The Matryoshka Doll symbolizes the process of societal demilitarization. The outer layer represents physical demilitarization and the inner doll represents the people. The layers in-between are the different societal domains that act as a barrier between the process of demilitarization and the public’s perception of the Russian military. Examining each societal domain and their portrayal of the military reveals to what extent Russian Society was demilitarized.
My research makes sense of Russian society in the 1990s by asking to what extent it has been demilitarized after the collapse of the Soviet Union and what were the consequences of this process for the culture, politics and people of Russia. During the demise of the Soviet Union and the process of democratization and ‘glasnost’ the military’s influence over Russian society slowly deteriorated, paving the way for demilitarization (Holloway, 1989; M. Steven Fish, 1990). However, following Putin’s inauguration, society was easily remilitarized in order to reconstruct Russia’s reputation as a global superpower abroad and to re-affirm its national identity within (Dmitri Trenin, 2016). My research fills a gap in our understanding of Russian society between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the coming of Putin, by arguing that Russian society has not been demilitarized after the collapse of the Soviet Union
Michael Mann defines militarism as a “set of attitudes and social practices which regards war and the preparation of war as a normal and desirable social activity.” And according to Alfred Vagts, militarism is the introduction of a “military mentality into the civilian sphere” by the armed forces. Finally, Martin Shaw states that “militarism denotes the penetration of social relations in general by military relations” (Shaw, 2012). These definitions, alongside accounts written by William Odom (1976), Alexander Golts, Tanya Putnam (2004) and John Keep (1985) which highlight the deep-rooted existence of the military in aspects of Russian society, shape my research’s definition of militarism. In order to understand how demilitarization affected society, I am examining the discourse of five main societal domains and how they portray the military.
The first decade of the Post-Soviet period in Russia is under researched. By examining reasons for lack of military intervention over a 300 year period, Brian D. Taylor implies Russia was not as militarized as suggested. However the focus of his account is narrow, making it impossible for the author to conclude on behalf of the whole society (Taylor, 2003). David Holloway argues Gorbachev’s ‘new thinking’ changed previous forms of legitimization by Brezhnev from emphasizing outside threats to cooperation, which relied heavily on prioritizing societal matters over the military power and undermined previous perceptions and need for an army (Holloway, 1989). Whilst ‘glasnost’ threatened the military’s prestige in Russian society, David Gillespie’s study on military films during the Yeltsin period greatly emphasized the void that demilitarization left in Russian society (Gillespie, 2006). Despite, Holloway’s study suggesting that ‘glasnost’ allowed the accumulation of negative public opinion towards the military, it does not account for those whose national identity relied on the military. On the other hand, whilst highlighting this reliance and attempting to examine the effect of demilitarization on society, Gillespie is solely focused on the portrayal of former military personnel under the Yeltsin regime and cannot conclude for the broader society. My research widens the scope of investigation, examining whether or not emotional demilitarization occurred and, if so, to what extent society’s portrayal of the army hindered an individual’s ability to mentally demilitarize.
My research investigates the way in which religious, educational, cultural, political and media-orientated domains have framed the First Chechen War and how this has influenced collective consciousness. School curriculums, religious sermons and media (newspapers and TV shows) from 1990 to 2000 shed light on the extent to which the military exercised power in Russian society. Whilst society can change rapidly within ten years, the remaining influence of the military in Russian society between 1990 and 2000 obstructed the demilitarization of an individual’s military mentality. My research is making sense of society as it explores how the portrayal of the military by dominant societal domains influenced society’s military mentality. These research methods can be applied to the current global climate, which is experiencing varied stages of demilitarization.
Allyson Edwards is a first year PhD candidate at Swansea University researching the cultural and societal aspects of Russian militarism from 1990 to 2000. For the next stage of her research, Allyson is heading to London to examine the mainstream Russian newspapers held at the British Library. Allyson heads to Moscow in January to continue data collection. For more information, follow Allyson via twitter @AllysonEdwards1