluation of cultural, ethical and spiritual values of the preceding generations. The collected data is quite often interpreted as a breach in succession and sharing in the social and cultural experience from the senior generation to the following one[1]. These deductions reflect the situation of untimeliness in the first years after the collapse of the USSR. There was also a noticeable movement from the hard regulation toward the support for a free self-determination of a young person in the youth policy of this time. Eventually the youth policy in Russia degraded to the state when young people had to count on their own abilities and talents. The youth and the youth policy turned out to be on the periphery of the governmental interests. Russia during "Jeltsin's era" was simply not ready to respond to a great number of new economical, political and social challenges. The youth was left to the mercy of fate.

In this period the importance of integral values that gave the orientations to the youth in the Soviet time was falling drastically in the midst of the young Russians. For instance, according to the research data on the political culture of the Soviet youth that was conducted in 1984 under the direction of E. E. Levanov and A. I. Shendrik, from 60 to 84 % of the young people (in different categories of the youth) considered Marxism-Leninism to be a solely authentic theory, which reflected the regularities of the development of nature, society and person. The major part of the Soviet young people who thought so according to the results of this public opinion poll were students, the creative intelligentsia and the young engineers. Five years later, the research data that A. I. Shendrik quotes showed that only 29 % of the interrogated young people shared the same Marxism-Leninism ideology, 36 % were agree with these ideals only to some extent, but 26 % were convinced that this was a wrong statement[2]. Such drastic and sudden changes in the orientation complexes only partly reflect the transformation in the structure of values (which took place on the scale of the whole Russian society). In fact, the researches of the beginning of the 1990s reflect mainly the changes of value markers, in other words - concepts that were correlated with the common social norm. At the same time the basic values were being reproduced from generation to generation in sufficiently stable configurations.

The researches, including the Russian ones, have shown that with an extremely small share of young people who evaluate communism positively (this share was about 2-5 %), the number of those who agree with the positions that are attributive to communism (the equality in the sphere of distribution and consumption, the applying the principle «from each according to the abilities - to each according to the needs», etc.) is much larger, in some cases ten times larger. Let us cite as an example the data of an All-Russian poll by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (November 1997). Amongst the ideas that, in the opinion of the respondents, are able to unite the Russian society, only 1.3 % of the interrogated mentioned communism (among the respondents at the age under 29-0.9 %). Yet, 14.0 % of the respondents (12.7 % in the youth group) acknowledged the idea of the "equality and justice" that actually should be interpreted as a procommunist orientation (Informatsiia: rezul'taty oprosov, 1998). As it follows from the cited example, the reaction on the marker, which had been discredited by then in the Russian society and was expressed by the word "communism" might not reflect the expectations of the youth from the society and, consequently, the real value orientations of the young people.

Such indirect circumstances are important in the researches on value orientations of youth, which are evident in projective questions. The significant results are presented in the answers to the question on youth expectations from the future. The empirical studies have shown that the majority of respondents counts on the chosen professional path, but believes that basically the choice of a working career will be imposed by the pragmatic approach. Such is, in particular, the research data of the public opinion poll conducted under the supervision of B.A. Ruchkin: 59.9 % of the 17-year olds, 65.3 % of the 24-year olds and 64.4 % of the 31-year olds among the young Russian respondents acknowledged that the "handsome salary" was the decisive reason for the choice of their place of work. However, only half of the respondents (50. 5 %) hoped to find a job without assistance. For a greater confidence in success with job hunting 51.4 % of the young people were eager to get a higher education, 30.4 % - to become proficient in foreign languages, 29.5 % - in computers, 27.7 % - to acquire the skills of work under the conditions of market economy, 14.6 % - to get a legal training. Every fourth young person among the respondents planned to open his own business after the graduation. The professions of a manager and a businessman were among the most prestigious occupations according to the views of the youth (16.6 % and 27.7 % correspondingly), however, this did not prevent 4.3 % of the young Russians from the inclusion of gangsterism and racket into this list[3].

Finally, the indirect data on the value orientations of the youth demonstrates the actual preferences of the young people more exactly than direct questions about their values. This, in particular, is related to the characteristics of the studied social group -- the youth. When we speak of the "value revaluation" then this is most probably the attitude of the adults who have already gained a certain life experience and have been subjected to the impact of socialization for quite a long time. Formation of value-normative system is more typical for youth. It means the action of another mechanism than in the situation of "value revaluation". In this case, the comparisons of value scales of different age groups (including youth), which are used in the Russian sociological school, give information on a variety of values that is shared in the Russian society, but they do not adequately fix the world of values and strategic preferences of youth.

