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Historical memory in the context of Russian nation-building (based on the regional survey) / Историческая память в контексте российского нациестроительства (по страницам одного регионального опроса)
Поцелуев Сергей Петрович

доктор политических наук, кандидат философских наук

профессор, Южный федеральный университет

344079, Россия, Ростовская область, г. Ростов-на-Дону, пр. Ленина, 59

Potseluev Sergey Petrovich

Professor, the department of Theoretical and Applied Political Science, Southern Federal University

344079, Russia, Rostov Oblast, Rostov-On-Don, Prospekt Lenin 59

spotselu@mail.ru
Аннотация. Предметом статьи является проблемная роль исторической памяти в формировании российской национальной идентичности. Автор подробно рассматривает феномен исторической памяти, выделяя в нем различные социальные виды (индивидуальную, коллективную, культурную память) и дискурсивные формы (живую, объективированную и организованную память). На материале опроса донских студентов (и в сравнении с данными аналогичных опросов, проведенных Фондом «Общественное мнение» и Левада-Центром) автор анализирует оценки студентами таких ключевых и неоднозначных событий советского прошлого, как Октябрьская революция, индустриализация и коллективизация, распад СССР и др. Сверх того, в статье обсуждается роль указанных оценок в отношении студентов к «Крымской весне» и непризнанным республикам Донбасса. Теоретико-методологической базой исследования выступает конструктивистский концепт исторической памяти, разработанный в отечественной и зарубежной науке. Эмпирическую основу статьи составили результаты анкетного опроса, проведённого в 2014–2016 годах коллективом учёных Южного федерального университета и Южного научного центра РАН в рамках научного проекта, посвященного исследованию праворадикальных идеологем в сознании студенческой молодёжи Ростовской области. К новизне данного исследования относится систематизация автором различных видов и форм исторической памяти. Далее, автор творчески применяет различие «холодных» и «горячих» стратегий исторической памяти для оценки политики памяти в постсоветской России. В связи с этим автор критикует постмодернистскую абсолютизацию мифа в конструировании национальной памяти и указывает на необходимость реализации стратегии «проработки трудного прошлого». Автор приводит новые аргументы в пользу тезиса о том, что в российском обществе (включая студенческую молодежь) имеется запрос на более решительную реабилитацию советского периода российской истории, чем это имеет место в нынешней официальной политике памяти. Материалы и выводы данной статьи будут полезны для оптимизации указанной политики.
Ключевые слова: историческая память, живая память, культурная память, политика памяти, горячая стратегия, холодная стратегия, проработка трудного прошлого, советское прошлое, большевистские вожди, Крымская весна
DOI: 10.25136/1339-3057.2017.3.23516
Дата направления в редакцию: 05-07-2017

Дата рецензирования: 07-07-2017

Дата публикации: 16-10-2017

Abstract. The subject of this article is the problematic role of historical memory in the formation of Russian national identity. The author examines in detail the phenomenon of historical memory, distinguishing its social kinds (individual, collective, and cultural memory) and discursive forms (living, objectified, and organized memory). Using the material of survey of Don students (in comparison with the data of similar surveys conducted by Public Opinion Foundation and the Levada Center), the author analyzes the students' evaluation of the key and controversial events of the Soviet past, such as the October Revolution, industrialization and collectivization, collapse of the Soviet Union, and others. Moreover, the article discusses the role of the aforementioned evaluations with regards to students’ attitude to the «Crimean Spring» and the unrecognized Donbass republics. The theoretical-methodological basis of this research lies is the constructivist concept of historical memory developed in Russian and foreign science. The empirical basis is provided by the results of survey conducted in 2014-2016 by the research organization of Southern Federal University and Southern Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences within the framework of academic project dedicated to examination of far-right ideologemes in the consciousness of student youth of Rostov Region. The scientific novelty of this study implies the systematization of various types and forms of historical memory. The author constructively applies the difference between the «cold» and «hot» strategies of historical memory in order to assess the politics of memory in post-Soviet Russia. In this regard, the author criticizes the postmodern absolutization of the myth in the construction of national memory, as well as indicates the need for implementing the strategy for “processing the difficult past”. The article provides new arguments favoring the thesis that the Russian society (including student youth) has a request for a stronger rehabilitation of the Soviet period of Russian history than the current official politics of memory. The materials and results of this research can be valuable for optimization of the indicated politics.

