Monday, May 25, 2020

Why are Georgians nostalgic about the USSR? Part 2

Georgians are equally split in their evaluations of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. While younger, more educated, and wealthier Georgians are more likely to think it was a good thing, those with negative attitudes towards democracy, and those that prefer Russia over the West have more negative feelings. Although respondents named multiple factors to explain their dissatisfaction, these categories can be broken into broader constructs such as economic disarray and the political turmoil occurring after the collapse. This post further explores factors associated with positive attitudes towards the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

In the 2019 wave of the Caucasus Barometer survey respondents were asked why they thought the collapse of the Union was a good or bad thing. About four-fifths of those who believe that the dissolution was a positive thing (41%) for Georgia did so, because the country earned its independence. