Russia’s Information War

Since Putin’s rise to power, Russia continued to pursue its expansionist desires. Legitimizing his repressive rule at home and building lies, Putin made clear that he was going to win the physical conflict in post-soviet republics, but also the information war. The Chechen wars, the war in Georgia and recently the war in Ukraine, showed that Kremlin sees media as a weapon and has full control over it. The spread of myths demonizing Euro-Atlantic structures represents a direct threat to the democratic West and strengthens Vladimir Putin’s regime in Russia. This paper will try to examine what is Russia’s information war, what are the tools and the strategies, its goals and its effects within and outside the borders of Russia, to finally assess how the information war impacts Putin’s regime domestically.

What is information warfare and what is its purpose? As Aro (2016) described, information warfare is “state-conducted, strategic series of information and psychological operations that influences the target’s opinions, attitudes and actions in order to support the political goals of the state’s leaders” (Aro, 2016: 122). Pomerantsev and Lucas (2016) believe that Russian narrative is not traditional propaganda that aims to persuade and mobilize, but on the contrary to confuse and distract “The Russian government’s use of information warfare – “disinformation”- differs from traditional forms of propaganda. Its aim is not to convince or persuade, but rather to undermine. Instead of agitating audiences into action, it seeks to keep them hooked and distracted, passive and paranoid. It is a tactic used to disorganize and demoralize an opponent” (Pomerantsev and Lucas, 2016: 5). By offering an alternative narrative, the main goal is to gain influence and affect public opinion in countries of Central and Eastern Europe that are likely to join Euro-Atlantic organizations such as NATO and EU that Russia considers as part of its sphere of influence, to demonize the West and the US, by making people question western, liberal values but also to legitimize its rule at home by discrediting the West and showing the superiority of “Mother Russia” to avoid any positive sentiments towards Euro-Atlantic structures.

What are the roots and strategies of information warfare? Pomerantsev and Lucas (2016) argue that although now the form and content has changed, the origins go back to the Soviet Union and to so-called “spetspropaganda”. Propaganda was actively used in the Soviet Union during the Cold war to discredit the West and gain legitimacy or at least create an image of a flourishing communism. Today political analysts argue that the same measures are taken by Kremlin. Adams (2016) states that Soviet active measures are taken in Modern Russia – “It is becoming clear that Soviet-Era “active measures” are alive and flourishing in Putin’s Russia. Enabled by technology and adapted for a globalised world, their modern incarnations are much more sinister, with far greater range and speed and through internet, able to influence popular opinion on a scale never before possible” (Adams, 2016:8). What exactly are those Soviet “active measures” in Modern Russia are explained by Pomerantsev and Lucas – “Influencing the policies of another government/ Undermining confidence in its leaders and institutions/ Disrupting its relations with other nations/Discrediting and weakening governmental and nongovernmental opponents.” (Pomerantsev and Lucas, 2016:7). One of the main differences between Soviet Propaganda and Russian propaganda is that today one can post anything on the internet, on a website whether it is the truth or not therefore the process of building and spreading lies became easier. Since the annexation of Georgia in 2008 and then the war in Ukraine, Russian propaganda actively came back. Modern Russia does not promote communism or left wing parties for the simple reason that Modern Russia does not follow the Marxist-Leninist ideology. Kremlin nowadays tries to discredit and deny western liberal democracies, in order to do so, it supports both left and right radical parties in countries such as the former soviet republic, Georgia – Patriotic Alliance, a nationalist party with the help of the TV channel “Obiektivi” are following the Russian narrative and demonize the West.

What is the Russian narrative? Russia tries to justify its expansionist policies and its attacks on western values by spreading false information through the means of government controlled media, radical, nationalist politicians, the Russian Orthodox Church and NGOs, in order to create an image of Russia fighting for traditional values, injustice and against Western, mostly US and NATO domination. Putin, mostly since the annexation of Crimea in 2014 accelerated the information war that had already been started in 2000. Gerber and Zavisca (2016) explain what exactly is the Russia narrative – they underline that since 2014, the main emphasize is on anti-Americanism – The US is the powerful but evil force that seeks world domination, its purpose is to foster instability in countries by using the name of “democracy” it creates chaos and revolutions, the US funds groups such as NGOs to fight local leaders with “human rights” and Russia is the only country that can counter attack and resist US domination. The authors also underline that in the Russia narrative, Russia often stands for traditionalism and conservative values and Europe as a perverted continent where sexual freedom dominates the sacred concept of family – “Russian social and political values are juxtaposed to those of the “West” and held to be superior, with the former linked to traditionalism, communalism, and stability, and the latter to “deviant” lifestyles (e.g. in sexual preference), selfish individualism (e.g. predatory capitalism), and instability (e.g. race riots in the United States, or chaos in the Middle East due to the “Arab Spring”)” (Gerber and Zavisca, 2016: 82).  Kremlin propaganda does not spread directly these messages- for example to influence the public opinion and spread the myth that Europe is perverted or migrants represent a threat, through different means it will build a story of how a gay couple assassinated their child or how “Lisa” a Russian born German was raped by migrants.

Domestically, Putin’s rise to power also saw a turn to moral conservatism. Moral conservatism, traditional values, collective memory and a anti-west rhetoric is formulated through patriotism – almost every politician uses nationalistic-patriotic rhetoric and refers to “Mother Russia”.  Since the fall of the Soviet Union,  Kremlin refused to take an ideological stance, yet Putin’s third term is characterised by moral conservatism– issues related to tradition, identity and values are being discussed (Laruelle, 2013). This is so called “patriotism” is also translated in polls and elections – although a minor detail, Zhirinovsky’s LDPR, a far-right political party ideologically advocating an imperialist Russia, is gaining more and more votes since 2007.

Kremlin invests millions of dollars to reach audience and to create content. What are the tools used by the Kremlin propaganda machine, who are the main actors? One of the most important tool is government controlled media – both television and social media. The Freedom House Index when evaluating the freedom of press in 2016, states Russia’s status as “Not Free” and gives a rate of 83 (0=best, 100= worst). Kremlin pressures the media to promote Putin and the Russian government but also to control criticism and give a positive image of Russia. Some media outlets, that are the most watched, are directly financed by Kremlin – Russia Today is one the key players operating with a 600 million people, it is one of the most watched TV channel. As Emerson states “This operation [Kremlin financing] includes the Russia Today network which offers slick entertainment programs, interspersed with manipulated Russian news content. One of RT’s ploys is to download content from social media sites and then package it as news.” (Emerson, 2015). Pomerantsev writes about myths invented by RT “During the 2008 war with Georgia, for example, the channel ran a non-stop banner entitled “genocide in Ossetia” when no such thing had been, or indeed would be, proven” (Pomerantsev, 2013: 11). Evidently, this projects a bad image of the enemy, in this case Georgia, both within and outside the borders of Russia.  Because of development of the social networks and the internet, we often call the 21st century the “Age of Information”, where internet users have access to verified and non-verified information therefore disinformation becomes easier. Although Russia has difficulties banning social media, it uses the unlimited and unverified platform offered by the internet to spread false lies by the means of websites such as a Russian alternative to Wikipedia, or Russian social media “Vkontakte” controlled by Kremlin. When discussing this topic, political analysts often mention “trolls” – fake accounts created on social media to comment and attack Russian critics, Emerson (2015) explains that Kremlin trolls use the internet to respond to critics. Aro (2016) discusses the forms used by Kremlin “Younger and more visually oriented people are lured in with memes, caricatures and videos. The messages conveyed by trolls’ memes are simple: western political leaders are often depicted as ‘nazis’ or ‘fascists’. images of corpses and alleged war crimes committed by Ukrainian soldiers are distributed” (Aro, 2016: 125).

Kremlin does not only use media to spread their lies, but actors such as Kremlin financed NGOs and far-right political parties across Europe may also be contributing in weakening the European idea. As Klapsis (2015) states “The European far right sees in Russian President Vladimir Putin the model of a strong, conservative leader who defends traditional values and opposes the decadent West. Since most far-right parties are at the same time against European integration and anti-American, they also see a close relationship with Russia as a necessary foothold in order to achieve the gradual disassociation of their countries from Euro-Atlantic institutions.”  Right wing extremists group such as Marine Le Pen’s Party “le Front National” or Nigel Farage’s “UKIP” in the UK, or “Jobbik” in Hungary, are actively fighting European system of values and our belief of strong and united Europe. Kross (2016) underlines that “European leaders who look to blame Germany for the refugee crisis, who want to build walls on their borders, to negotiate separately with Putin, and end the sanctions in favor of a “new dialogue” — all in the name of their “national interests” — are demolishing Europe’s unity.” As said previously, when the Europe, as a set of values loses support and nationalist movements increase, Putin wins on both fronts – internationally, by destabilizing former soviet countries and domestically, by showing Russian superiority and decreasing the risks of opposition success.

As said previously, Kremlin invests a lot of efforts to promote the Russian narrative in the world, both in Central and Eastern Europe as well as the West but within Russia too. As Gerber and Zavisca write, Russia is operating in both fronts “Domestically, the arguments seek to legitimize the Putin regime, garner support for its policies, and demonize its critics. Internationally, they are part of a larger effort to project Russian “soft power,” sow doubts and uncertainty within the NATO alliance, weaken public support for policies countering Russian aggression in Ukraine, and solidify the allegiances of Russia’s allies in former Soviet republics whom Russia considers part of its natural sphere of influence” (Gerber and Zavisca, 2016: 79). Soft power is a concept developed by Joseph Nye, it is “the ability to affect others through the co-optive means of framing the agenda, persuading, and eliciting positive attraction in order to obtain preferred outcomes” (Nye, 2011: 20).

How does the information war affect domestic affairs and Putin? When nationalist sentiments increase in Europe and in the West, when EU-NATO weakens, Putin’s sphere of influence grows. The success of Putin’s propaganda plays a key role in the success of Putin at home. The information war is necessary to create a political climate similar to the Soviet Union or even, Nazi Germany – to legitimize a repressive regime, Kremlin is fighting everyone that opposes Putin: the opposition and the civil society, including the media. Not only it projects a positive image of Russia within its borders but one of many instruments, is to call the opponents “infiltrated western agents”. Putin started an open fight the NGOs funded by foreign sources, that he considered were undermining Russian sovereignty and national interests. As a result, Kremlin through the legal system limits civic activism as much as possible – by filling cases against NGO leaders or by complicating the process of registration.

How effective are the measures taken by Kremlin? Within Russia, polls show an increase in anti-Americanism – an article published in the Washington Post in 2015 shows that “More than 80 percent of Russians now hold negative views of the United States, according to the independent Levada Center, a number that has more than doubled over the past year and that is by far the highest negative rating since the center started tracking those views in 1988.” Levinson (2015) points out that the State controlled media also plays an important role in Putin’s propaganda which results in high approval ratings since the annexation of Crimea “This virtual monopoly has led to a strong influence on public opinion. When asked “what their source of the information on events in Ukraine is”, over 90 percent of Russians refer to these three ‘central’ TV channels. Even amongst the third of the population (mostly young people) who claim to use the internet regularly to read ‘world news’, 75 percent said they get their information on Ukraine from ‘government TV channels” (Levinson, 2015) yet he also argues that Putin’s popularity can be explained by the popular support of  the “Great Russia”. In his opinion, Russians are proud and enjoy the fact that Putin successfully ignored western powers, including the Euro-Atlantic structures and finally demonstrated its hard power in Crimea. “Special propaganda efforts were not required because defying rival powers, fulfils long-held dreams of seeing their motherland resurface as a great power. While in principle, opinion poll respondents agree that they would also be happy with scientific or cultural achievements (like Yuri Gagarin’s space flight), as no such achievements are in sight hard-power politics remains the only way to reach this historical goal. Putin took a chance and won. The only purpose of the propaganda in this case was to confirm the ‘mission accomplished” (Levinson, 2015) One might argue that Putin through his military actions but most importantly, through his propaganda machine and state controlled media achieved the demonization of the West within Russia and gained complete support while calling everyone one opposes him “traitors”. Some argue that with the heavy economic sanctions and a poor economic performance, a wave of social protest could undermine his regime, yet from what we know for now, the information war has done nothing but help Putin at home.

In the case of post-Soviet countries, Russian sentiments are increasing. It is difficult to asses the effectiveness of Russian propaganda since no official data has been gathered, yet we can measure the ratings of pro-Russian or Eurosceptic political parties.  For the first time in Georgia, Patriotic Alliance passed the threshold of 5% and entered the parliament, through the means of printed media and television such as “Obiektivi” or “Asaval-dasavali”, the political party managed to reach a large audience and a platform to spread disinformation – xenophobic messages, anti-Europe and anti-US rhetoric, while Russia is occupying 20% of Georgian territory. In Moldova, the recent presidential elections also show an increase in Russian sentiments as a pro-Russian candidate Igor Dodon declared victory on November, 13th while Bulgaria voted for Rumen Radev, who adopted pro-Russian rhetoric earlier. As for the West, the success of far-right parties, the popularization of the idea of “Better without EU/NATO” can be seen as a sign of success of Russian propaganda, since nationalists, isolationists movements are increasing in France and in the rest of the continent.

All in all, Putin when invading sovereign countries such as Georgia and Ukraine, complemented its military wars by starting an information war against the West, beneficial on both international and domestic fronts. The desire to gain power and disintegrate the West is so strong that Kremlin invests millions to control social and traditional media, finance far-right parties across Europe and NGOs not only to promote Russia as a traditional country but also to demonize the West, foster anti-European sentiments and create a wave of protests. So far, it has been working well, to a certain extent the success of far right parties and anti-establishment rhetoric – “Brexit” the election of Donald Trump as a president, recent elections in Post-Soviet countries can be success stories of Russian propaganda. One might argue that the success of the information war also determines the degree of legitimization of the regime, Putin who seeks to strengthen his rule and destroy the opposition, successfully managed to gain control of the media and to discredit the West by increasing nationalistic, anti-western sentiments in Russians and by presenting himself as a traditional fatherly figure to “Mother Russia”. For how long or whether or not he will be able to maintain his power is not clear yet it is absolutely crucial that Western leaders fight the military conflicts along with the information war. It is not only a threat to post-soviet countries aspiring to become sovereign, consolidated democracies but it is a threat to European and Western idea of “United Europe”, to EU-NATO stability and expansion, but also to democracy.




“სტუდენტობა ჩემი საყვარელი პერიოდია”
ჰოდა რავიცი აბა, nothing special. არვიცი ახალგაზრდობა ენატრებათ ხოლმე თუ მართლა მაგარი სტუდენტობა ჰქონდათ მაგრამ მე დიდი იმედი მაქვს რომ ამაზე უკეთესი პერიოდებიც მექნება.
ისე არ არის რომ არ მიყვარს, უბრალოდ რაღაცნაირად ხარ გაჩხერილი ორ სამყაროს შორის ამ 20 წლის ასაკში. ერთ მხარეს დედა-მამა გინდა, ისევ ბავშვად გრძნობ თავს და ზოგჯერ სურვილი გკლავს რომ მშობლებმა გადაგიჭრან ყველა პრობლემა და მეორე მხარეს უკვე ხვდები რომ დიდი ხარ, სამსახური უნდა იპოვო, პასუხისმგებლობები გაქვს და უნდა გაინძრე იმიტომ რომ, ჰეჰე, ცხოვრება ძნელია.

ხშირად მეკითხებიან როგორი კმაყოფილი ვარ ლონდონით და სტუდენტური ცხოვრებით. ჰოდა ზრდილობისთვის ვინც მეკითხება, იმათთვის პასუხის გაცემა სულ მიჭირს იმიტომ რომ ბევრი pros and cons აქვს პასუხს ამიტომ დაბნეული გამომეტყველებით ვუყურებ ხოლმე სანამ არ დაავიწყდებათ რა მკითხეს. ვისაც მართლა გაინტერესებთ როგორია ლონდონში სწავლა ჩემი ტიპის სტუდენტისთვის, you’re more than welcome to read this. ( პ.ს იმათ ვინც ტვინი წამიღეს ინგლისური ჩანართებით ნუ ლაპარაკობო – სულ ეგრე ვლაპარაკობ. არვიცი როდის დავიწყე, მაგრამ ფრანგულად ლაპარაკის დროსაც ინგლისურ სიტყვებს ვიშველიებ – უფრო ზუსტად გამოხატავს ხოლმე ინგლისური გამონათქვამები ჩემს აზრს so deal with it ❤ )

ბევრ სტუდენტთან შედარებით, ბევრად კარგად ვცხოვრობ და ვერ ვიტყვი რომ საწუწუნო მაქვს. ყველა მხრივ გამიმართლა, თუმცა ჩემი ხასიათის ნაწილია მუდმივად წუწუნი. თან დილის 6 საათია, ვერ ვიძინებ და რამე ხომ უნდა ვაკეთო. თვალები დავხუჭე, იქნებ ჩამეძინოსთქო და მერე გამახსენდა რამდენი დედლაინი მაქვს რომ ჩავალ და ავფორიაქდი. ექიმთან ვიყავი, გადაღლილი ხარ და დასვენება გჭირდებაო, ამიტომ ტოტალური არდადეგები გამოვიცხადე რაც წესით 24 საათში უნდა დამთავრდეს – ვნახოთ, თუ მეყოფა ნებისყოფა და სამეცადინოდ დავჯდები. ეჭვი მაქვს, რომ არა. ისე უნდა ითქვას რომ უნივერსიტეტში გავიგე რას ნიშნავს პროკრასტინაცია ( ითქმის რო ქართულად?). მოკლედ ესე.

კარგ უნივერსიტეტში ჩავაბარე, შუაგულ ლონდონში. მოხვედრა ძალიან რთული არ არის, მაგრამ არც მარტივია, ამიტომ ასე თუ ისე, ჭკვიანი ხალხი სწავლობს ( და მე! oh yeah). უკვე მეორე კურსზე ვარ, ასე რომ ცოტა შევეჩვიე იქაურობას.

ჩემი დაკვირვებით, ოთხი კატეგორია არსებობს სტუდენტების (attention: განზოგადება ცუდია, მაგრამ ზოგჯერ საჭიროა, რა თქმა უნდა ყველა ადამიანი ინდივიდუალურია, ერთ ქვაბში ვერ მოხარშავ და ა.შ მაგრამ ეს პოსტი მოითხოვს რომ დავყო 😀 ):

1. ძალიან მეცადინე სტუდენტები, ბიბლიოთეკიდან რომ არ გამოდიან, ძირითადად საუბრის დროსაც ისე რომ გელაპარაკებიან თითქოს თეზისს წერდნენ რეფერენსებით. შთაბეჭდილება მაქვს რომ არ იციან რა არის ძილი. ყველას ერთ ქვაბში მანდაც ვერ მოხარშავ, ზოგი საინტერესო და fun არის, ზოგს უბრალოდ ხმას არასდროს არ სცემ.