Keywords: processing of difficult past, cold strategy, hot strategy, politics of memory, cultural memory, live memory, historical memory, Soviet past, Bolshevik leaders, Crimean Spring

Ernest Renan in his famous lecture “What is a Nation?” expressed a paradoxical thought: “Forgetting, I would even say historical error is essential to the creation of a nation” [1, p. 93]. In doing so, the French classic raised a question about the inevitable conflict between two cognitive strategies with regards to the past: scientific analysis for the sake of objective truth and mythologization for the sake of symbolic consensus.

Types and forms of historical memory: to clarification of the notions

As historical perceive any experience of interaction with the past, which by the nature of its social carrier can be presented in at least three types: 1) as individual memory of a separate human; 2) as cumulative memory of the collective of people bound by common experience; 3) as memory of the large imaginable communities united by cultural codes. According to its discursive forms, the aforementioned types of memory differ as: 1) living (subjective) memory 2) objectified (cultural) memory; 3) organized (structured) memory.

The individual and collective (cumulative) memory is the essence of the types of living (spontaneous and irreflexive) memory; but in the first case its carries is a separate individual, and in the second – collective of people. A renowned French scholar Maurice Halbwachs defined the collective memory as when “the group sees itself from within during a period not exceeding, and most often much shorter than, the average duration of a human life” [2]. Unlike the living memory, the objectified or cultural memory is the memory that is certainly presented in artifacts (rather than just in consciousness and living experience of separate people); and in this sense, this memory is artificial. In the case when cultural memory is specifically organized for the political goals, it attains the type of “politics of memory”.

Memory (in any form) cannot be arranged as one wishes; in this sense, one cannot do whatever they desire with memory. In his works M. Halbwachs identifies the imperative regularities of functionality of the memory; first and foremost, its systematicity that is ensured by inseparable connection of remembering and forgetting realized within the certain framework. To recall is to fit the relevant cognitive framework, which according to Halbwachs, consist of various notions and ideas, including stigma and stereotypes characteristic to a particular era. To forget, on the contrary, means that the recollections do not fit the conceptual framework of the relevant experience. At the same time, reproduction of the past can be just its “reconstruction” based on the aforementioned “framework”. Jan Assmann suggested using the general term “symbolic figures of recollection” for describing such framework, referring to them as “culturally formed, societally binding 'images of memory’, which mean not only iconographic shaping, but narrative, too” [3, p. 39]. Any form of memory “is tightly connected with its carriers and cannot be transferred to anyone. Thus, each of the participants testifies his affiliation to the group” [3, p. 40-41]. Hence, the formation and support of national identity requires a specific policy with reference to the past, which acts as an important component of the symbolic policy of nation-building. For the expression “politics of memory” there are quite a few synonyms within the Russian and foreign literature [4, p. 43],[5, p. 17]. But the essence remains the same: use (interpretation and reinterpretation) of the collective past in political reasons.

Strategies of the national “politics of memory”

It is difficult to overestimate the meaning of the politics of memory in post-Soviet Russia (alongside other countries after the revolutionary change of the political regime). The central (and in many ways unresolved) questions of this policy remains the attitude towards the Soviet (“Communist”) past. Adoption at the brink of the centuries law on the state symbols of the Russian Federation, has partially stabilized the official politics of memory, namely on the level of formal symbolic compromise. Behind this compromise (“pro-European” tricolor, “pro-imperial” coat of arms, and “post-Soviet” hymn) was no any national myth, which will endow this symbolic collection with the general ideological-political (national) meaning. It is worth noting that the myth is pertinent to historical memory, because it represents a connected story (narrative) on the country’s past, explaining its present and future. J. Assmann neatly called the myth “a condensed to a substantiating tale past” [3, p. 82]. Any politics of memory uses myth as its basic symbolic resource.