In our researches on the student youth we study the value orientations on the basis of several indirect characteristics taking the fact that students undergo the active stage of their secondary socialization into consideration. According to the definition by A. I. Kovaleva, socialization is a "process of formation and development of a person that consists in the mastering of social norms, cultural values and models of behaviour during the whole of his/her life, which allows to function in this given society"[4]. This is a double-sided process. One of its sides consist in the fact that society constantly assigns an orientation of socially acceptable behaviour and thinking for a person in different forms, by different means and with various effects. The other side of the process of socialization is personal mastering of these organizing and orientating impulses that society initiates. The result of the socialization is resultant of many differently directed influences. Since we examine the period of life when people are getting education, we can speak only about a certain level of socialization. This level of socialization is exposed to changes because any educational system directly acts as an institute of socialization. Besides, the macro-social environment begins to exert greater influence on a person during student years. This macro-social environment begins to be realized as essential and as a source of orientations and regulator of the choice of an outlook on life. Therefore, in many respects value orientations will reflect the accepted in society life orientations, depend on an actual situation and change, sometimes significantly. At the same time value orientations are autonomous enough and can be reproduced from generation to generation not only in order of direct inheritance (through family), but also through mass media and network communication in various social communities[5].

This, in particular, can be confirmed by the monitoring research "Russian Institute of Higher Education Through the Eyes of Students" (the project supervisor, I. M. Il'inskii; the supervisor of the IV-VI stages, Val. A. Lukov), which is conducted by Moscow University for the Humanities since the year 2000. The purpose of this project is to reveal the important features of a new type of educational institutions for Russia - the nongovernmental institutes of higher education. In the course of the studies it was very important to found out what were the problems of this new subsystem of the Russian higher education, what it manages to obtain, where its unrealized resources are and what the prospects of its development are. Within the framework of the monitoring two groups of institutes of higher education were compared - State and nongovernmental. Both groups consist of the best Moscow institutes of higher education and institutes of more than ten other Russian cities in the closing stages.

The results of this research show that with all the difference between the students of the State and nongovernmental institutes of higher education their attitude to the studies, their satisfaction with the student life, integration in the life of his/her institute of higher education, the level of material well-being, belief on their future life prospects and plans and - what is important most of all - the basic values of the Russian students have a similar configuration. This configuration is determined by the features of economical situation, by social and cultural processes and by public spirits in a country.

According to the research, which was not especially devoted to analysis of students' value orientations, we obtained a significant material for sociological generalizations. The most important indicators were outspoken by the students in the form of answers table to the question: "What does a ‘good life' mean for you?" In the research that took place in 2006 (N = 3261), the answers of the students were distributed in the following way (refer to table 1; the amount of the percent indices exceeds 100 % since there was a possibility to choose several answers).

 

Table 1. Distribution of students' answers to the question: "What does a ‘good life' mean for you?" (%)

 

 

Moscow

Higher Education N=1036

Regions

Higher Education (N=1926)

 

 

State

Institutes N=471

Nongovernmental

Institutes N=565

State

Institutes

N=1237

Nongovernmental

Institutes N=689

total

 

N = 3261

to be well-to-do

72.6

81.2

82.3

84.3

81.2

to have a good job

64.5

65.8

70.4

78.0

70.9

to have a good family

68.4

70.4

76.8

73.6

73.2

not to work at all

1.7

5.3

1.3

1.5

2.2

to possess power, to occupy a high position in society

11.5

19.1

16.0

20.0

17.1

to love and be loved

65.0

62,7

70.1

60.1

64.7

to be healthy

60.9

68.7

75.5

75.1

71.7

to live not for myself, but for other people

6.6

4.4

3.5

3.2

4.1

to have a good education

22.3

18.9

19.6

31.5

23.6

to feel itself safe and secure

24.4

23.0

24.1

20.7

22.9

to be independent, free

40.3

37.5

41.4

35.9

38.8

 

 

The achievement of material well-being is the most wide-spread value orientation in the student community. However, it does not close the belief about a "good life", in respect of which such values as a "good family" (73 % in total), a "good work" (71 %), health (71 %), love (65 %) are still quite significant too. These components form per se understanding of happiness of the contemporary youth and draw the picture of expected life quality in the future.

The tendency toward a spiritual side of their vital activities (family, health, love) is noted in the answers of the students from the regional institutes of higher education. At the same time, both groups have evaluated the factor of possessing political power as less significant. Although, seemingly, the image of a rich chief especially in the regional understanding is still identified in mass consciousness with stability and prosperity. Both groups of the questioned students strive for liberty and independence, safety and security. As regards to the question on altruistic beliefs - to live not for myself, but for other people - although they are present in the students' answers, but represent rather small group of the respondents.

Concerning of such values as labour and education a certain picture could be drawn by the data presented in the tables 2 and 3.

