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Oleg Yanitsky

Ideological Differentiation of Russian Ecological Movement

The aim of the paper is to consider the process of recent differentiation of Russian ecological movement into a number of groups according with their dominant ideologies and value preferences. Some political consequences of the process are also analysed.

During the course of our investigations in 1991-94s (1) we revealed seven groups within the movement: conservationists, alternativists, traditionalists, civil initiatives, ecopoliticians, ecopatriots, and ecotechnocrats.

In general I see this differentiation as quite natural, and as an indication of the fact that the movement become more matured. The less the movement become "reactive", and the more "proactive", creative and professional, the deeper this differentiation has to be. There are also many other reasons for the process. To begin with, there are the historical cultural ones, since individual groups have emerged from different subcultures. The conservationists, for example, arised from subculture of university intelligentsia, from rather specific subculture of Russian naturalists, while civil initiatives represent quite another sort of subculture, that of residential communities, of householders and housekeepers.

There are, then, political causes for the above process. In Russian ecological movement, as in other green movements all over the world, one can find "fundis" and "realos", radicals and reformers, those who prefer conventional forms of political activity, and those who inclined to direct actions. Still another social political reason is the divergence between power-oriented and identity groups of the movement. And, of course, these differences are conditioned by local - economic, social, and political contexts. The situation in capitals and large multifinancial industrial centers is one thing, and in small monofunctional towns (company towns) is quite another.

But nevertheless, to my mind, the major cause of the process in question is ideology. Nowadays, under conditions of postsocialist society we have no uniting ideology but a desire to have a certain ideological base is rather strong. The deeper are ongoing changes, the more ambiguous they are in character, the more people are striving for ideological "guideliness" for and justification of their day-to-day activity. These people look for not a new official doctrine, but for a set of values which could assist them to restore the identity which was lost during the years after collapse of the communist regime. Besides, and it is of no less importance, the every specific ideology determines the strategy, tactics and action repertoires of the above groups of the movement.

Let us consider the ideology and values of these groups in more details.

The conservationists, who are the core of Russian ecological movement, have never articulated their ideology systematically. Nevertheless as thirty years before the underlying principle point of their ideology is bioscientism ("Nature Knows Better") and the idea that an ecological catastrophe is inevitable. The ultimate goals of the conservationists' ideology are creating the world brotherhood of the Greens and construction of "parallel society" of modest material demands.

The alternativists are the most ideological oriented group in the movement. Its founders and leaders were professional ideologists of ecoanarchism. Many alternativists are members of Green parties and the anarcho-syndicalist movement. This is a unique group in the movement, which combines sociopolitical activities with a constant ideological reflection. The alternativists are principled adversaries of the state as a political institution. In their opinion, a radical ecological modernization can be carried out only via an alternative project for the society at large. The alternativists' major ideas are decentralization of power and economic activity, self-provision and self-organization.

The traditionalists have no specific ideological doctrine of their own. This is humanistically-oriented Russian intelligentsia with its eternal ideals of the good, tolerance, non-violation and the desire "to understand and to help". The traditionalists are oriented toward the past in the sense that they appreciate highly the Russian culture of the 19th century with its ideals of serving the people and its enlightenment. The main core of the group is made by educators, writers, journalists and people of free professions. In a sense, the traditionalists can be called advocates of the "small is beautiful" ideology.

The traditionalists are explicit opponents of the mode of industrialization and urbanization, which was practiced under the Soviet regime. They are apologists of the Russian village tenor of life, both the peasants' and the nobles'. Finally, the traditionalists oppose "Russification" and westernization of the way of life of the ethnic minorities populating Russia. The individual ideological inclinations of the group members are quite various: they may be Tolstoy, Buddha, etc., followers. Despite their spiritual heterogeneity, the traditionalists are united by the reflection-prone nature, and the capability to assess the world and their own deeds critically. Therefore, the traditionalists are the most ideologically stable and external effect-resistant group.