But the politics of memory, similar to any symbolic politics, can be conducted from the top – by the political elites, as well as from the bottom – by the ordinary actors of civil society [4, p. 28]. This corresponds with the difference between the highlighted by J. Assmann “hot” and “cold” [3, p. 72-73] strategies of the politics of memory, referring to the proposed by C. Lévi-Strauss distinctions between the “cold” and “hot” societies. In case of the cold strategy, the myth is implied as means of legitimation (stabilization, conservation) of the existing orders; and in case of the hot strategy – as an instrument of their deligitimation and destabilization. In first case, the mythical narrative underlines succession of the actual status of society with its “heroic time”; and in second – the accent is made on degradation of modern society from the perspective of achievable ideal state. It seems clear that the politics of memory of the ruling elites leans towards the cold strategy, while such of their political rivals and opponents – towards the hot.

However, the meaning of myth for the national memory should not be overemphasized in postmodern spirit, as in a sense, it can be viewed even in the remarkable works of J. Assmann. The cold and hot strategies of symbolic politics do not fully meet the demands of the entire range political actors, but rather its extreme points: the ruling elite that does not want to leave, and radical (irreconcilable) opposition. And between these extremes are the political actors, who are capable of more rational coverage of the past within the framework of a political dialogue. For such political actors is important the reasonable “analysis of the difficult past”, rather than purely emotional consensus around the past, achieved by the symbolic (mythical) means.

Attempts of the Russian authorities (since 1991) to establish the mythical national narrative were subjected to certain evolution. Initially, it was a myth about the “new (democratic) Russia’, which was born from the “fragments of the totalitarian Soviet empire”. But the “discredited” therewith Soviet past became an object of unprecedented falsification aimed against the interests of the Russian Federation. On the other hand, the need for national consolidation required the more insightful historical beginning than the ambiguous events of 1991.

Already during President B. Yeltsin, the authorities raised the question about the need for the new “national idea”. Later, this idea began taking shape of the myth about Russia as a great power (strong state, nation-civilization, etc.) with century-long history, interrupted by the geopolitical catastrophes, such as the events of 1917 and 1991. Part of the Soviet past in this narrative was completely “decommunized”, as well as attained an unequivocally positive national patriotic interpretation. First and foremost, this refers to the victory of the Soviet people over the German fascism, as well as the achievements of the Soviet Union in the area of science and technology. But still, the problematic aspect in the official politics of memory remain the assessment of the October Revolution, chief Communist leaders (Lenin and Stalin), and a number of other moments. According to the just remark by O. Y. Malinova, the Russian political elite ignored the chance to “reconsider the symbol of October even if not the culmination, but yet a ‘grand’ episode of the ‘millenary history’” [5, p.75]. But to what extent such strategy of the official politics of memory correspond with the actual perception of the Soviet past shared by the citizens of modern Russia? Do they meet the current trends of public opinion?

In answering this question, we must consider that formation of the new national narrative in post-Soviet Russia is complicated by the competitiveness of the hot and cold strategies of the politics of memory. Consolidation of society requires cold strategy, when everything that underlines the legality and succession of the existing social orders is remembered; while everything else – is being organizationally forgotten. On the contrary, the systemic opposition intentionally accentuated the inconvenient for the current regime facts of the country’s past, while the historically legitimizing the existing regime facts are subjected to oblivion and distortion.

If the politics of memory, conducted on behalf of the Russian government, is a regular object of research among the Russian political scientists, this article touches upon the interpretations of the Soviet past, as portrayed in the minds of the ordinary citizens of modern Russia, namely the students of Don universities, who have been surveyed within the framework of a special research project. The results of this survey can be considered if not the case of “politics of memory from the bottom”, then at least as a cognitive foundation of such policy.

The aforementioned survey was carried out in April-May of 2015 by the staff members of the Southern Federal University and Southern Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences within the framework comprehensive study of the Russian Humanitarian Science Foundation No. 14-03-00302a “The right-wing radical ideologemes in the minds of the young students of Rostov Region”. The survey was conducted on 718 students (350 young men, and 368 young women) from five universities of the region; the presented disciplines included socio-humanitarian, natural scientific, engineering and technical, as well as agricultural.