2. პოპულარული სტუდენტები – გარეგნულად კიმ კარდაშიანები ან ძალიან ფეშონისტები, ესენი ყოველ პარასკევ/შაბათს დადიან კლუბში, ოღონდ ბასიანის ტიპის არა, უფრო ალბათ ლონდონურ სენატში – პოსტავენ 2329 ფოტოს სნეფჩეთის ფილტერით, ცეკვავენ დრეიკის სიმღერებზე, მაგრამ მეცადინეობენ. სტერეოტიპულად თუ სნეფჩეთის ფოტოებს შეხედავ, გეგონება რომ თავში არაფერი აქვთ, თუმცა ცოტა საუბრის მერე, ხვდები რომ ჭკვიანი ბავშვები არიან. ნუ, უმეტესობა.

3. ო, ეს უცნაური კატეგორიაა, კომუნისტი მეამბოხე სულები. ძირითადად სახლებში იკრიბებიან რადგან ლონდონი კაპიტალიზმის ბუდეა და სიძვირეა. ტვინი მიაქვთ ლექციების დროს ვითომ ჰუმანიზმით და დამახინჯებული ფაქტებით, არიან ზე-სენსიტიურები და ტვინს გიბურღავენ. გახვეულ სიგარეტებს ეწევიან და თან, მთელ დასავლეთს ლანძღავენ არადა UCL-ში სწავლობენ. უყვართ მარქსი და ლენინი. ესენი ძირითადად მალე გაბეზრებენ თავს.

4. მეოთხე კატეგორია ვარ მე. ვცადე კლუბები, მართლა ძალიან ვეცადე რომ მომწონებოდა დრეიკი, ვცადე ბიბლიოთეკაში ღამის თენებაც ან დილით 8ზე მისვლა, არ მომეწონა არცერთი და შედეგად, დაკარგული სული დავდივარ უნიში. მეამბოხე სულების ვერაფერი ვერ გავიზიარე გახვეული სიგარეტის და ცოტა ბომჟური ჩაცმის გარდა. ძირითადად სახლში ყოფნა მიყვარს, სერიალებს ყურება, კარგად დაგეგმვა მეცადინეობის, მაგრამ ამ გეგმის არ დაცვა და მერე პანიკა, სეირნობა და თუ ვინმე საინტერესო სპიკერია ივენთზე იქაც მივდივარ ხოლმე. კიდევ რადგან დეიდაჩემთან ვცხოვრობ, ხშირად თეატრის, კონცერტების და კინოს ბილეთებს მყიდულობს და ეგრე “უფასოდ” ვერთობი ხოლმე. ჩემნაირი ხალხიც ვიპოვე უნიში და იმათთან ვმეგობრობ. სამეცადინო მართლაც რომ ბევრია ამ მეორე კურსზე და ამიტომ ნერვიულობით ვარ დაკავებული. ზოგჯერ უნივერსიტეტის ფართიებზეც დავდივარ მაგრამ ძირითადად, წყანარად სადმე ვახშამი ( ანუ მაკდოლადსში) მირჩევნია.

ლექციებს რაც შეეხება – საინტერესო ლექციებია, თუმცა ლექციებზე საინტერესო წასაკითხი მასალაა. გულწრფელად ვამბობ რომ რაღაცეების კითხვით ვერთობოდი და მომწონდა, მერე ფილოსოფია ავირჩიე და მანდ შემერყა სიყვარული, თუმცა I’m trying to solve that issue. ლექტორები ზოგი კაია, ზოგი ისე რა, ზოგი კი საერთოდ, 1% ითაც კი არა. მაგალითად, ჩემი რუსული პოლიტიკის ლექტორი, რომელსაც ახალი მარგალიტი დაუდია წინა კვირას – სტალინს 6000 ადამიანი ჰყავს მხოლოდ მოკლულიო. მაგ კაცს აუცილებლად გავაჩუმებ ოდესმე.

რაც შეეხება ქალაქს – ლონდონის მინუსი ისაა რომ დიდია და ტრანსპორტი ძვირია, როგორც სხვა ყველაფერი, საჭმლის გარდა. სასურველია რომ უნივერსიტეტთან ახლოს ცხოვრობდეთ თორე ჩემსავით თქვენი მთლიანი ფული ტრასნპორტში წავა, რომელიც btw ძალიან სწრაფი და კარგად დაგეგმილია. კიდევ ცუდი ამინდებია ( ცუდი ამინდი სიცივეს არ ნიშნავს), ძირითადად სასწავლო პერიოდში სულ ღრუბელია, წვიმით ბევრს არ წვიმს, არც ცივა ძალიან, მაგრამ სტაბილურად ოქტომბრიდან მაისამდე ერთი ქურთუკი მაცვია, რომელიც მაისში მინდა რომ დავხიო და დავწვა ხოლმე. ყოველ დილით ნაცრისფერი ცით გაღვიძება მე დეპრესიულს მხდის, მაგრამ ეგეც ადამიანს გააჩნია. ზოგჯერ მზეც ანათებს ხოლმე 5 წუთით. სიძვირეს რაც შეეხება, მე მიყვარს ფულის ორგანიზება, რას რაში დავხარჯავ უნდა ვიცოდე თუმცა ვახერხებ და თვის ბოლოს სულ უფულოდ ვრჩები ხოლმე. ეხლა ლარი რომ გაუფასურდა, სამსახურებში დავაგზავნე CV, ვნახოთ იქნებ გავამდიდრო ფუნტებით ოჯახი. უი და კიდევ, ამერიკულ ფილმებში რომ კამპუსებია, ეგ ლონდონს არ აქვს – ნუ ჩემს უნივერსიტეტს. შუა ცენტრშია, ბევრი შენობაშია გადანიწილებული და სტუდენტური აურა არ იგრძნობა.

თუმცა, რაც არ უნდა ვიწუწუნო, ვაკრიტიკო და თავბედი ვიწყევლო რომ ჩემს საფრანგეთში არ დავრჩი, მაინც ძალიან მაგარია. სულ გაქვს განცდა რომ რაღაც მნიშვნელოვან ადგილას, მნიშნვნელოვან საქმეს აკეთებ და ძალიან კარგი გამოცდილებაა ესეთ ცენტრში ცხოვრება. მთავარ ქუჩებზე სულ ბევრია ხალხია, ყველას სადღაც ეჩქარება, გგონია რომ ერთი პატარა რობოტი ხარ ამ დიდ მანქანაში, მაგრამ მომენტებში ხვდები რა კარგია იქ ცხოვრება და რამხელა და რამდენი opportunities არის გარშემო – ნებისმიერი პროფესიის და ინტერესის ადამიანი გაერთობა და ნახავს იმას რაც უნდა, იმიტომ რომ სულ რაღაც ხდება ამ უზარმაზარ ქალაქში. ჰოდა დაღლილი, 8923 კილომეტრიან საცობში, ავოტბუსში გალუმპული და მიჭყლეტილი რომ ვარ სულ მაგით ვიმშვიდებ თავს.
ჩემს სტუდენტობას რაც შეეხება, შეიძლება საყვრელი პერიოდი არ იყოს, დაკარგული ვიყო და არანაირი სამომავლო გეგმები არ მქონდეს, მაგრამ ზუსტად ვიცი რომ მნიშნველოვანი პერიოდია ყველა მხრივ და მიხარია რომ ამ მნიშნველოვან და გადამწყვეტ, ცოტა საშიშ პერიოდს ამ ქალაქში ვატარებ.

საბჭოთა იმპერია

The Russian Empire, the largest empire in the 19th century, fell in 1917. Following a series of revolutions, uprisings and chaos, the Soviet Union was founded in 1921. Monarchy was abolished, the Tsar was killed, the imperial order of the old regime destroyed but did the “empire” fall as well? Today, I shall argue that the Soviet Union, a communist regime that survived for 70 years, did not end the “empire” but on the contrary, embraced it – the Tsar was replaced by the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, while monarchy was replaced by totalitarianism. I shall do a comparative analysis between the Russian Empire and the Soviet one, using Ungern’s experience, highlight the most important policies of Russification, self determination and expansionism, to then finally show that the Soviet Union was in a fact an empire of its kind.

What is an empire? An empire is a group of countries ruled by a single monarch or a government. The Russian Empire was the largest empire, stretching from (modern day) Latvia/Estonia to the very borders of China. The political regime was an autocracy where the Tsar, Nicholas II had all the power as well as control over the territory, which was divided into 100 provinces. As Sunderland writes, “Somehow it [Russian Empire] had hold together Estland and the Trans-Baikal, St. Petersburg and the Amur, a German border and a Mongolian one.” (Sunderland, 2014: 230). Sunderland, in depicting Ungern’s life, introduces us to the Russian Empire in transition; For long the Russian Empire as Sunderland describes it, although huge and rigid, left place for local cultures and languages and had a “Laissez faire Imperialism” (Sunderland:2014: 230). Composed different ethnic groups, the Russian Empire grow in the 10th century by gaining influence in the Far East as well as Central Asia, today’s Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgizstan. The “laissez-faire” imperialism, changed when the Tsar started the process of “Russification” to accentuate national unity, which at that time period was seen as necessary to build a strong nation.