The civil initiatives as a group have no ideology of their own. The majority of this the most mass group in the movement are still carries of socialist values as egalitarianism, collectivism, mutual support and self-government. In a manner this group is also the carrier and promoter "the small is beautiful" ideology, especislly if it is going on about their immediate environment. Unfortunately, the main target of the group - public self-government - was not implemented during the years of perestroika and subsequent reforms. At the same time civil initiatives members are opponents of the idea of market economy. Therefore, today, the civil initiatives, having exhausted their potential of anti-communist protest and loosing their faith in the "democrats", are a group of "ideological risks", that is, a certain ideological vacuum that can be filled up by communist, nationalist and other doctrines. The non-realization of private aspirations, distancing more and more from the recent comrades in struggle and having no prospects make the group quite sensitive to various projects for the totalitarian regime restoration.

The ecopoliticians are the most heterogeneous groups in the movement. It comprises the movement founders, who though formally not being its members, have a great ideological effect on it, theoretician ideologues, who imparted the already well-developed ideological doctrines to the moment, professional ecopoliticians, leaders of numerous Russian green parties, activists, who first became politicians (people's deputies) and then joined the movement, practising politicians, who originated from the above civil initiatives and also combining the roles of professional politicians and the movement activists, and, finally, those whom I call politicians "by chance".

The common feature of ideology of the group is "policy goes first!" and "policy decides everything". Strategically, this means that political reforms should precede economic and ecological; tactically, this means justification of the use of any political means, parliamentary or nonconventional. The ideal of the group continues to be the revival and development of local self-government.

The ideology of ecopatriots is marked by the leftist radicalism, betting on the forceful ecologization of society and explicit sympathy for socialism. State patriotism, a stiffly regulated market, restriction of private ownership of large plants, the ecologically oriented socialist and private economy and social justice are the key points of the ideology of Russian ecopatriots. One should stress such element of their ideology as "the forceful transformation" of production system, of urbanization patterns, and of the technosphere at large. Some of ecopatriots even calls on for establishment of "ecological dictatorship" in Russia.

The ecotechnocrats see the solution of ecological problems in a wide use of ecologically-sound technologies. Strictly speaking, they are not carriers of technocratic ideology in the common sense of the term. I call them the technocrats, because naive technocratism is intrinsic in them, that is, unconditional belief in the adoption by a society of the technological innovations created by them. The ecotechnocrats are the least ideologized and politicalized part of the movement which is for them first of all a tool to realize their plans, and a method to acquire a social status and access to financial resources. The ecotechnocrats are rather companions of the movement; due to their inventive mentality eager to utilize any "waste" resource, they are undoubtedly carriers of environmental values.

In conclusion, I would like to stress the interdependence between ideology, strategy and action repertoire of the movements' groups. Let us take as an example the conservationists' postulate "Nature Knows Better".

It means that since they are mostly professional biologists "They Know Better". As it was mentioned, they think that ecological situation is irreversible, time is limited, and therefore global ecological catastrophy is inevitable. Besides, the absolute majority of the population is consuming-oriented and ecologically unconcerned. In their view, the rather small part of the population is "reasonable", i.e. ecologically oriented. It is quite natural that the conservationists call on the green minority dispersed all over the world to unite their efforts and to build the "parallel green community" within the modern society. Practically speaking, conservationists intend to build this world community of Greens by means of buying land by individual community members. Strategically, it means escape of Greens from modern society.

Note 1.

This paper based on more than one hundred in-depth interviews with leaders and rank-and-file members of Russian ecological movement, on review the green press, and on the analysis of 180 application forms for grants submitted to ISAR (former Institute of Soviet American Relations) as well.

Oleg Yanitsky

Institute of Sociology, Russian Academy of Sciences. 117259 Moscow, ul.Krzhizhanovskogo, 24/35, b.5, Russia. Fax: 7-095-128-91-61; E-mail: yanitsky@glas.apc.org