Lenin and Stalin as the symbolic personas of historical memory

The attitude of our students towards the Soviet past carries special importance for the analysis of historical memory in modern Russia, because they belong to generation that no longer has no first-hand knowledge of life in the USSR. On the other hand, many cultural “artefacts” of this era remain in the public eye. First and foremost, it refers to the monuments to Lenin; and lately – the rebirth of the monuments to Stalin. How do our young respondents assess these chief leaders of the “Russian Communism”?

V. I. Lenin wins sympathy among 45.2% of respondents, while 19.5% feel antipathy; and 1/3 of respondents were apathetic towards the once great leader. The results of this survey do not significantly differ with the data of the all-Russian surveys conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and Levada Center. In the survey of the Public Opinion Foundation of April 2014, 52% of the Russians assessed Lenin as a “good person”, while only 11% - as a “bad person”, which matched the results of the survey in 2005 [6]. Similar numbers we find in the survey of Levada Center conducted in April of 2014: 51% of respondents assessed the role of Lenin in Russian history as completely (or mostly) positive, while 26% - as “absolutely” (or mostly) negative [7]. It is worth noting, that the percentage of respondents who were undecided about the assessment of proletarian leader in our survey does not drastically differ from the number of undecided respondents in nationwide selection. In the aforementioned survey of Public Opinion Foundation there were 37% who selected this response, while in our survey – 35.4%. In the survey of Levada Center, the percentage of those who were undecided about the assessment of Lenin is significantly lower (23%), but among the students their number was much higher. As noted by O. Savelyev, based on the results of similar survey conducted by Levada Center in 2012, “34% of the Russian below 25 years of age failed to provide a firm answer on the role of V. I. Lenin in the Russian history” [8].

The assessment of J. V. Stalin in perception of our respondents is similar to their assessment of V. I. Lenin: 41.4% of respondents expressed sympathy to the “Father of Nations”; 26.2% – feel antipathy; and 32.5% – undecided. These numbers also are not far away from the nationwide surveys. In the survey of Levada Center of March 2015, the number of Russians who expressed positive feelings (admiration, respect, sympathy) to Stalin consisted of 39%, while 20% of respondents admitted that they have negative feelings towards the leader. At the same time, almost 1/3 of respondents (30%) felt apathetic about the persona of Stalin, and 11% were uncertain about their attitude [9].

In the nationwide surveys, we can trace one important detail: the increase in sympathy towards Lenin, and after 2014, towards Stalin especially. According to the data of Levada Center, 51% of respondents in 2014 assessed the role of Lenin in Russian history as completely or mostly positive, while in 2006 it was 40% of such individuals [7]. Similarly, in the report of Levada Center regarding the attitude of Russian citizens towards Stalin (2015), it is noted that “the portion of Russians, who support the opinion that Stalin should be considered public enemy, has reduced. If in 2010, every third Russian shared this though, then now – it reduced to every fourth. Nationwide, the portion of Russian, who believe that casualties suffered by the Soviet people during Stalinist era were justified by great goals and results, has increased from 25% in 2012 to 45% in 2015” [9]. Then again, the recent survey conducted by Levada Center in March of 2016, revealed a reverse trend: over the period of 2014-2016, the number of citizens, who assess the persona of Stalin as positive, has reduced from 40% to 37% [10]. Notably that among the youth age of 18-24, the portion of those who in the survey of 2016 believed that Stalinist repressions “were the political necessity, as well as historically justified”, comprised just 18% against 34% among people age of 55 and above; but among the young respondents, 26% remained undecided [10].

Many researchers explain the increased sympathies towards the Soviet leaders over the period of 2014-2015 as elevation of patriotism during the Ukrainian crisis and “Crimean Spring”. But this is not the only reason, because the trend towards rehabilitation of the Bolshevist leaders clearly manifested prior to 2014; moreover, according to the surveys of the recent years, they attained “new fans among people below 20 years of age” [11].

