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Russian national idea: memories of the future
Material posted: Publication date: 13-11-2008

In recent times, amid increasing concern in areas of the domestic economy, ethnic and religious relations, national defence in the media has increasingly discussed the issue of Russian national idea. Essentially, it is about the formation of the strategic guidelines for the development of society and state, expressed in concentrated form in the form of a slogan, simple and clear majority of Russian citizens.

If you try to briefly systematize what has been said and written in recent times, politicians, political scientists, sociologists, public figures and journalists about the Russian national idea, then all this can be summarized to the following main positions.

  1. Russian national idea can be based on Orthodoxy.
  2. In the country's development should be guided by Western values (according to another version — on the East).
  3. Russian national idea must be closely connected with the strengthening of the role of the state.
  4. The basis of the Russian national idea should be put to strengthening the Russian army.
  5. The national idea must take into account the need to improve the education system.
  6. You need to integrate into the world economic community.

All this, of course, mostly correct. But there remains a sense of limitation and one-sidedness of these provisions.

In fact, why Orthodoxy? In our multiethnic and multireligious country to focus on one, albeit the most numerous religious group is a mean to restrict other religious groups and movements. In other words — to create a basis for the development of inter-religious contradictions and conflicts. Actually given a good reason, for example, Islamic fundamentalists to expand the base of its ideological anti-state activities.

Why is it necessary to be oriented on Western values, in the first place — to a market economy and the principles of democracy? The market economy is good as long as the society in its development has encountered new types of restrictions. For example, during the great depression, virtually all developed Western countries significantly restricted the operation of market mechanisms and reinforced public (i.e. scheduled) regulation of the economy. And do not think that such days are long gone. In the near future before humanity will have serious environmental issues that will significantly alter the nature of production and consumption of basic goods and services. You cannot afford to produce products that are secondary in importance, as it will create an additional burden on the ecosystem. You will also need to limit the consumption of parts of products, which is not vital. In other words, to replace the economic limit (or in addition to) will limit the environmental that inevitably lead to the necessity of strengthening of state regulation of economy. Because the market, even civilized (i.e. perfect and not monopolized) cannot be considered as a long-term goal of development of a society. For this reason, integration into the world economic community also can't be a global national goal.

With democratic principles — the same.

Have you ever seen one good idea, including social or public simultaneously came to mind a large number of people? Usually good ideas come to mind to one person. Therefore, the democratic principle of public administration is in principle not consistent with the development of anti-crisis measures or high instability of the international situation.

Have you ever seen that for serious failures in public administration, was paying a large group of people? No, usually lay all the blame on one person or a small group of people.

The last question of this series — do You think real power in any state have some people or all people? The answer is quite obvious. Therefore, the democratic values are important only as a system of constraints real power, and that to some pores. Examples that are sometimes cited as objections (Watergate, Iran-gate, Monica-gate, etc.), cannot be considered sufficiently serious. And because of their small size they only confirm the General rule.

In this regard, should not be considered current Western values in the form of Russian national idea because they are, in essence, are merely a facade for the real power system.

Here in our country people know best is to strengthen the role of the state. More precisely, the negative consequences to which it always leads. Usually, when people talk about the need to strengthen state management (by the way, in the field of Economics is often at odds with the development of the free market), then you understand the enforcement of regulations in the process of production and distribution of goods and services, protection of citizens from external and internal threats, the establishment of a system of social guarantees.

But the lack of clear quantitative indicators of the effectiveness of state regulation in combination with the powers of Executive power inevitably leads to excessive swelling of the state apparatus, the increase in the number of officials and bureaucratization of society. In the interests of improving own influence, the machine starts itself to come up with new features, to grow and to turn from servants of society into a parasite.

With the national idea in the form of revival of the Russian army — even more interesting. Why ordinary Russian people, which in the last decade has suffered so much from all of these privatizers and the oligarchs, who constantly fears for their life, health and well-being due to sharply increased crime, which for several years (or winters) freezes in his house, who is unable to pay for reasonable medical care, why he should worry about his own safety from external threats? Moreover, for maintaining this "as if" the safety of his sons (at best) to lose 1-2 of the best years of my life serving in the army. However, about 30% of the Federal budget (taxpayers ' money) instead of pensions and social benefits will go to military spending, much of which is hidden from society and then is elementary plundered. People understand that traditional respect for the Russian army today, after the devastation of the previous "warlords", after Chechnya, did not return parades of veterans, beautiful legends or television series. To do this we must change the entire system of social values.

