For those not familiar with the topic: Russian population is declining, mortality and life expectancy are staggering and comparable to the third world countries.
I’ve read and heard many explanations of this phenomenon (alcohol, poor health care, low birth rate due to economic uncertainty). None of those reasons however adequately explains why those plagues affect Russia much more that they do other countries with similar problems.
So here is what I am thinking – and bear with me for a little history tour: for centuries all over the world religion was one of the main means to take care of an individual and society emotional/psychological needs. Pondering existential questions, providing space to share dark secrets, granting forgiveness and helping to mourn the losses – all that in some shape or form is covered by any religion. In the 19th century, (remember when “God was dead”?), psychoanalysis/therapy appeared and caught popularity in the Western world, where it pretty happily coexists with various religions (New Age included :) till today.
What happened in Russia, however, was that in 1917 religion was pretty much expelled from the society and nothing similar to Western use of therapy developed to take its place. So this huge void in taking care of the emotional well being was created and not acknowledged by several generations. Those generations, as we know went through WWII, losing over 20 million people and over 40 million in Stalin’s Gulag. These loses, that affected lives of almost every family in Soviet Russia, were never properly and openly mourned and grieved over – not on individual level and not on a societal level. Thus, it was and is still is passed along through generations.
It would be almost impossible to develop a healthy psyche and coping mechanisms in that environment. It is no wonder, that according to some statistics 90% of Russian population needs psychological help. But what percentage of them are actually getting it and is quality help available at all? Thus those traumas are surfacing in other forms: alcoholism, poor health, heightened aggression and crime rate, etc. I do not know of any other country that went through the similar madness for such a long period of time, so what we are seeing now might not be a result of SU collapse, but has much deeper and complex roots.
Doesn't this look disturbing ? :) and :(