Next Steps in Overcoming Absent Memory
In societies around the world “absent memory” plays a critical yet often overlooked role in political and social development. How a country, particularly one transitioning from one type of political regime to another, reconciles with its past and with episodes of widespread human rights violations has profound but as yet underspecified effects on political developments inside that country and often on relations with its neighbors. The political consequences of absent memory are particularly stark in Russia, but they play out with varying degrees of impact in countries around the world, in democracies as well as in authoritarian regimes.
To advance the work on absent memory, both in Russia and more broadly, the Human Rights and Security Initiative is:
- Conducting four focus groups and a national level survey in Russia of approximately 2,000 members of the general population (ages 20-59) exploring identity and a set of issues related to absent memory;
- Convening two meetings – one in Buenos Aires and one in Belfast – with local partners and a small group of scholars and activists to brainstorm means of better specifying the best approaches to overcoming absent memory;
- Writing op-eds, policy memos and articles drawing on the survey data and the meetings.
This research is generously supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation.
Looking East or West?
Young Russians in Estonia and Russia
Recently, the Russian government has engaged in an elaborate soft power project at home and abroad. Part of this project involves the restoration of Russia as a great power, including stimulating and responding to nostalgia for the Soviet era. In 2009 and 2010, through interviews, focus groups and large, random sample surveys, we will assess the efficacy and impact of this Russian soft power project on a crucial target audience: young, ethnic Russians living outside Russia. As a case study, we will examine the views of ethnic Russians (ages 16 to 29) in Estonia in comparison to those of the corresponding generation of ethnic Estonians and of ethnic Russians in the Russian Federation. This project seeks to assess:
- To what extent do these young ethnic Russians more closely resemble the corresponding generation of ethnic Estonians or ethnic Russians in the Russian Federation?
- In what specific ways are they similar and different?
- Is Soviet nostalgia, a key element in Russia’s soft power arsenal, a force more powerful for Russian ethnic minorities in Estonia than Western soft power?
- Do perceptions, experiences, and socioeconomic circumstances correlate with growing anti-Western sentiments and Soviet nostalgia?
This research is generously supported by a grant from the Smith Richardson Foundation.