Therefore, the national idea articulated only in the form of revival of the Russian army, also doomed to failure. On the basis of Russian society today, perhaps not to consolidate. Although it may be one component of a more General national idea.

The improvement of the education system, of course, is one of the important factors in the development of society. But any society, and not only Russian. Especially because convince ordinary Russian citizens, who have many pressing issues to spend their time and money on gaining knowledge, which, as shown by their life experience in this country, to implement them anyway — utopia. Knowledge only important when they are demanded by society, when society agrees to pay scientist, engineer, economist, lawyer. Sometimes we hear that 15-20 years ago we had the most educated, the most-read nation in the world. But remember how they lived engineer, researcher, and cutters of meat in any grocery store. The middle generation can remember a lot of the real facts, anecdotes and humorous stories about the prestige of science and education at the time.

If unclaimed the knowledge educated people will leave Russia, as they do currently, thereby further increasing its backlog from other countries. The rate of "brain flow" to slow down or to accelerate depending on the crisis phenomena in the economy of other countries, but will remain as a permanent factor.

Therefore, the national idea in the form of improvement of the Russian educational system still does not work.

The development of a national Russian idea apparently stalled, despite numerous round tables, conferences and publications on this issue. By the way, this is clearly evident by the fact that today the hymns are different. Their primary purpose is the display of substance of the national idea in the most popular and simple rhymed form.

So how is it to be with the Russian national idea? What must lie at its basis, how to find the correct and yet simple and intelligible form that would combine all the positive aspects offered by different people, to articulate strategic guidelines for the development of Russian society and the state in the near future? Expressed in each sentence there is a rational grain.

First of all, you should consider three things.

First, the word "Russian" and "national", despite its wide use, somewhat contradictory. Indeed, Russia is a multinational country, which is home to about a hundred different nationalities and ethnic groups. Between these nationalities objectively existed, exist and will exist contradictions. Therefore, if in the formulation of strategic guidelines of development of the country the word "national", the context should be such as not to prejudice the interests of any nationality, and to denote all the peoples residing on the territory of Russia. Mathematicians would say that the wording of the Russian national idea should be invariant with respect to all nationalities living on the territory of Russia.

Secondly, the formulation of a national idea should not be abstract, to take into account the vital interests of Russian citizens, primarily in the short term. Distant promises of the type "your grandchildren will live under communism" in Russia today, nobody is interested. The arrangement has a simple and intuitive, like the one proclaimed by the U.S. President F. D. Roosevelt after the great depression of 1929 — 1930, together with the "new course" in the economy: "In every garage — in the car, in every pot — chicken".

Thirdly, we must clearly understand that the main purpose of the national ideas are not intellectual exercises of the Russian intelligentsia and the political elite. The national idea is needed for elaboration of strategic guidelines, definition of objectives when managing Russian society. But as Bulgakov's Woland, how can control the person, if he is deprived opportunities to make any plan even for ridiculously short period of time (well, years, say, a thousand), and cannot vouch for his own tomorrow? Therefore, the national idea must have the property of adaptation to changing external and internal circumstancesthat initially almost impossible to guess. In other words, the main principle of the national idea should remain unchanged, and the emphasis in its realization at each particular moment, and must have the ability to change without distorting the system-forming principle.

All of these properties has the following proposed wording of the Russian national idea: "the Main objective of development of Russian society is to improve the quality of life of Russian citizens". Such a national idea can be understood, accepted and supported by the majority of Russian citizens.

This wording is not new — it is enough to say that the President in his last annual address to the Federal Assembly on 18 April 2002 as the main task called raising the standard of living of our people. Some of the novelty may consist in the distinction of the concepts of "quality of life" and "standard of living". Another thing is important: the national idea articulated in this form, it absorbs all the other options considered above ideas and therefore is the most common variant of the national idea.

To show this, first define the essence of the concept "quality of life".

Quality of life refers to the full volume of material goods and services that the average person consumes during his life in the living. Thus, the concept of "quality of life" has a clear physical meaning and can be changed quantitatively.

The list of benefits includes not only wages and social benefits, expressed in constant prices, but also resource rents. Really, the two people receiving the same income, can vary significantly in terms of life, if one of them lives in the North and the other in black-soil belt, where he has the opportunity to earn extra income from your garden or field.

In the list of material benefits also include housing, transportation, education. In the end, the total number of components defining the structure of the generalized indicator of "quality of life" is about fifty.