Table 2. Distribution of the student' answers on the question: "In your opinion, is it possible today to reach the top position in the society due to honest and conscientious work?" (%)

 

 

Moscow

Regions

total

yes

40.7

51.1

46.3

no

24.8

17.5

19.5

hard to tell

34.5

31.4

34.2

total

100.0

100.0

100.0

 

Table 3. Distribution of the student' answers on the question: "Is the higher education can be considered to be a life success warranty nowadays" (%)

Moscow

Regions

total

yes

21.9

26.4

24.4

no

50.8

44.3

47.0

hard to tell

27.3

29.3

28.6

total

100.0

100.0

100.0

In this case it is not values' denomination or their hierarchy what interests us the most, but rather the act of putting values into the context of the modern Russian reality. Eventually this seems to be the way to a more exact reflection of value orientations. Similarly we consider the problem of patriotic values. We avoid the use of the word-marker "patriotism" and reveal the problem-solving situation in the collation of answers on the two following questions: "Are you proud of your country?" and "If they offered a profitable contract, which would propose leaving your Homeland for permanent residence abroad, would you agree?" Essentially, the presence of many positive responses on the first and on the second question means the presence of a certain conflict in the value orientations (refer to tables 4 and 5). Brought in the contexts of the present state of life quality in the capital and in the region and prospects for a realization of acquired education, it is possible to consider these answers to be the indicators of the patriotic spirits in the midst of the Russian students.

Table 4. Distribution of the students' answers on the question: "Are you proud of your country?" (%)

 

 

Moscow

Higher Education

Regions

Higher Education

 

State

Institutes

Nongovernmental

Institutes

State

Institutes

Nongovernmental

Institutes

total

yes

59.7

57.5

68,4

68.8

65.0

no

13.5

13.9

7.6

9.3

10.3

hard to tell

26.8

28,6

24.0

21.9

24.7

total

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

 

 

Тable 5. Distribution of the students' answers on the question: "If they offered a profitable contract, which would propose leaving your Homeland for permanent residence abroad, would you agree?" (%)

 

 

Moscow

Higher Education

Higher Education

Regions

 

State

Institutes

Nongovernmental

Institutes

State

Institutes

Nongovernmental

Institutes

total

yes

41.2

44.6

49.6

48.8

47.0

no

23.4

19.8

19.1

20.7

20.5

don't know

35.4

35.6

31.3

30.5

32.5

total

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

The presented fragments of the research show that the students of all four groups of the institutes of higher education approximately to the same extent are divided in the expression of their own opinions, estimations, viewpoints, level of political activity, etc. It confirms once again that the generalizing word "student body" represents the reality in its exactness. Indeed, the 28 Russian institutes of higher education that were examined during the course of the research are very dissimilar to each other. But student community shows one very significant and firm trend: though there are presented miscellaneous, sometimes diametrically opposite standpoints, but in what that concerns the value orientations and social norms the distribution of answers mainly differs on the gender and age bases, on the specific features of professions they have chosen, in some cases depends on the territorial specificity (that is why we distinguish the city of Moscow from the rest of Russian regions) and almost is not connected with the legal status of a institute of higher education (State or nongovernmental). This is the question of vital importance for the Russian educational system: hitherto the public prejudice exists regarding the nongovernmental institutes of higher education.

If the students of Moscow and other regional institutes of higher education have differences in the value orientations then they are not exceeding the scale to speak of some significant gap between them and what actually separates the capital from the province. Patriotic aspirations are more typical for students from the regions as well as intentions to work in the professional field, willingness to wait for a job placement guaranteed by a native institute of higher education after the graduation, slightly higher level of optimism in the view on the future and others. But as a rule these differences are too insignificant.

To draw a conclusion it is important to mention that the researches of the Russian youth that have been carried out during the last decade show that even the new conditions in every day life have not caused a full rejection of the traditional Russian cultural and historical values of the preceding generations among the young people. Furthermore, it is possible to expect that in the situation of globalization and power of mass media, which reflects the dominant position of the American culture in the modern world and, certainly, has an impact on the Russian youth, the value system in the thesauruses of the young Russians must gain more autonomous nature. This is a form to express the efforts and possibilities of the Russians to defend their own identity.

 

On authors:

Valery Andreevich Lukov -- Vice-rector of the Moscow University for the Humanities, the Head of the Institute of Humanitarian Researches Ph.D., professor.

Vledimir Andreevich Lukov -- The Head of the Center of Theory and History of Culture, Moscow University for the Humanities, Ph.D., professor.

Nikolai Vladimirovich Zakharov -- Chief Scientific Research Worker, Institute of Humanitarian Researches, Moscow University for the Humanities, Ph.D.

 



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[2]

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[3]

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