The Tsar started the process of “Russification” by imposing Russian language everywhere including schools “The closing of German schools was only one of the imperial initiatives that life for the Baltic Barons beginning 1880s. Over the course of the decade, Russian became the language of business in all draft offices in the region and most municipal offices” (Sunderland, 2014:35). As Sunderland writes, the main purpose of Russification was not just to make people Russian culturally, but to create a united nation and the only way they knew how to deal with such diversity was by russifying the non-Russians, which proved to be rarely effective.  Russia was also in the process of building a railway – Chinese Eastern Railway, that would give Russia the road to the pacific. Sunderland writes “The Trans-Siberian, ultimately fell short of being the magical “road to power” that its enthusiastic supports had hoped it would be” (Sunderland, 2014: 51) yet many peasants moved to the Far East, russifying the Asians or as a majority of western Russians called them “Yellow torrent” and “Yellow Peril”.  Asian Russia was an example of backwardness, while European Russia was the core of development, politics and modernity. “Russia in Ungern’s time were used to thinking of their country as divided into two uneven parts: European Russia and Asian Russia” (Sunderland, 2014: 62). This kind of perspective is very relevant, because this argument was used by the Bolsheviks to justify and legitimize their expansionist policies. In Russia, during Ungern’s times, ethnic minorities in the east, were described as aliens “inorodtsy” and the goal was “the systematic unification in material, spiritual and intellectual terms… of the aliens with the Russian element” (Sunderland, 2014: 77) by colonizing, during the Great Siberian Migration millions of Russians settled in Siberia. Yet as Sunderland describes, the war with Japan, economic crisis as a consequence of the WWI and social instabilities led to a civil war, that destroyed the monarchy – after the provisional government was established in February 1917, the Bolsheviks seized power in October “ The Russian Empire unraveled as a result of the revolutions of 1917, drastically reduced the state’s ability to hold onto its territory” (Sunderland, 2014: 129). Bolsheviks although opposing imperialism, destroyed the old regime yet embraced the “Soviet Empire”.

First of all, we need to understand that communism opposed imperialism and nationalism – Lenin believed that “Imperialism was the highest stage of capitalism”. He emphasized the equality of all nations within the Soviet Union and embraced the idea of national liberation and self-determination. As Connor (1984) explains, Marx, the founding father of communism believed that nationalism was incompatible with communism, since nationalism was a bourgeois phenomenon and with the destruction of the capitalist system, nationalist sentiments and national identities would disappear. Lenin saw nationalism as a negative force, if fought, it would become combative nationalism and threaten the securing of power “Lenin was adopting a political strategy – if nations were not given this right, then among the peoples whose national consciousness was emerging as a political force, it would encourage a combative nationalism which would run counter to the establishment of socialism in Russia” (Smith, 1995: 2).  He used national identities to differentiate and contrast the Bolsheviks from Mensheviks and tsarists. As a result, the right for self determination was introduced in the program of Russian Social Democratic Workers Party, in 1903 and as Pipes (1995) explains, “Within days of assuming power, the Bolshevik government issued, over the signatures of Lenin and Stalin, a “Declaration of Rights” of the national minorities. It affirmed, without conditions or qualifications, that every nation had the right to self-determination up to and including separation.” (Pipes,1995: 401). Lenin by self determination meant – separation from Russia only and because of economic interdependence, he believed that no country would want separation, and secondly, he meant “proletarian self determination”, if a country was not going in the communist direction, the Bolsheviks had the right to bring them back in the Soviet Union (Pipes,1995 :403). Yet his expectations proved to be false – Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Georgia, Ukraine all declared independence in 1917-1918. As a result, Lenin adopted a different strategy to keep the old Russian “empire” together which was his main goal.

Bolsheviks tried to distinguish themselves from tsarists and oppose imperialism by creating strategic policies that would expand the Soviet Union, yet formally would be a federal union of states. Lenin wanted to “divide the country into autonomous and self governing territorial units according to nationality; freedom and equality of languages, protection of the cultural and educational rights of minorities” (Smith, 1995: 2). Lenin saw Russian nationalism as a threat and had a fear of “Great Russian chauvinism” (Smith,1995: 3), therefore he supported the indigenization, also referred to as “Korenizatsia” of non-Russian Republics.

Korenizatsia was a policy that promoted local languages in schools, local cultural and national values – As Brubaker (1999) writes “the cultivation of distinct national cadres, allowed, to live and work in “their own national” territories; the cultivation of a large number of national languages; and the development of an elaborate system of schooling, including higher education, in non-Russian languages” (Brubaker,1999: 29). Yet Pipes (1995) underlines that the Soviet Union was a pseudo-federal system, “that provided neither equality, nor power” (Pipes, 1995: 406) and although local soviet leaders were given power, it was only a façade of a truly centralized government in Moscow – “The result would be formal federalism, with all the trimmings of statehood, presumably able to satisfy the aspirations of the non-Russian peoples, concealing a rigidly centralized dictatorship centered in Moscow” (Pipes, 1995: 408).

What was the purpose of the constitutional “self – determination” if the Bolsheviks wanted territorial expansion? Connor (1984) explains that the principle of self determination was linked to socialism “Lenin designed a formula that would permit the Soviet government denying the propriety of the self-determination doctrine to any case in which it might be detrimental to the Soviet State” (Connor,1984: 49) He underlines, this meaningless iniatitve had four major goals. First of all, it was used for internal propaganda; by emphazing the right of secession, Lenin and Bolsheviks opposed to past-discrimination and proved a rupture between the old Russian empire and the new communist Russia, not only to the Russian population but to minorities as well. It was also used for external propaganda, especially for the Thirld World, since  Lenin believed that it was extremely important to convice the Third World that the Soviet Union was defending the right of nationalist minoroties, as well as to “increase the appeal of a union republic” (Connor,1984: 54). Finally, the last purpose was to support the communist parties in mutlinational states by creating the Comintern, to coordinate policies with other communists in the region.

As Sunderland explains, the Soviet Union was not that different from Imperial Russia – while promoting the idea of self determination and equality of nations, the Red Army openly occupied independent states and started the process of “Russification” or “Sovietization” just like the Tsar had. Stalin during the Second World War, as Smith (1995) writes, imposed the Russian language in every soviet state “The promotion of Russian people as the “elder brother” reached new heights, with Russian patriotic symbolism permeating Soviet propagandistic and ideological statements” (Smith, 1995: 3). Also, Stalin believed that the true reason for wining the war against Hitler were Russians who “earned in this war the general recognition as the guiding force of the Soviet Union” (Stalin, cited by Smith,1995: 4). Brezhnev later on, promoted the Russian language from kindergarten to universities as well.

Not only they repressed minorities and imposed their own Russian culture, but Stalin had ambitious expansionist desires, that he would execute after the WWII, once socialism was established in Russia (part of the “Socialism in one country’’ Doctrine), yet Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia were occupied and invaded by the Red Army shortly after they declared independence. As Pipes (1995) writes, Azerbaijan was occupied with great brutality “Ordzhonikidze, Sergei Kirov, introduced a reign of terror that was to typify his methods of rule in the region. Defiance of Soviet occupation in the provinces was brutally suppressed. Ordzhonikidze arrested and executed a number of Azerbaijani leaders, including the Prime Minister and the Chief of Staff of the deposed government.” (Pipes, 1995:427). This was followed by the invasion of Georgian capital Tbilisi and Erevan (Armenia), although Soviets signed independence agreements, the secret clause was that both Armenia and Erevan would legalize the Communist Party and Sovietize the countries. In 1920 Armenia became communist, while Georgia on February 23, 1921 was invaded by Soviet Troops with great brutality. What about the Far East? We see this in the case of the Chinese Eastern Railway, the Soviet Union started a conflict with China that lead to the Sino-Soviet War in 1929, because the Bolsheviks did not want to give up the control of the CER. Mongolia on the other hand was an independent soviet satellite yet after 1924 as Sunderland writes “The country declared independence on the day before Ungern’s trial (September 1921) […] but after his death the last vestiges of the older order were scrapped and Mongolia became a people’s republic” (Sunderland, 2014: 229). The Bolsheviks opposed imperialism yet as we can see from the Georgian case, by invading an independent, sovereign state, the Bolsheviks proved that “anti-imperialism” sentiments were false and they  simply opposed Tsarist autocracy, not imperialism as such “By the combined use of the Red Army and local Communists, the Soviet government succeeded in returning most of the minority areas to Soviet control by 1922; and with the End of the WWII, it regained control over the remaining peoples of the old Russian Empire” (Connor, 1984: 51).

After WWII and with the start of the Cold War, Eastern Europe was used by Stalin as buffer zone, to protect itself from the Western forces, in response to growing western alliances, the Soviet Union created the Warsaw pact and included the “satellite states” which in other words, meant independent countries that were under the pressure/ influence of another country, and in this particular case, under the heavy influence of the Soviet Union. The communists used the Seton Watson’s three stage model (Seton Watson, 1985) – Genuine coalition (where left wing parties are equally powerful  and cooperate) /Bogus coalition (only left wing parties, yet communists are the most powerful) /Monolithic regime (no other parties, communists start collectivization/industrialization) – although not all countries passed every stage such as Poland, Albania, a majority of them went through all three of them, which allowed communism to establish itself by promoting the idea of “People’s democracy”. The Soviet Union used the Warsaw Pact to invade Czechoslovakia during their reforms of liberalization in 1968, also known as the Prague Spring, because those liberal reforms were seen as a threat to the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet Union, the country was invaded by Warsaw Pact troops to remove the party leader Dubček and replace him with Husák, a devoted communist that would begin the process of “Normalization”.Soviet Union expanded itself by gaining influence in Eastern Europe, the Baltic States, Central Asia and the Far East. “In fact they did so well, using a combination of military acumen, repression and diplomacy, that they were able to reassemble much of the old imperial puzzle and impose their new order on top of it” (Sunderland, 2014: 232).