We should pay particular attention to the time factor — the value of composite index of "quality of life" in proportion to the average time of human life in these terms. This means that if in the region, poor environmental conditions (e.g. functioning of harmful chemical production, the accident occurred at the nuclear site, there are effects of nuclear testing) or running health services, the average lifetime decreases. This leads to reduction of "quality of life". If the region is crime or are ongoing military operations, the average lifetime of people is reduced also. Thus, the composite index of standard of living takes into account not only money income and the price level in the region, but also the state of the environmental situation, health care, the degree of protection of human rights from internal and external threats.

In addition to the above factors, quality of life takes into account a number of psychological factors, such as the degree of differentiation of the population by income. Indeed, ceteris paribus, people feel more comfortable in a society where income differentials are minimal. On this indicator Russia has broken all records — today the difference in income groups 5% of the richest and the poorest Russian citizens exceeds 40 times. Moreover, if in other countries according to the society for a relatively small delamination on income to create incentives for productive activities and increase the overall manufacture of the product in the subsequent moments of time, in today's Russia, such separation is not justified — the accumulated capital mostly taken out abroad and not invested in the domestic economy. Therefore, the importance of reducing income differentiation of the Russian population should be considerably higher than for other countries. By the way, the difference of importance of constituents of quality of life for the Russian and global average conditions observed for the other groups of factors. In this regard, the General conclusion for the Russian conditions cannot be directly used international methodology for determining the quality of life of the population.

If to compare on quality of life of Russia with other countries, we must also take account of the particular psychological group of factors determining the image of the country. This is also good — but good psychological and moral. This group includes the achievements of Russian athletes, Russian Nobel prize winners and, of course, artists. Remember: "and in the field of ballet we ahead of a planet of all!" The status of a great country contributes to the quality of life of its population.

Thus, the concept of "quality of life" is much broader than the concept of "standard of living" which often is understood as gross domestic product (or national income) per capita. The quality of life in more detail describes the degree of comfort of living of the person in various conditions, can more accurately determine the intensity and direction of migration flows.

Despite the stability of the concept of "quality of life", the priority directions of change may vary depending on the current time and prevailing conditions. The General principle of selecting priority areas are those areas where maximum value from units of money to the increment of the generalized indicator of "quality of life". For example, in one region where large subsistence minimum, resources should be dispatched on the increase of pensions, wages, the other in the solution of environmental problems in the third — to fight crime, in the fourth — to restore the war-ravaged housing and infrastructure, in the fifth — on the development of mining or processing industries. Thus, the use of the indicator "quality of life" will allow to efficiently plan the direction of the expenditures of the consolidated state budget and pursue sound fiscal policies.

If we now turn to the beginning of this article, it is easy to understand that all of these versions of the Russian national idea — it not independent value, and only the direction, tools implementing a more General national idea of improving the quality of life of Russian citizens (not yet addressed the Orthodox national idea — as the saying goes "God — the gods" — although in substance, and it is designed to consolidate the society and its positive development).

In fact, focusing on the Western or Eastern values are important not in itself, but only to the extent that it contributes to the improvement of the living conditions of our citizens. Or planned market principles of regulation of economy should not be turned into fetishes, they can get on together, to complement and substitute for each other in those industries where the efficiency of each from the point of view of improving the quality of life maximum (example — China). It's the same with democracy: in some areas of society, for example, in the military, or in emergency situations, democracy might just be not valid.

Integrating into the global economic community should also adopt a pragmatic installations, placing its primary objective the development of international relations, but in their vital interests.

The changing role of the state in society must be subordinated to improving the quality of life of the population. Public functions, size and structure of the administrative apparatus should be such as to ensure the positive dynamics of living standards: it is foolish to have an extremely bloated and expensive for the taxpayers of the state apparatus, but it is silly and excessive to reduce, losing the opportunity for effective management. Rational proportions should be such as to ensure the maximum value of the generalized indicator of quality of life.

Reform of the Russian army (not the cosmetic, which are held the last decade and which provide a means of finding justification in their posts of the highest military commanders, and the real) must not close on themselves. They should be viewed through the prism of improving the quality of life of the population, as a tool to reduce the likelihood of military conflict with the possible loss of the inhabitants of their property, health and life (i.e. reduce the average time of life of the inhabitants of the region and the country as a whole).

The level of education of Russian citizens — one of the components of the generalized indicator of quality of life. Therefore its increase does not contradict, but rather correspond to the improved quality of life. But it's all in the proportions. Obviously, should the whole state have a resource to direct only on culture, science and education. It is also necessary to raise pensions, to solve transportation, environmental, and military problems.

