Government's Role in Supporting Cultural Values

One of the greatest troubles in present-day Russia is the distorted vision of society that has been inherited from the Soviet era. People believe that citizens must serve their government. The idea that the government is there to serve the people sounds sacrilegious.

Outside perspective

I have long found the concept of culture to be something that has been narrowed down to only one of its components – the fine arts. This has happened for a reason. Any culture minister, however skillful at his job, is still an office worker. All he can do is make people’s access to genuine art easier or harder. Truly gifted artists produce masterpieces without support from the government – even when they are discouraged. The principles of survival are at work here.

In my opinion, the foremost problem today is that unsophisticated consumers are easily misled by a readily available, aggressive pseudo-culture. The make-a-profit-at-any-cost principle eventually kills culture of society or social environment in the broader sense. This phenomenon can be found in developed, prospering countries as well where society's natural evolution has never been interrupted. In these countries, culture is conditioned by protective mechanisms and feedback principles arising from democracy and civil society. Any changes occurring through revolution are detrimental to society’s evolution, just like to a living body. Material values are also a component of culture – just like family culture, political culture and, above all, a long-standing system of values and priorities. Morals and ethics have not been created just for the fun of it. They constitute the ideal recipe for a quality life, tested and polished by centuries of human experience.

One of the greatest troubles in present-day Russia is the distorted vision of society that has been inherited from the Soviet era. People believe that citizens must serve their government. The idea that the government is there to serve the people sounds sacrilegious. I find the idea rather insulting that Russians are incapable of self-organization because it likens us to a herd of cattle following a shepherd with a whip. Such a society cannot compete with more prosperous nations where the interests of the people and the government coincide, and each person’s creative potential is used to society's greater benefit. A whip cannot change these commonplace truths, and neither can the “vertical of power,” its politically correct euphemism.

No law, decree or manifesto can create a culture. It must develop over a long path of evolution. Cultivating society is similar to cultivating a plant. One must water it, fertilize it, weed around it, and have patience. In our doing so, new generations will grow to share universal humane values. They will be able to build a Russia that is no longer feared or hated by its neighbors. It will be respected because the quality of life in Russia will run parallel to the wonderful human, commodity and territorial resources that this great country can provide.

Europeans will come to Russia to live like they did 100 years ago. At this stage, though, Russia is not in its best shape as is evidenced by foot voting. Russians no longer believe in any rhetoric. Words have lost its value. The turmoil of the 1990s has clearly shown that Russian society was not ready to develop into a normal country with a normal culture. A handful of crooks took advantage of the situation and squandered the country’s resources. But even that was not the worst problem compared with the general disappointment that plagued society, and the degradation of basic concepts such as democracy and civil society, which were substituted by lawlessness and anarchy.

Russia’s future is not threatened by NATO or China. The real danger is that the country is not competitive. The creative potential of the people goes unused, and they have no motivation or faith in the future. This means that they have no future. In corporations, this situation is described as the lack of a corporate culture and is seen as a major reason why companies lag behind competitors. In business, there is a clear methodology for building an effective corporate culture. In fact, there are many similarities between the structure of a developed state and an effective transnational business. It might be useful to consider using some tried-and-true business methods to build culture in present-day Russia.

They usually begin with determining the corporation’s vision, mission and goals and objectives. Incidentally, the scope of this task is far broader than the culture minister’s competence. Alexander Avdeyev is more than fit for his job and is making every effort in his post. But the guidelines and the results of his work are equally limited by the lack of a central idea that could bring the country together to build civil society using democracy's usual tools of self-regulation.

Supporting the arts is certainly important for people’s self-identification. This is a necessary condition for uniting Russia and making it competitive. However, this it is not enough. A building is erected following a carefully developed plan. When the Bolsheviks overturned the Russian Empire in 1917, they had a plan too – only one that was criminal and nonviable. This eventually led to the Soviet Union's collapse and the fall of the Communist idea around the globe. Contemporary Russia lives in chaos because the Communist ideology was replaced by the worst market principles. Somehow, the good ones got left behind.

We have lost too much time already stuck in-between. It is high time to stop crying over the Soviet era, which is many years now gone. It may be impossible to restore the Russian culture of the Pyotr Stolypin era, as the world has moved far forward over the past 100 years. But it is time for us to make a decision. We must not reinvent the wheel and repeat the mistakes that others have made. We should take the best ideas from the world's various cultures and raise our next generation to believe in these universal values. Evolution is the only way for productive development. Pondering over the revolutions and other cataclysms that have shaken Russia over the past century, as well as the bloodshed, there is hope that we might avoid stepping on this rake once again.

As for the programs that are the culture minister's direct responsibility, I think they should seek to find gifted young Russians and educate them in developed countries. It is sad to see that students who can afford tuition at the world's best universities are mostly only those who come from families which managed to acquire their wealth and success through mala fide means and only see value in money.

Other young, talented Russians should be able to attend these institutions. If they are given the chance to apply the talent, knowledge and experience that they gain abroad in high governmental posts in Russia, things will gradually stabilize. However, to make these people want to return to Russia, they need to learn to believe in the future once again and the national culture should be restored.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.