All in all, the Bolsheviks were openly fighting imperialism and capitalism,by creating misleading policies of self determination and equality of all nations. In reality they did not want to destroy imperialism as such, but only the old tsarist regime. By occupying independent countries, by imposing Russian language within the empire, by interfering with Eastern European countries after WWII, they very much proved that the Soviet Union was in fact, the Soviet Empire. Maximillian Voloshin (1920), a famous Ukrainian- born Russian poet described the situation, “What was changing? Symbols and leadership. The same tornado on every path: in Commissioners – folly of autocracy, explosions of revolution in Tsars” . Sunderland by tracing Ungern’s life shows the ironic similarities between the Bolsheviks and the tsarists, both imagining a multinational empire/state and both living under imperialism “ One aimed to reset the broken clock of the empire to an ealier time, the other replace it with a new one, rename it and take it into the future” (Sunderland, 2014: 233) The empire did not end in 1917-1921, in fact it is still very much alive, as Vladimir Putin is expanding the Russian territory everyday, by occupying parts of  two sovereign and independent states – Ukraine and Georgia.

და მაინც, ფრანგი უფრო ხარ თუ ქართველი?

There is a  need to categorise the world we live in, in order to make sense of it . The way one acts, the way one thinks, the way one internalizes values, norms depend on different agents. Today, I will discuss my own socialisation, how the enviroment I grew up in shaped my sense of identity and my beliefs. In order to do so, I will have to analyze the phenomenon of socialisation, to then discuss one part of my identity – my nationality, according to sociological theories.


What is socialization? Anthony Giddens (1977) defines socialization as a “process whereby the helpless infant gradually becomes self-aware, knowledgeable person, skilled in the ways of the culture into which she or he is born” so in others words once socialized, the individual shares the same values, norms and beliefs as his/her group of belonging. The main agents of socialization are family, friends, school, religion and the media, each of them exercising a different type of power on the individual. Through socialization not only we understand who we are, but we also create link between us and the society – Durkheim (1938) explains that, “Cultural and social phenomena can be understood as social facts; norms, values and cultural beliefs are carried by individuals, but are understood to exist independently of individuals” (Durkheim cited by Frones, 2016 :11).  Cultural integration can happen in two different cultures and vice versa, as “Heterogeneity and change make the idea of cultural integration more complex; children can be members of the same “society” or nation but socialized into different values, cultures or sub-groups” (Frones, 2016:2)


In terms of my ethnicity, I believe that the theory of Cooley (1902) “Looking- glass self” is very relevant. Cooley, explains that the way one sees himself/herself is the result of the interactions and the impression one has on how he/she is perceived by others. In order to know who, we are, we think about how other see us and how others react to our created identity. Agents of socialization therefore are mirrors of ourselves. Though I was born in Georgia, I grew up in France. The problem with a mixed background, is that when I went to Georgia, I always identified as French, because other people believed I was more French than Georgian, even though my family always socialized my as a Georgian – I spoke Georgian, I was familiar with Georgian culture and learned how to write.  When I went to France, I would identify as Georgian, even though I was very much sharing the same values, cultural manners and respected the norms as every other French citizen.


How did I try to integrate in as a child? As Meade (1934) explains, there a three stages of socialization imitation stage, play stage and games stage, he underlines that the process of socialization is more interactive. The imitation stage happens unconsciously or in other words, as an infant, who does not understand the actual process, while the play stage is I believe, more relevant in my case – while playing with children with different countries – either in Georgia or France, I always tried to use the same manners, the same way of using language some type of key words, but also act the way they did – playing the role of the other. I believed that by not being different, the process of integration would be easier. As I grew up, I began to understand what my role was, making it easier to understand what to expect from others– Meade calls this the games stage. Slowly, by interaction, one realizes the role he/she plays and the rules of the game and manages to coexist with other players, developing a sense of belonging.


As said previously, different agents participate in socialization – family, friends, school and media. Durkheim (1922) underlines that education is imposed – it’s a social fact. No matter how much parents influence their children, education will always play an important role in one’s socialization in order to create a common sense of belonging, by teaching values, norms and beliefs accepted in a specific society. School, especially the French school always emphasized on the civil obligations we, as French citizens had, it taught us the values of the Republic, the French language but most importantly history, which resulted in my strong commitment to France and my “French” identity. Yet my family, always tried to socialize me as a European citizen, in other words, they taught me universal values such as tolerance, respect, liberty along with Georgian ones. As Frones (2016) underlines, the primary socialization happens during childhood, where the dominant agent is the family – sometimes the values the family shares are in accordance to dominant cultural values, sometimes not (Frones, 2016:14) In my case, I would have to say that it was both; as I discovered my Georgian identity, by learning how to read and write, by reading Georgian books and watching Georgian movies,  I developed an attachment to Georgian culture yet I never internalized Georgian traditions or religiousness probably because I grew up in a secular country.

Religion is often said to be a personal choice, yet as Frones explains, “it is something we are socialized into” (Frones, 2016: 6). France is one of the most secular countries, where schools are considered as public space and religiousness can not be displayed, while in Georgia religion plays an important role. I would have to say that my religious views are the result of French education.


All in all, being socialized helps one understand his/her role in the society, but knowing the mechanisms through which one integrates in the society is even more interesting. Socialization in terms of nationality, especially when one has two identities sometimes seems challenging yet it is also a very enriching experience – where one can fully integrate in a multicultural society. My socialization still continues today as an adult – although now, it is in the UK.

ევროპის სეკულარიზმი

One might argue that Europe is the most secular part of the world, by pointing out its historical path, yet with the the migrant crisis, the rise far-right parties and of violence towards Muslim communities, and the rise of Muslim violence as well, a logical question would be – Is Europe still secular? I believe that in order to answer the question objectively, I shall look at different aspects – first, at the definition and origins of secularization by presenting the secularisation thesis, then analyse why Europe is the most secular continent, discussing the European law and cultural values, as well as the market based theories with competition and state regulation, but also critiques of European secularism and its challenges.


In order to fully understand the process of secularisation, we must first look at the substantive definition of religion. Max weber (1905) defines religion as system of beliefs where “supernatural factors” such as God, Heaven and Hell exist and is translated through a series of practices such as rituals, prayers. Secularization is the substitution of religious values to non- religious, scientific rationalism, where reason is the source of knowledge, secularization also refers to the idea that in a state, religion and politics should be separated and institutions must be secular. As Pettersson (2003) defines it “Religion may continue within the private space of the body of individuals, but the public space of the body of populations is now subordinated, not to the conscience collective, the sacred canopy or the civil religion, but to secular disciplines, economic constraints and political coercion”. (Turner, 1991: 9 cited by Pettersson, 2003: 3).


When, how  and why secularization happens? Beyer (2011) presents the secularisation thesis – religion is linked to traditional values, as opposed to rationalism, a characteristic of modern societies (Beyer, 2011:10) Therefore the more modern the state, the more secular it is – one might oppose the exemple of the United States to this point, yet US is a specific case that we will discuss shortly with the market thesis. As Inglehart and Baker explain, the  “concept of modernization theory seems valid today: Industrialization produces pervasive social and cultural consequences, from rising educational levels to changing gender roles. Industrialization is seen as the central element of a modernization process that affects most other elements of society” Modernization cult change and persistence (Inglehart and Baker, 2000: 20). Europe or at least, the western part of Europe started modernizing in the 18th – 19th centuries with Enlightement and industrialisation. The move away from traditional values including religion, to scientific knowledge, technology, mastering of medicine, mass education human development, resulted in a new culture (Weber, 1905 cited by Norris and Inglehart, 2004: 8) where religion was not the solution to problems – “man became in control of nature” (Norris and Inglehart, 2004: 8). Durkheim also argues that the functions carried out by the Church before, now in industrialized societies such as Europe is carried out by different institutions– healthcare, education, social control, politics. (Norris and Inglehart: 2004:9).


