The Echo of War: the Values of Veterans and Young Russians

On 6 May 2015 the Centre for Comparative History and Political Studies hosted an open lecture by Leonid Polishchuk on the values of WWII veterans and young Russians based on a collective research project of FOM survey data.

The study draws on the idea of "vertical socialization", according to which norms and values are stable over time and are passed on from one generation to another through family socialization. According to the hypothesis, veterans of World War II acquired a specific set of norms and values, some sort of ‘civic culture’ that encompasses altruism, bravery and self-esteem. This helped to overcome the "learned" helplessness, as a result of a bone-crushing political repression of the 1930s. According to the lecturer, the effect of the veterans' generation is one of the keys to understanding why some members of Russian society united for the sake of common goals, while others did not.

To confirm the hunch, researchers created a questionnaire about history of war in respondents’ families and values of the respondent. The first variable is the presence of a veteran in a family, while other variables indicate the role and intensity of communication with this family member. The estimates of regression analysis showed that the group with a veteran is ready to commit altruistic acts and as a consequence have a higher level of civic culture.

The discussion that followed the seminar raised the issue of the special groups that during the World War II were under governmental and public pressure (shtrafbats, stroybats, women). The discussion touched upon the traumatic experience of war veterans, including those who were identified with "shameful" roles, whose experience could subsequently prevent the formation of a "positive" social capital despite the interpretation of the researchers.