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Russian Cummunitarianism: An Invisible Fist in the Transformation Process of Russia


  • Charalambos Viachoutsicos


The Russian communitarian value system (rcvs) is a persistently enduring feature of Russian life. The roots of rcvs are found in the Kievan state, which arose, in the ninth century. The essential features of the rcvs are derived from deeply rooted institutions developed over a very long period of time in response to the particular constraints and opportunities of the adverse geographical, economic and political environment that prevailed since the very beginning of Russian history. The same adverse conditions, which made communitarianism essential to the viability of the village, made centralism essential to the survival of the state. Thus an apparently contradictory and unique combination of suppression of the individual on the one hand and considerable freedom of self-expression on the other evolved as a focal distinctive feature of Russian culture. It follows that the codes as well as the stubborn resilience of rcvs are invariably confusing to Westerners. The Soviet State basically thought in egalitarian communitarian terms. Although Soviet communism aimed to make a complete break with the past and to create a new society, it was not able to escape from the traditional rcvs. In fact, the Soviet system's leveling of society fostered a communitarian ethic on a national scale. However, in many important ways the Soviet system stifled the genuine aspects of rcvs and, through the suppressive mechanisms of the Communist Party, eroded its practices of grass root participation into powerless and fake rituals. The transformation of the Russian economy presently under way increasingly requires fundamental change. The paradox is that in order to ensure economic effectiveness and stability, change has to be grounded in enduring and constant factors. This paper defends the position that, the degree of transmutation of the rcvs to the new values and practices which Russia will be able to contain and to integrate, will be key to the strength and effectiveness of the ensuing system. Although the rcvs is only one of a number of factors that are focal to the complex process of transformation, if ignored, it can act as a potent barrier. Alternatively, whenever acknowledged, it can indeed act as a propeller for effective change. This paper is primarily intended for Western investors, managers and scholars who are involved in work in or with present day Russia. It will also be of interest to students of the relation between culture and management and of comparative management. While not aspiring to provide a complete overview of the sources of the rcvs, the paper aims to shed light on the roots of the system in Russian history, as well as on its influence on the present transformation process in Russia.

Suggested Citation

  • Charalambos Viachoutsicos, 1998. "Russian Cummunitarianism: An Invisible Fist in the Transformation Process of Russia," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 192, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  • Handle: RePEc:wdi:papers:1998-192

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