Now that we’ve seen the sources of secularisation  such as  modernity, high level of education, economic growth, democracy, scientific knowledge, we can assume why Europe although very heterogeneous, is a secular continent. Stark & Glock’s (1968) presented five dimensions of religious commitments: practice, knowledge, experience, belief and consequences. In  order to compare Europe with other regions, we will use attendance, pratice and belief as criterias. Secularisation in terms of cultural values is very important and should not be neglected. If we look at surveys between 2010-2014, examining the cultural and social values in different parts of the world using data from the World Values Survey – only 13.1% in Germany believe that religion is very important, while this percentage rises to 84,7% in Iraq, and to 58.4% in Mexico. When asked if  they agreed to this statement “whenever science and religion conflict, religion is alright”, 2.1% in Estonia answered they strongly agreed, while in Ecuador and Kuwait, this number rose respectively to 24% and 68.6%. In terms of attendance, the numbers are declining  in Europe – in post industrial nations, participation in religious rituals is low because of “ rising levels of  human security” (Norris and Inglehart, 2004:24) – When the World Valyes Survey examining the period between 1981 – 2001 asked about religious participation “Apart from weddings, funerals, and christenings, about how often do you attend religious services these days? More than once a week, once a week, once a month, only on special holy days, once a year, less often, never or practically never.”, the rates from 1981 to 2001 of “more or at least once in a week’’ are decreasing in most european countries, while increasing in the US, South Africa, Mexico. Figure 2 shows the decline of peopole who said they attended religious services “at least once a week” , specifically in Western Europe. “More over, the clergy have largely lost their authority over the public and are no longer able to dictate to them on such matters as birth control, divorce, abortion, sexual orientation”.(Norris and Inglehart, 2004: 25)


Figure 1: Religious Participation in Western Europe, 1970-1999 used by Norris and Inglehart, 2004

Norris and Inglehart (2004) explain that there are major differencies between agrarian, industrial and post-industrial countries concerning secularisation.  Yet if we look at Figure 2, US, Ireland and Poland are considered as the most religious countries, while most of Europe is situated in low levels of religiosity.


Figure 2: World Value Survey 1981-2001 used by Norris and Inglehart, 2004

Why is US less secular than Europe, while it is clearly more democratic, modern and economically more powerful than each European country? This can be explained by the following approach. Using the structure of the market, with a supply and demand. Petersson  presents this idea by explaining that a high supply and a high level of religious pluralism play major roles in secularism since it results in competition and competition motivates the supplier to create better goods and adapt to the consumer’s taste (Pettersson, 2003: ) Competition and state regulation play major roles in the levels of religiosity – Religions in Europe are not private but rather public, subsidized by governments, therefore since they have no one to compete with to gain profit, churches in Europe remain weak compare to the United States – As Norris and Inglehart (2004) explain, the market theory argues that –       “ Established churches are thought to be complacent monopolies taking their congregations for granted, with a fixed market share due to state regulation and subsidy for one particular faith that enjoys special status and privileges. By contrast, where a free religious marketplace exists, energetic competition between churches expands the supply of religious “products,” thereby mobilizing religious activism among the public.” (Norris and Inglehart, 2004: 94). In Germany and Sweden Church is subsidized, therefore it is less innovative, efficient and not attractive to the “consumers”. The lack of religious competition results in the lack of religiosity in Europe.

What is also interesting to look at is the structure and legislation in Europe concerning religion. As Robbers (2005) underlines, there a three types of civil ecclesiastical laws systems or in other words, three types of approaches to religion, in the legislation. The first type is a State-Church where Church and State are closely linked – England, Greece adopted this type of system. The second type is where Church and State are strictly separated and Church does not interefer in state affairs – France, Netherlands serve as exemples. Finally, the third type of civil ecclesiastical law system is when there is a separation between Church and State yet both of them cooperate and complement each other. A lot of European countries belong to this category – Belgium, Poland, Italy, Baltic States and many more. (Robbers, 2005: 580). Robbers also explains the basic structure of the European Union, which puts forwards religious freedom as number one priority, along with tolerance and neutrality, equal treatment of every religious community and obviously, the respect the civil ecclesiastical law of each Member States (Robbers, 2005: 581) European Law allows individuals to have the freedom to choose their own religion, it is a personal choice. Although the European law proves that Europe is secular, Europe’s diversity in terms of systems can question European secularism as a unity –  on one hand,  one might assume that West is more secular than East which is not competely true – Poland and Ireland are considered as having high levels of religiosity while Czech Republic and belgium are the most secular countries and least religious countries.


One might argue that Katzenstein (2006) makes a vaild argument  explaining why Europe has space for religion in politics – he explains that with European enlargement, religion will become the center of politics, especially catholicism in Europe leading to the rise of discrimination – such as antisemitism (Katzenstein: 2006: 3) Although his point is very much arguable, today with the migrant crisis and european countries accepting refugess, we do see a rise of far-right parties in France with Marine LePen, Poland and attacks on muslim communities and antisemitism –the Toulouse and Montauban attacks on Jewish civilians and French soldiers in March 2012 in France serves as an exemple. Also, he believes that with enlargement  but failed cultural and legal europenization which is supposed to influence different values/laws, religion has place in politics. He mentions the “Acquis Communautaire” or Legal Europenization but most importantly talks about the challenges faced by cultural europenization which in his opinion, failed to deliver an european, secular identity. Although the EU launches programms to educate the population about Europe and create a community of europeans, such as Erasmus Programs, changes in education, television – more space to European history and ect, Katzenstein underlines that national identities remain more powerfull, therefore Europe’s secularism has no influence. Katzenstein also argues that the founding fathers of the EU – De Gaulle, Adenauer, where all Christian democrats therefore the foundation of Europe as we know it, is Christianity (Katzenstein, 2006: 17). To support his view, he quotes Scott Thomas “European integration was an act of the political imagination of Christian Democracy” (Thomas, 2005 cited by Katzenstein, 2006: 18). Yet, I personally find this argument less convincing – although the founders of Europe were Christian Democracts, the European legislation can be used as proof that it favors no religion and treats each of them equally.


Europe’s secularism is today challenged by migration, although it does bring benefits to Europe, one must not forget that the migration of thousands of muslims, who come from poor, traditional societies such as Syria, Egypt,  as surveys show – with the belief that state and church should be closely linked, that religion is crucial for survival, does question the secularism of european societies. Migration triggers problems. First, it rises anti-imigrant sentiments and allows far-right parties to dominate: Marine LePen won the first round of French regional elections in december 2015, Poland elected a  right-wing Eurosceptic Law and Justice party recently, while in Sweden and Denmark anti-imigrant parties are gaining more and more support. This situations puts European values of equal treatment of religions, tolerance and respect under question – is Europe as we know it, changing? Also, the assimilation of muslim refugees to ISIS triggers anti- imigrant sentiments and violence towards muslim communities and vice-versa.


All in all, I would argue that Europe as a continent as proved by secularisation theory, market- based thesis, the European law and finally surveys is secular. Comparative analysis of different  parts of the world proves that Europe is one of the most secular continents and the decline in church attendance, the change of cultural values can not be neglected. Yet Europe as a continent is composed of different countries, having different civil ecclessiastical law systems which might be misleading and sometimes, discrepencies between practice and theory is appealing. Today, Europe is facing serious challenges and its secularism along with its values, now are very much questioned, as said previously, with enlargement, failed europenization and migration.


 Books with one author

BEYER, P. (2011) “Religious Pluralization and intimations of a Post-Westphalian Condition in a Global Society”. Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion 2, pp. 3–29.

KATZENSTEIN, P.J. (2006) “Multiple Modernities as Limits to Secular Europeanization?”, in P.J. Katzenstein & T.A. Byrnes (ed) Religion in an Expanding Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1–33.

ROBBERS, G. (2005) “State and Church in the European Union”, in G. Robbers (ed.) State and Church in the European Union. Baden-Baden: Nomos, pp. 577–589.

PETTERSSON,T. (2003)  “The relations between religion and politics in the contemporary Western world: The Impact of Secularization, Post Modernization and Peoples’ Basic Value Orientations, pp. 1-28

WEBER, M. (1905) “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”, New York: Oxford University Press


Books with two authors

INGLEHART,R and BAKER, W.E. (2000) “Modernization, Cultural Change and the Persistance of Traditional Values”, American Sociological Review, 2000, Vol. 65,           pp. 19–51

NORRIS,P. and INGLEHART,R. (2004), “Sacred and Secular”, Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York, pp. 3-133

“Everyday Stalinism”

Coming from Georgia, I often witness how a cold-blooded, dictator such as Joseph Stalin, can be perceived as a national hero and be subject of national pride. “Everyday Stalinism” by Sheila Fitzpatrick sheds light on the ‘’ordinary’’ life of soviet citizens in interaction with the State during ‘’extraordinary times’’. Fitzpatrick having a special interest for Soviet history, is also the author of “Stalin’s Peasants: Resistance and Survival in the Russian Village after Collectivization”, in which she discusses the life of soviet peasants during the 30’s. “Everyday Stalinism’’ explores different aspects of urban life, controlled by the Soviet government in Russia, trying to give an overview of how soviet people, whether workers or corrupt bureaucrats, coped and survived under Stalin’s brutal, totalitarian regime, filled with terror, shortages and injustice. Dedicated to her students, I believe this book is well structured, engaging and most importantly shows convincingly how Homo Sovieticus dealt psychologically and physically with social upheavals.


First of all, Fitzpatrick in the introductory chapter, gives a quick overview of the 30’s, discussing major themes of Stalinism. Fitzpatrick examines aspects that range from the ‘’grandeur’’ of the Communist Party, urbanization and shortages, terror and “class enemies’’, the Great Purges, the emergence of a new elite, the existence of patronage and chaotic bureaucracy, but also family problems. This chapter is very useful to engage the reader, it creates context, which I believe is crucial to understand the rest of the book and the notion of “survival”. Because of this rich introduction, the reader has high expectations about the amount of information the book provides, which, at the end, might be disappointing. The book is structured in eight chapters, with an introduction and conclusion – each chapter has subparts which sometimes seem too detailed. Her style is always the same, different policies adopted by the state, followed with experiences and stories and finally, an overall analysis. In the introduction she clearly explains her goal to analyze interactions between the State and the soviet population, and not class – since class was not the most interesting part of the Soviet life anymore, the importance of production was replaced by consumption. This book is about Russia, not USSR and discusses urban life, not rural and neglects everyday life at work (Fitzpatrick, 1999:13).