“Cold” strategy of the official politics of memory, which consists in stylization of the Soviet past into one of the remarkable pages of Russian history as a great power with century-long history, suggests one or another level of “nationalization” of Lenin and Stalin, despite the initial intentions of the Bolshevist ideology. Although at the present time, this strategy on the official level is being realized inconsecutively and controversially, it meets the mood of our respondents. The majority of those who sympathizes Lenin and Stalin determine to be in our survey among the supporters of conservative and traditionalistic values. These are the values of the Russian world, traditions of the Don territories, and native people. Despite the fact that in overall ranging of the value preferences the “general human values” hold the first place for our students, in relation to the Soviet leaders, the conservative and traditionalistic values take the center stage. This most likely is explained by the previously mentioned “nationalization” of Bolshevism, which in many ways took place in the Soviet times, but could not reach our students through the official communicative channels; perhaps, the political socialization within the framework of families and informal groups played its role in this regard. It is worth noting that among those who sympathizes Lenin, a good third of the students characterized their ideological-political beliefs as “monarchical” and “liberal”.

USSR: the object of historical memory or delusion?

Along with the assessments of Lenin and Stalin, the important event of historical memory of ours students regarding the Soviet past, which also largely remain discussed, is the collapse of the Soviet State. Although as the “legal and geopolitical reality”, the USSR ceased in 1991, but as an element of living memory, it continued to persevere all these years for those “Russians” who socialized among the Soviet realities. Only when the first generation of post-Soviet people has reached adulthood (namely the today’s youth age 21-25), the USSR began to become an objectified, cultural memory or the “history” in the sense of M. Halbwachs [2].

The collapse of the USSR is viewed as an altogether positive phenomenon by only 5.4% of those polled, while 22% find it “rather positive”. On the opposite side, those who categorically against the collapse of the Soviet State are 18.2% of students, and another 31.1% are “rather against”. Meanwhile, 23% of respondents found it difficult to answer this question.

The results of our survey only slightly deviate from the results of the all-Russian surveys. In the January of 2014 POF (Public Opinion Foundation) survey 54% of respondents expressed regret with regards to the collapse of the Soviet Union, while 25% had no regrets in this regard, and another 25% had difficulties answering this question. Compared to much earlier surveys we can see a substantial decline in the number of people regretting the collapse of the Soviet State (in 2001 it was 76% of the respondents that were against it), as well as a number of those who were hesitant to summarize their feelings towards this historic event (8% in the 2001 POF survey). The Levada Center numbers on this question do not deviate substantially, and also record a similar trend: the number of people regretting the collapse of the USSR has significantly decreased by 2014 when compared to the period of 1990’s-2000’s (at the turn of the decade, the number of Russians with this opinion stood between 72-75%, while in 2014 it decreased to 54%) [12].

The question on the Belavezha Accords of December 1991 served as the “control” question for determining the opinion of the Don students on the collapse of the Soviet State. Among a good third of the respondents (37%) this event brought up a feeling of shame, among 8.1% a feeling of pride, but more than half (54.9%) found it difficult to assess. In a similar survey by Levada Center (late 2014) the number of respondents against the “agreement of the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus from December 8, 1991 to terminate the existence of the Soviet Union” has also significantly exceeds the number of those who support this event: 61% against 18% [12]. But in the Levada Center survey only 21% of the respondents found it difficult to answer this question, which testifies to the substantially different quality of memory of Soviet past among our younger respondents. It is absolutely evident that the Belavezha Accords are falling out of the cultural and historical memory of the Soviet times, currently forming among young Russians, while for the older generation this event remains an important part of the living memory of the past.

This conclusion is even fairer with regards to historical memory of the students on such key events of the Soviet history as the October Revolution of 1917, as well as industrialization and collectivization of the 1930’s.

