A Comparative Study on Social Change under the Post “Post-Socialist” Regime
post-socialism, democratization, economic growth
After the dissolution of the former Soviet Union in 1991, the areas of the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Mongolia all became what might be termed post-socialist. However, the paths taken by these various nations and regions have differed after the collapse of the socialist system, with each of these societies and cultures following its own distinctive evolutionary path. This trend became clear during the 2000s and in turn it has become difficult today to establish unitary frameworks for entire regions to match post-socialist conditions. Nevertheless, aftereffects from the era of socialism remain in each of these nations, so that common views and standpoints make it possible to analyze social trends. This research group, while focusing on changes in the lifestyle situations of people living in these post-socialist countries and regions, will also conduct comparative research on various social and cultural changes following post-socialism (or post-post-socialism) under 21st century political and economic conditions. Amidst the tremendous changes in political and economic conditions which have occurred from the 1990s through the 2000s, central governments have been strengthening their authority, disparities in economic growth and social status have widened, nation states have increasingly monopolized natural resources, governments are again seeking to craft historical consciousness, traditional culture is revived by policy, the EU and NATO have expanded to the east, relations with the United States have changed due to anti-terrorist policies, and some countries have seen either the maturation or collapse of democracy. This research group will engage in cross-regional comparisons to discover how in these changing conditions, people have experienced post-socialism and what the social environment has been generating for those living during the 2000s, how their societies and cultures have been transformed and what the motive forces behind these changes have been. By doing so, we hope to reconsider the significance of the previously existing system known as socialism for the living environment and to realign what might be termed the Slavic Eurasian region as an object of research.
First and foremost among the results of our three and a half years of research is the emergence of young researchers interested in our topic. The areas on which this research focused (the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and Mongolia) were ignored by Japanese anthropologists until the early 1990s. Even now, interest in these regions can hardly be said to be high. For this research, however, we were able to recruit 22 researchers from outside of Minpaku, of whom the majority were not yet associate professors and were in their early forties or younger, raising hopes that research in these regions and fields is about to take off.
The research in which these young researchers played a central role had a strongly international flavor. Nearly all of the research meetings featured invited speakers, and these included speakers from post-Socialist nations in northern and eastern Europe and Mongolia, as well as the Russian Federation. Recruiting these speakers was made possible by the group members’ personal international networks. This project clearly achieved its goals of fostering young researchers and internationalizing research in these regions and fields.
While the project did not achieve the goal of a thorough reconsideration of the “Slavic Eurasia” regional concept, many details of culture and social change in post-socialist societies were clarified. Comparative analysis revealed that socialist (especially Soviet-style socialist) political economy and social thought had deeply penetrated everyday life during the 50 to 70 years that Socialist regimes were in power. Then, in the chaos following the breakdown of Socialist systems, their influence varied depending on religious and national political differences between regions and peoples.
During the first decade of the new millenium (2000-2010), strong effects of globalization of both economies and information and changing economic conditions in the advanced economies began to appear worldwide. People living in regions that experienced both socialism and post-socialism were caught up in these changes. The effects of changes in these areas began to reach even the regions in which these people live, the “Slavic-Eurasia Region,” i.e., Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Northeast Asia possess abundant natural resources and constitute a large market with enormous potential. Their long, rich histories and cultural diversity also make them impossible to ignore. That Japanese anthropologists and area specialists have not yet taken greater interest in this region is a matter for great concern.