Communism as Marx and Lenin imagined, had one aim “a society without class” yet during Stalinist times, while the rest of the population suffered from food and housing shortages, from terror, an emergence of a new elite was striking. Fitzpatrick in chapters 1, 3 and 4 discusses the importance of privileges and patronage. By using case studies, she manages to get us in the heads of those elites who justified their privileges because of their cultural superiority in a backward society. The phenomenon of “misrecognition” was very common as Fitzpatrick describes, communist party members were also considered as part of the intelligentsia since they were the most cultured segment of a savage society (Fitzpatrick, 1999: 105). The author emphasizes on the form of these privileges which was not money, but the access to goods. She describes special stores used by the elites, their servants, their dachas – a vacation house. While workers suffered, bourgeois were killed, a new elite was born. As Fitzpatrick underlines in a world of scarcity, patronage and blats played a major role – the Soviet system was based on personal relations and corruption.                                                                                                                                Stalin promised a radiant future to everyone, in exchange of hard work and commitment to the Communist party – Stakhanovites, who were workers privileged for an outstanding production, served as an example that everyone could succeed – every “little man” mattered (Fitzpatrick, 1999:72) Obviously, those Stakhanovites were more despised than admired by the workers.                                                                                                                             To support her argument, she uses a vast number of sources: memoirs, letters, newspaper articles caricatures from “Krokodil” but also secret police reports and the Harvard project –interviews with former Soviet citizens, describing their experiences which gives the book, a story-like form.

Fitzpatrick provides an answer to the question – How did the Soviet citizens react to this social hierarchy? Well, the author points out that people believed in utopianism and were promised that one day, once “Socialism was built” everything would be better – as one respondent answers “I thought that all the difficulties were connected with the sacrifices which were necessary for the building of socialism and that after a socialist society was constructed, life would be better.” (H. Kent Geiger, The Family in Soviet Russia:128 cited by Fitzpatrick, 1999: 66). Propaganda was used to brainwash the population “Privilege was only a temporary phenomenon, a step towards universal enrichment’’ (Fitzpatrick, 1999: 105). What Fitzpatrick delivers from this book is “Building socialism together, united society with no class” is a fiction– as she says “The antithesis of “us” and “them” was basic to Soviet subaltern mentality in the 1930s” (Fitzpatrick, 1999: 222). There was no equality or fairness in what they did – even the people felt separated from the government. Yet in the conclusion, Fitzpatrick successfully explains why Stalin had support –  what united the population was the feeling of patriotism, modernization and progress, the welfare state (Fitzpatrick, 1999: 226)

Terror – the main characteristic of Stalinism, is also explored through a series of cases. In chapter 5 “Insulted & Injured”. The stigma of bad social origin, political past never disappeared and those concerned – bourgeois, priests, kulaks were now outcasts. While the regime promoted “remaking of man” where everyone had the chance to change, in reality, outcasts were humiliated, exiled or even killed, the “unmasking of enemies” was now the central goal of a paranoid Stalin. Fitzpatrick explores “concealment”, where people had double life, public self – often internalized, and private self – often hated. Soviet citizens lived in fear – being accused of capitalist beliefs, plotting, conspiracy. In Chapter 7 “Conversations and Listeners” Fitzpatrick explores how freedom and private space were neglected, in the Soviet Union: people were not allowed to express their opinions publicly, though there were formal letters – it did not make a change. Yet the government, very interested in what people thought, used the secret police to collect information.

Listening these stories from my childhood, I always wondered what the actual people could do in this situation, shouldn’t they react? Protest? Take control of their lives? Fitzpatrick addresses this subject in the conclusion, analyzing Soviet citizens interviewed for Harvard Project – no one takes responsibility and they all blame the government for the failures. “Respondents never accepted individual or collective responsibility for this; the situation was squarely blamed on “them,” on the government” (Fitzpatrick, 1999: 219).  Yet, the separation between “we and and them’’ was not clear, as we will see shortly.

The last chapter entitled “A Time of Troubles” is all about conspiracy, suspicion and the Great Purges – delivering a very dramatic image. Terror, combined with surveillance, was against everyone, she opens the chapter (like every other chapter) by using a quote “You know they are putting people in prison for nothing now.” (Comment of local official, 1938 cited by Fitzpatrick,1999: 190).The main issue is Terror against who by whom? As the author says, elite groups were the main target: privileged party members were prosecuted for their love of luxury, army officials, diplomats (Fitzpatrick, 1999: 199) and everyone considered to have bad social origins or opposing the regime. Who denounced them? The secret police NKVD, neighbors, friends, but also young spies such as Igor Lazich. Fitzpatrick uses as usual, stories about individuals, anecdotes to make her point and often focuses on one individual – giving a novel-kind impression. “Feuds, bureaucratic rivalries, and professional jealousies often produced denunciations” (Fitzpatrick, 1999: 208) People lost compassion and solidarity, from fear of being arrested, tortured, they were dehumanized. As seen previously, the separation between “them” and “we” is not clear, “we” the population? Was “Them” the state? One thing that Fitzpatrick underlines is that there were enemies and denunciators everywhere so that separation line between the two was hard to draw. The utopian idea of “society without class wars and harmony” turned out to be a fiction: resentment, jealousy and denunciation now characterized the Homo Sovieticus which is well illustrated by Sheila Fitzpatrick.

The book is also dedicated to family problems. In Chapter 6, Fitzpatrick explains that the 20’s was a period where the concept of family transformed itself; the move away from patriarchal society (considered as a bourgeois phenomenon), women were emancipated– abortion, divorce were legal. Yet in 20’s this changed since the birthrates were decreasing, the disintegration of families was seen as social evil and the stigma on husbands who left their families was huge (Fitzpatrick, 1999: 140). Fitzpatrick shows how the state played a major role in a couple’s life: women sent letters to the state asking for help, public show trials for deserted husbands were organized. The part about abortion and the comparison with the American debate is very successfully used by the author, showing intellectual differences between a closed bloc and the West: the Soviet anti-abortion argument was that women would want to have children, naturally (Fitzpatrick, 1999: 153).

What is more interesting is the problem of rationing and shortages –  shortages in terms of food, housing and bad quality goods. As said previously, the Soviet Union was based on personal relations, the main privilege was access to goods – your well-being depended on your connections or friends – Fitzpatrick talks about the reactions of Harvard Project respondents when asked about their own blat dealings “They always used the language of friendship and stressed the human element in blat relations. “Friends” were really important in the Soviet Union” (Fitzpatrick, 1999:63) That is how one managed to survive. The 30’s as Fitzpatrick explores in Chapter 2 “Hard Times”, saw famine due to bad harvest, collapse of rationing system and overcrowded towns.This chapter, I think, is more factual and provides an analysis of reforms such as central planned economy, 5 Year Plan and legislations (Fitzpatrick,1999: 43-44) –The author always emphasizes on her stories, but this chapter contains more analysis and experiences, than all of the others. She explores corruption and the existence of a second economy using quotes from famous economists “As Joseph Berliner and other economists pointed out, the Stalinist first economy could not have functioned without the second economy”. Yet as the author says at the end of the chapter, people still believed in the images of “socialist future of abundance” (Fitzpatrick, 1999: 66) once again exploring the minds of Homo Sovieticus. In the conclusion, which summarizes the whole book, she explains that economic situation was the main cause of distrust.


Fitzpatrick at the very end, conceptualizes the Soviet Union as a prison (lack of freedom), as a conscripted army (discipline), as a boarding school (strict rules and education) or as a soup kitchen (providers of food), by using these metaphors she summarizes the whole book – Soviet Citizens practices were explained by these 4 instances. (Fitzpatrick, 1999: 225-227). I would definitely recommend this book to everyone interested in the Soviet life and culture, though it is not a very deep analysis of Stalin’s reforms and policies, lacks statistics, it is a story of how people lived under Stalin, the ways of survival, explored through a series of anecdotes. This book can be used for undergraduates as well, if it is complemented with more factual, political analysis of the 30’s. I very much enjoyed the reading, I myself had some ideas about what the Soviet life was – stories that I’ve heard from my grandparents, symbols, photographs that I’ve seen, yet this book allowed me expand my knowledge and most importantly proved me once again that my interpretation was right – Life under Stalin was not a normal life, the lack of freedom, control and the constant terror resulted in the destruction of any kind of comfort and well being  yet soviet citizens managed to survive. As Fitpzatrick says, Homo Sovieticus ”was a string-puller, an operator, a timeserver, a freeloader, a mouther of slogans and much more. But above all, he was a survivor.” (Fitzpatrick, 1999: 227)

სქესობრივი განათლება სკოლებში

” ქართველი ერი არ დაცემულა მაგ დონემდე”

ესე უპასუხა 20 წლის გოგომ გამოკითხვას: ”უნდა ისწავლებოდეს თუ არა სქესბორივი განათლება სკოლებში? ”

საბედნიეროდ ეს გოგო, ამ ტელეგამოკითხვაში უმცირესობაშია, უმრავლესობა კი თვლის რომ სქესობრივი განათლება აუცილებელია. მეც ვფიქრობ, მოზარდმა უნდა იცოდეს რომ ბავშვი წეროს არ მოჰყავს და კომბოსტოში არ ჩნდება, უნდა იცოდეს როგორ დაიცვას თავი სქესობრივი აქტის დროს რომ აბორტი, დაავადებები და არასასურველი ორსულობა რომელიც ხშირად დაქორწინებით მთავრდება – თავიდან აირიდოს. 2012 წლის UNFPA-ს მონაცემებით, დაქორწინებული ქალების  14% თხუტმეტიდან ცხრამეტ წლამდე გოგონებია, ჩემი დაკვირვებით ხშირად არა სიყვარულით არამედ აუცილებლობითაა განპირობებული, რაც რა თქმა უნდა საზოგადოების დიდი პრობლემაა.

