Staunton, June 30 – The psychology of primitive groups, elaborated by Viktor Droganov and others, explains the behavior of Russians today, Andrey Movchan says, and without an understanding of that reality, he continues, “it is impossible to understand the serious processes which are taking place in the Russian Federation” of Vladimir Putin.
“The most important quality of a primitive group,” the Moscow commentator says in a Slon.ru essay, “is a refusal to recognize the realities of its own behavior and [the manifestation of] a need to justify” whatever it has done by seeking to place the blame on someone else.
From the president to the media to the ordinary man in the street, Russians “are occupied with thinking up an infinite number of justifications for what they cannot name aloud” and so that they “do not have to acknowledge to themselves that we live according to the ideology of a primitive group and are not capable of cooperating – and as an explanation why we do not need to cooperate and a justification for ignoring ‘a positive example.’”
It is this underlying psychology, Movshan continues, that explain “why in response to an article about the ineffectiveness of our economy, hundreds of readers write in: ‘But the US is occupying Iraq!” This doesn’t mean that we “live badly because the US has occupied Iraq.” It is simply a way of justifying Russian mistakes by pointing to the mistakes of others, a characteristic of primitive groups.
Tragically, he says, “everyone is occupied with ‘justification. The liberal media suddenly have begun to justify the actions of the authorities in Russia by the faith of the authorities that Russia is a fortress surrounded by enemies.” And consequently, they have made “their ideology, the ideology of defense against the outside world.”
Such “an explanation is beautiful, comfortable, and a simulacrum of truth.” But its great virtue in the current institute is that “it removes from society a sense of responsibility: a suspicious view on the outside world and searches for enemies is so understandable and forgivable, although, of course, [such things are] not always adequate…”
“No less important for an understanding of today’s situation,” Movchan says, is creating a situation in which everyone has been involved in something shameful or that would be punished in ordinary circumstances and thus feels the need, in the words of Droganov, to unite under the leader “on account of a common feeling of fear and guilt.”
“The annexation of Crimea in this sense is the apotheosis: after 80 percent of the citizens of the country have supported theft at an international level, the authorities in Russia do not have to worry about the unity of the group and a high level of its support.” Having become implicated in one crime, few are willing to stop, and many are calling for more such actions.
In primitive societies, Movchan continues, any move to restrict the group’s ambitions is viewed as an insult and denigration that must be opposed and that members of the group must show that they and their leaders are “’better’” on whatever is being measured, be in military power or an athletic competition.
What Ukrainians have achieved politically is viewed by Russians as a limitation on them and thus a denigration that cannot be tolerated. Instead, Russians feel that they must respond by destroying it militarily or short of them by denigrating it in all possible ways. That typically requires open falsification of what is going on, but that is no limit for primitive societies.
Indeed, Movchan says, “for a primitive group, means have no significance” except in one sense: “the level of cynicism of actions only increases the status of those who use it in the eyes of the group.” And if members of the group can be made to feel that they are the victims via such propaganda, then they will not only behave worse but feel greater solidarity with the group.
There is yet another way in which the psychology of Russians today is the psychology of a primitive group: the failure of members to identify with or care about the victimization of others. Instead, the Russian commentator suggests, there is among Russians as in other primitive groups “a rule of indifference” about the fates of others.
“Unfortunately, he continues, “no recipes exist for the transformation of a primitive group into an ‘egalitarian’ one without essential influence from outside. On the contrary, primitive groups are very conservative toward any changes,” are upset by criticism, and don’t go looking for possibilities in this regard.
Moreover, “the current authorities will actively defend the country from the penetration of positive examples” by shutting down foreign NGOs, gradually restricting foreign travel, censorship, and promotion of “’tradition.’” But in today’s world, all the oil resources Russia has will not allow Moscow to shut down all information flows.
To escape from the current primitiveness, Movchan concludes, “it is necessary to speak and write more about positive models … to try to introduce them locally … and to offer alternatives rather than accusations” in any argument. At some point, the oil will run out, and “only the existence of people capable of building relations not on the principles of a primitive group will be able to save the country from being transformed into a red-brown zone.”