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Ethical Liberal Values vs. the Soviet Political and Administrative Heritage from the 1980s to the Present

P. 123-138.

The subject of this chapter is the ethical and sociological aspects of events during perestroika and after. At that time, Russia reached the zenith of liberal ethical values, of romantic hopes and expectations and public demands for justice and the accountability of public authorities. Unfortunately, substantial underestimation of the importance of non-economic factors—especially moral ones—in the reform process resulted in a moral crisis, general disappointment in liberalism and other substantive negative consequences. Acquisition of intellectual and political liberties coincided with a catastrophic economic crisis and the imposition of urgent and necessary measures that were very hard on the population. These measures saved the country from economic collapse but for high political cost, because they were associated (wrongly, as it happens) in mass consciousness with the liberal concept as such. The borders of tolerance toward material impoverishment for the benefit of political freedom were crossed. Also, the paradox of double, contradictory treatment of liberalism in both Soviet intellectual and bureaucratic circles is analyzed in this context. The continuity of former Soviet administrative personnel engendered moral anomy, an identity crisis and alienation among them because inherited officials proved to be unprepared both morally and professionally for work under conditions of transition from socialism to a marketoriented system. This promoted the growth of systemic corruption. The public trust toward the state and public officials have been broken. Moreover, public trust in democratic institutions in general and even a very belief in the possibility of honest government have been undermined then. Despite this, we can find in the contemporary situation a certain ground for optimism. This is based on the revival of demands for social justice and unwillingness to tolerate its absence any longer. Public political protest is considered in this context as a natural and positive element of social activity and political participation, and as a pre-condition for the existence of civil society. In addition, the revival of liberal values in such a form, intuitively sometimes, such as the evolution of horizontal connections and parallel structures in different areas of social life, efforts of people to become maximally independent from state bureaucracy, is the subject of final pages of the chapter.