სტრასბურგში მეცხრე კლასიდან, მეთერთმეტე კლასის ჩათვლით მასწავლიდნენ როგორ ისახება ბავშვი, რა ცვლილებებია სქესბორივი აქტის დროს, რამდენაირი კონტრაცეფტივი არსებობს და რა არის აბორტი. ეს თემა ეროვნული გამოცდის ნაწილია  – მახსოვს შარშან ბევრი ვიწვალე ჰორმონების გარჩევაში. ერთხელ ცნობილი სექსოლოგი მოვიდა და ლექცია ჩაგვიტარა, ბოლოს, პაციენტებზე მოგვიყვა, ერთერთი მათგანი შეშინებული მისულა – მაროკოში ყოფნისას, აქლემზე არასწორედ დავჯექი და როგორ ფიქრობთ ქალიშვილი ვარო? მთელი დარბაზი იცინოდა. რამდენჯერ შეგხვედრია ფორუმებზე გოგოები, აბსურდულ კითხვებს რომ სვამენ ” შეყვარებულმა მაკოცა და გამეხახუნა, თქვენი აზრით, არის შანსი ორსულად ვიყო?”  რა თქმა უნდა სასაცილოა რადგან აბსურდია, თუმცა როგორც ყოველთვის აქაც, უცოდინრობა და ინფორმაციის ნაკლებობა დიდ პრობლემას ქმნის, ხოლო იმისთვის რომ ეს პრობლემა აღმოიფხვრას, სკოლაშივე უნდა ისწავლოს მოზარდმა რომ კოცნით და ხახუნით ვერავის დააორსულებს, აქლემზე დაჯდომით კი ქალიშვილობას ვერ დაკარგავს.

საფრანგეთში სქესბორივი განათლება ძალიან ბევრ რამეს მოიცავს და დეტალურად ასწავლის მოსწავლეებს რა არის სექსი, აბორტი და კონტრაცეფცია. სიმართლე გითხრათ ბიოლოგიის მასწავლებელი პრეზერვატივებით და აბებით რომ მოდიოდა სკოლაში და გვასწავლიდა რა ფუნქციებს ასრულებდნენ – ყველა, განსაკუთრებით ბიჭები ბევრს იცინოდნენ. 15 წლის რომ ვიყავი, კონფერენციის შემდეგ პრეზერვატივები დაგვირიგეს, სახლში რომ მოვედი, გაოცებული ვუყვებოდი დეიდაჩემს – ნახე რა მაჩუქესთქო. ბევრი რამ მასწავლებელზეც არის დამოკიდებული, მნიშვნელოვანია როგორ მიაწოდებს ინფორმაციას მოზარდს და რაც მთავარია როგორ უპასუხებს მის დასმულ შეკითხვებს – მოსწავლეს არ უნდა ეუხერხულოს და არ უნდა შერცხვეს, ეს მასწავლებელმა უნდა უზრუნველყოს.საქართველოში კი ეჭვი მეპარება მასწავლებელმა რომელიც მთელი დღე, შენი სურვილის მიუხედავად გაურკვეველ მორალს გიკითხავს და ლურჯად შეღებილ თმებზე გეჩხუბება, ნორმალური პასუხი გაგცეს. სამწუხაროა ის,  რომ კვალიფიციური მასწავლებლები უმცირესობაში არიან. საფრანგეთში ფაქტია რომ ამდენმა სწავლმა და სწორმა მიდგომამ შედეგი გამოიღო – ჩემს გარშემო არვიცი მეგობარი რომელიც დაუცველ სექსზე თანახმაა. საქართველოში, სამწუხაროდ, გამიგია რომ ხშირად ძველ მეთოდებს მიმართავენ, შედეგად კი 18 წლის ორსულ გოგოებს ვიღებთ ხოლმე. სკოლა ამ შემთხვევაში გეხმარება სწორი გადაწყვეტილებების მიღებაში, გიხსნის რამხელა პასუხისმგებლობაა ბავშვი ყოლა და რამხელა  რისკებთან არის დაკავშირებული დაუცველი სექსი, თუმცა ძალიან რთულია სკოლამ გასწავლოს ის, რასაც სახლში გიმალავენ.

ჰო რა თქმა უნდა, საზოგადოება სექსზე ღიად არ საუბრობს – არვიცი რატომ, შეიძლება რელიგიის გამო, შეიძლება პირადი კომპლექსების. მიზეზი არვიცი, თუმცა ფაქტია რომ ხშირ შემთხვევაში მშობლებს, ნათესავებს ვერ გაუზიარებ ამ თემასთან დაკავშირებულ კითხვებს, განსაკუთრებით მაშინ თუ 15 წლის გოგო ხარ – ბევრი იფიქრებს რომ რადგან კითხვები გაწუხებს, გარყვნილი ხარ, რადგან სექსით ინტერესდები, მსუბუქი ყოფაქცევის ადამიანი. საზოგადოებაში დამკვირდებულია სექსთან დაკავშირებით ტრადიციები – გოგო დაქორწინებამდე ქალიშვილი უნდა იყოს, ხოლო 13 წლის ბიჭს პირველ სქესობრივი აქტი პროსტიტუციის გზით უნდა ჰქონდეს. თავისთავად ადამიანის არჩევანის საკითხია ქორწინებამდე ექნება თუ არა სექსი, მაგრამ ამის შესახებ ინფორმაცია უნდა ჰქონდეს და რაც მთავარია, არჩევანში თავისუფალი უნდა იყოს. ყველაზე სამწუხარო კი ის არის რომ, ბიჭს რომელსაც აქამდე ეუბნებოდნენ რომ კომბოსტოდან გაჩნდა, ოჯახის ნათესავს მიჰყავს ხოლმე სექსმუშაკებთან და მერე ამაყობენ რომ მათი შვილი ”დაკაცდა”. რა ვქნა, მე საერთოდ არ მესმის ეს წესი და ვფიქრობ რომ სამარცხვინოა. სხვის სექსუალურ ცხოვრებაში ცხვირს არ ვყოფ მაგრამ ჩემთვის უფრო მისაღებია მოზარდს შეყვარებულთან ჰქონდეს პირველ სქესობრივი აქტი და იყოს ინფორმირებული, ვიდრე ადამიანთან რომელსაც არც იცნობს, არც უყვარს და შეიძლება არც მოსწონს – იქიდან გამომდინარე რომ პროსტიტუცია ლეგალიზებული არ არის, ეს საშუალებაც ბევრ რისკთან არის დაკავშირებული, როგორც მაგალითად სქესობრივი გზით გადამდებ დაავადებებთან, მაგრამ ამ თემას არ გავაგრძელებ, შორს წაგვიყვანს. საფრანგეთში, ორგანიზაცია არსებობს სადაც არასწრულწლოვნებს შეუძლიათ ანონიმურად, მშობლის გარეშე და უფასოდ გამოკვლევები ჩაიტარონ, გინეკოლოგთან მივიდნენ და კონტრაცეფტივი დაენიშნოთ, აბორტი გაიკეთონ და ფსიქოლოგიური დახმარებაც მიიღონ როდესაც გარშემო არავინ ჰყავთ.

საზოგადოება რომელიც ასეთი დახურულია, გინეკოლოგები რომლებიც რჩევის მაგივრად, გკიცხავენ რადგან 18 წლის ასაკში არ ხარ დაქორწინებული, მაგრამ გქონია სექსი და გინდა გადამოწმო რომ ყველაფერი რიგზეა, მშობლები რომლებსაც ამ თემაზე ვერც დაელაპარაკები და არაპროფესიონალი მასწავლებლები რომლებიც წითლდებიან და როგორც ჩემმა მეგობარმა მითხრა ” ამ თავს გადაახტებიან” ხოლმე – ეს არის დღევანდელი სურათი, ჰოდა რა უნდა მოხდეს რომ ეს ყველაფერი შეიცვალოს არვიცი, თუმცა აუცილებელია რომ შეიცვალოს. ფაქტია რომ საქართველო, მსოფლიოსთან ერთად ვითარდება, ფაქტია რომ დღევანდელი ახალგაზრდები უფრო თავისუფლები არიან, უფრო მეტ ინფორმაციასთან აქვთ წდომა, ისიც ფაქტია რომ მოზარდებს უფრო მეტი სექსი აქვთ, ვიდრე 30 წლის წინ, შესაბამისად ლოგიკურია მინიმალური განათლება მაინც მიიღონ რომ არასასურველი ორსულობები, დაავადებები და ადრეულ ასაკში შექმნილი ოჯახები თავიდან ავირიდოთ. არგუმენტი ” მე არ მისწავლია სკოლაში ეგ საძაგლობა, მაგრამ ნახე 6 შვილის დედა ვარ” გაცვდა. მოზარდებს სექსი აინტერესებთ, უნდა ქართველ ერს ეს თუ არა.