In our survey we offered the students the opportunity to determine which feelings (pride or shame) they feel with regards to the events in their history such as the “Great October Socialist Revolution” (it is the Soviet designation of this event that we intentionally preserved in the survey). As it turns out, majority of the respondents (62.3%) were unable to determine their feelings on the matter. This is a sure sign that such historical event in the Russian history ended up on the outskirts of the memory of Russian students. From the remaining respondents, slightly less than a quarter (22.1%) expressed pride regarding the October Revolution, and 15.6% a feeling of shame. The modest lead in the positive feelings towards the October Revolution is on par with the data from the Russian national surveys of the recent years, which demonstrate an unwavering lead of positive responses over negative with regards to the “Red October”. While during the 1997 survey 49% believed that the October Revolution “launched a new era in the history of Russian peoples”, in 2011 this opinion was expressed by 53% of the respondents. At the same time, the number of people who were uncertain with their answer was approximately the same in 1997 and 2011 – 21% and 20% respectively [13].

Overall, with the clear stability of the opinions on October Revolution we can observe a trend towards its historical “rehabilitation” in the eyes of Russian people, which is unlikely to be solely explained by situational or age factors. For example, in the Levada Center 2011 survey the opinion that “revolution contributed to progress of Russian peoples” was equally supported (31% respectively) by people older than 55 years of age, as well as youth under 25 [13]. According to the survey conducted in 2013 by the Public Opinion Foundation, almost half of Russian citizens disagree with the decision to abolish the anniversary of the October Revolution as a national holiday. Moreover, among younger respondents under 35 years of age, 32% expressed this discontent, versus 19% of those who supported it.

The positive disposition towards the Soviet era is also confirmed by the fact that the portion of our respondents (30.8%), who feel pride for such Soviet era phenomena as industrialization and collectivization, is more than double of those, who experience a feeling of shame in this regard (15.2%). But as with the October Revolution, more than half of the students (54%) were unable to determine their feelings on these key phenomena of the Soviet history.

The memory of the Soviet past in the context of current politics

Our survey allowed determining the extent of the role played by the key events of the Soviet era in the students’ assessment of the important events of the last two years, such as the Annexation of Crimea, as well as the formation of the illegitimate DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic) and LPR (Luhansk People’s Republic) at the border of Russia’s Rostov Oblast. This, among other things, allows us seeing just how the historical memory of our students corresponds with the newest trends of the official “politics of memory”.

It turned out that memory about the October Revolution does not play any role in students’ assessment of the “Crimean Spring”, as well as Ukrainian Euromaidan of 2014. But among the respondents who felt pride for the Belavezha Accords of 1991, the amount of those who has an unambiguous positive or negative attitude towards the annexation of Crimea by Russia, is significantly higher (by 15%), than among the respondents who were ashamed of this event. Thus, the respondent see the two aforementioned events in the general historical context and evaluate them in the unified coordinate system: Crimea reunification with Russia is perceived as a rebirth of a powerful state as was the Soviet Union, or contrariwise – the rebirth of “totalitarian empire”.

Similar picture is observed in pursuing correlation between the assessment of “Crimean Spring” and the assessment of industrialization and collectivization of the 1930’s. In this regard we can also spot that the negative attitude to the Soviet project, namely the policy of industrialization and collectivization, correlates with the noticeably more negative, than among the sympathizers of such policy, relation towards the annexation of Crimea by Russia. Among the respondents, who were ashamed of the Soviet industrialization and collectivization, the amount of those who unambiguously or rather negatively perceive the establishment of LPR and DPR is 8% higher than among the respondents who feel proud for these events. Perhaps, this is associated with the concerns of respondents that the emergence of the rebellious Donbass republics generates a risk of returning to the Soviet times. Parallel between the assessment of establishment of DPR/LPR and the Belavezha Accords intensify the suggestion: among respondents, those who feel pride with regards to Belavezha Accords, exactly twice as many as those who disapprove of DPR/LPR, than among those proud of the aforementioned accords.

Special role, especially in selection of strategy for the “analysis of difficult past”, is played by such contradictory and ambiguous episodes of the Russian history as Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, which suggested the Russia’s participation in the pre-war division of Polish territories. Over a period of several years, Levada-Center asks Russians the recurring question: “Do you support or condemn signing of the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact?” Result of the surveys reveals the increase in amount of respondents who speak to this event: from 40% in 2005 to 45% in 2014. The number of those who is uninformed about this event or undecided consisted of approximately 40% of the total amount of respondents [14]. However, survey conducted by Levada-Center does not allow identifying the motives upon which the Russian citizens support or deny the aforementioned pact. Our survey offered a wider choice of possible answers.

