Political socialization in Russia

Political socialization refers to the way that political values and ideals are formed and transmitted from one generation to the next. The majority of people acquire their first political values at an early age with some ideals evolving, and some staying the same through life. The core of these political ideals are formed through various structures and organizations such as the family, schools, religious institutions, mass media, interest groups, and political parties. In recent years Russia has practically done a 180 in terms of political organization, and even the type of government that it utilizes. As a result of this it is interesting to look at political socialization in modern Russia.

By far the most influential group on a person is the family. The family is the first influence on a person, and arguably the most lasting. In theory the family can almost predetermine a person’s political future. For example, if a child is active in the family’s decision making process, this can provide skills for future political participation and competence, on the other hand if a child is completely excluded from the family decision making process, this can predispose the child to the life of a political subject. In Russia, along with almost all other countries a person’s political party or political association is the same as that of their family’s. This is a direct result of the aforementioned.

The next logical place where a Russian would gain political insight would be the school system. In schools pupils are provided with concrete information about their political world and it’s institutions and relationships. In Russia children go to school at the age of 6, and attend for ten years and finish at the age of 16 or 17. If a student does not perform properly then he or she may be asked to repeat the year. School years are divided into three sub-schools, much like the U.S., primary, secondary, and high. Primary is four years, secondary is five, and high is two. Although all Russian students are taught about all subjects, some schools specialize in a specific field such as physics, or math. An interesting fact about Russian schools is that they do not teach any subjects about politics. This could be due to the state wanting to limit the amount of “outside” political influence on a child, or even the fact that the state does not want the student to learn about other political cultures.

Religion is also a major political influence on people. In Russia today there are no official statistics on religious institutions. This is due to the fact that the state prohibits demanding that citizens declare their religious affiliation, along with the fact that many denominations do not have a fixed membership. In unofficial terms, two religions are most prevalent in Russia today: Orthodoxy, and Islam. Orthodoxy dominates for the most part with roughly 85% of the population, Islam controlling 15%. According to recent statistics, about 10 million Russians attend church regularly; however this number began to decline in 1997-1998 as a result of published facts about the church’s sale of humanitarian aid intended for a free distribution to the poor and its trade in tobacco, alcohol, and precious metals. A result of this could lead to a lack of trust of the Russian church. The sociopolitical orientation of the majority of active Orthodox believers can be characterized as a traditional, anti-western one. Furthermore, according to 1996 data, organizations with patriotic communist tendency led the political preferences of Orthodox. However, radical nationalist and anti-Semites still do not have serious support, although a tendency toward growth can be traced. On the other side of Russian religions Muslims do not have a unified structure. Presently there are about 10-15 million active Muslims in Russia, with potential Muslims ranging in the number of 20 million. The majorities of these Muslims are Suni, and accept in the traditional anti-western, anti-Semitic views.

The next aspect of Russian political socialization is that of mass media. There is almost nowhere in the world where at least an inexpensive radio can be obtained and used to gain the “news of the day”.