Writing as early as 1880, Russian writer Dostoyevsky wrote that man
“will only become free when they renounce their freedom to us and submit to us. And shall we be right or shall we be lying? They will be convinced that we are right, for they will remember the horrors of slavery and confusion to which Thy freedom brought them. Freedom, free thought, and science will lead them into such straits and will bring them face to face with such marvels and insoluble mysteries, that some of them, the fierce and rebellious, will destroy themselves, others, rebellious but weak, will destroy one another, while the rest, weak and unhappy, will crawl fawning to our feet and whine to us: “Yes, you were right, you alone possess His mystery, and we come back to you, save us from ourselves!”
This is from his masterpiece The Grand Inquisitor, the final chapter of a larger piece of work, The Brother Karamozov. The “us” is the Church but can be any form of authority. There is a tradeoff between freedom and security, and as readers of this blog know I don’t think that their balance is the same for all cultures. You obviously have to be nuanced when discussing the “Russian soul.” There are Russians who prefer liberty to state control and cultures can adopt and change. The Korean peninsula was for the most part culturally homogenous in 1952 but today have a full democracy next to a full totalitarian state. Yet, as reported in the Washington Post, “Sixty percent of Russians believe that Internet censorship — in particular, the banning of certain websites and material — is necessary…” To me, this number is especially telling considering it is well known, even by the Russians, that the media is largely an apparatus of the state and alternative views are found on the web.
Freedom is an artifact of historical circumstance and there are good reasons why it is not as valued in Russia as highly as it is in America.
More data is available and you can read the WaPo article in full here.