It is clear that the wording of the Russian national idea in the form of improving the quality of life of Russian citizens, is likely to raise several objections. It is assumed that these objections can be classified into the following three groups.

The first group will say that this is pure pragmatism, technocracy, lack of spirituality, historical roots, neglecting the interests of future (and at the same time — and past) generations. In short, the whole set of high-sounding words, which for several decades loudly heard at all meetings and gatherings, and from which real benefit as there was no and no. Most interesting is that in the end, the representatives of this group of critics of anything more coherent to offer, however, for the implementation of the state policy to control society, we need not words, but a clear quantitative indicators.

The second group of outwardly similar to the first. And the arguments they have similar. But the basis of the objection is a very different and more pragmatic than in the present embodiment of the national idea. They understand that effective state planning and control involve the monitoring of public-political and socio-economic situation in all regions by a large group of relevant indicators and subsequent selection on the basis of such monitoring of sound public policy. They understand that a policy based on improving the quality of life of the Russian population, at least at first, just not be socially orientated, to really pursue national interests and not the interests of the small but disproportionately wealthy financial-industrial groups. They also understand that the more will be continued disputes between Westerners and pochvenniki about the national idea, the more state power will be in the face of uncertainty and slackness on the strategic guidelines for the development of society, the more the state property can be time to privatize at bargain prices, the more affordable will be oil, gas, forest resources, raw materials. Therefore, this national idea is not that we do not need, it is harmful. They will drown her with all available means. And, of course, start with the simplest — with an attempt to discredit her.

The third group of critics are mostly professionals who are involved in the problems of forecasting social phenomena and participate in the preparation of the state decisions. Here you have two options, two subgroups. Objections of the first group of specialists will be focused on the improvement of the proposed approach associated, for example, with the set of significant factors, by clarifying the methods of their measurement, changing the time horizons of planning (for example, accounting for the consumption of goods by citizens not only one, but also subsequent generations). Such proposals should be carefully considered and taken into account. Specialists the second subgroup of the proposed approach will be to reject because it does not fit into their existing and mostly imperfect methods, e.g., methods of monitoring the internal situation. It is likely that after some time these specialists will go to the second group of critics.

All opponents should be reminded that the basis of the state internal and external policy of the USA just based on the principle of maximum conformity with the vital interests of the American people. If there is a lot to learn our statesmen from the Americans, so it is in the first place — consistent and systematic implementation of this principle for more than two centuries of history. And then the Constitution need not be rewritten for each new leader, confusing goals and means to achieve them, and need to frequently change the names of cities and towns.

Yes there USA! Not so long ago in our country at the congresses of the CPSU as the main task of the development of society, the objective was the development of material-technical base of socialist economy in the interests of better meet the growing needs of the Soviet people. So, at least on the merits of the wording of the national idea, there is almost complete coincidence. As the saying goes, everything new is well forgotten old.

But one thing abstract manner, and the other is their specific application to the pursuit of sound public policy. In the first place is the task of controlling and monitoring the situation in order to determine quantitative values of the indicator of quality of life.

It is clear that to control a car in every family and a chicken in every pot is much easier than to change in each region of a large country several dozens of parameters, synthesizing further generalized indicator of the quality of life of the population. This requires a constant activity of various information services, agencies, centres. It's a tough business. It is enough to remember the organizational problems that arose in conducting the last census of the population of Russia to understand that to establish a coordinated and efficient operation of such services in the whole country. Moreover, that collect and process information should be much more detailed than in population censuses. In addition, you must have a special coordinating research organization dedicated to the constant improvement of monitoring methodologies and definition of the generalized indicator of quality of life from its components (in our country a lot of scientific organizations that certainly there are such, which can be instructed to coordinate work on this issue).

The proposed approach will more accurately assess the real socio-political and socio-economic situation in Russian regions, providing a "diagnosis" of the economic and social problems (social unrest, migration, the decline of confidence in the government, protest activity) in the early stages of their occurrence.

After the implementation of the monitoring necessary to determine priority directions of the state policy on improving the quality of life of the population, setting a reasonable proportion of the funding of social programmes, development of industries, national defence, state building, etc.

Thus, the formation of the Russian national idea is not only the training of the mind to philosophical intellectuals. It can bring real practical benefits to all Russian citizens. This is the basis of state management of civil society.


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