The end result reveals that only 5.7% of respondents agreed with the statement that “Russians must be ashamed of participation of the Soviet Union in division of the Polish territories”; and only 4.3% chose the opposite assertion that Russians must be proud of the fact the in alliance with mighty Germany, Soviet Union has divided Poland”. Part of respondents (14.3%) believed that “Russians should not be ashamed of USSR participation in division of Polish territories, because “the ages long gone by””. Most popular opinion (33.4%) appeared to be that “Division of Poland in 1939 cannot be a subject for pride, but geopolitically speaking, it was a right decision”. (In a similar way, the majority of respondents would not get confused by the “irrefutable facts”, which prove the presence of Russian army in Donbass, because more than half (62.7%) agreed with opinion that “even if the Russian army is there, it is justified and necessary for protection of population and geopolitical interests of the Russian Federation”). At the same time, almost one third of interviewed students (30.2%) found it difficult to assess the aforementioned event in the Soviet history. This also testifies to the low level of political engagement of the student audience, considering that the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact over the last two years has become one of the absolute favorite concept of the anti-Russian propaganda.

The historical memory of our students is built into the context of their vision of the political process in modern Russia. And the first thing to note is the anti-Western ideologies of our respondents. The strong majority rejects the entrance of Russian into the European Union and NATO, as well as are skeptical of the Russia’s integration into the European civilization. The statement “Best future for Russia is the integration (economic, cultural, and political) into European civilization) was supported only by 5.8% of the interviewed students. In a sense, such result was quite unexpected due to the fact that we assumed that among the university youth the percentage of supporters of the European path must be somewhat larger than national average. This was also suggested by Levada Center survey conducted in April of 2015: every alternative (55%) claimed that Russia must travel a “special path”, and 17% said that Russia must follow the path of European civilization [15]. Perhaps, it can be explained by purely contextual or regional factors: complications in relations with the Western countries, neighboring with the South-Eastern Ukraine, and other.

In the opinion of interviewees (more than 40% of students), Russia’s “special path” consists in returning and preserving the status of great power that pursues its geopolitical interests. One third of the students believe that Russia must keep its civilizational uniqueness, and particularly “it always has been a multinational civilization with the leading role of Orthodoxy and Russian culture, and it should remain so”. The position that Russia in its should rather be an empire-civilization than a European nation-state, was notionally (i.e. using the very term “emprie) expressed by one third of respondents, but substantively, this concept is supported by a lot more. Thus, 32.2% of students wholeheartedly agreed with the slogan “Russia must be an empire!” But at the same time, we must take into account that another 23.1% “find something” in this slogan, and 23.8% of respondents, having evaded an answer, in doing so, did not deny the crucially imperial model for the modern Russia.

Conclusion

The indicated quintessential features of Russia’s “special path alongside the traditionalistic perception of paramount chiefs of Bolshevism point at popularity of the conservative ideas among students. Within the framework of such ideas, they form the memory about the Soviet era. The results of our survey give grounds for making a conclusion that the Soviet heritage remains to be a meaningful moment of historical memory for the modern student youth, although objectified, cultural, rather than inanimate. But to what extent such memory is organized? What stands behind it: the system of current school and university education, or rather extemporary socialization in family and informal groups? This question requires a separate research. The results of our research once again demonstrate that: society (including youth younger than 25 years of age) has a request for more substantial reconstruction of the Soviet past than it is currently being accomplished in the official politics of memory. Such policy, having significantly evolved from the liberal (and anti-Soviet in its spirit) radicalism of the first years of “democratic Russia” towards the sovereign values of national reconciliation, yet remains unclear and ambiguous among its counterparts (including attitude towards October Revolution and collapse of the USSR). At the same time, formation of the Russian nation, without which the modern Russia will not see a bright future, requires clear answers to even the most complicated questions of our history.

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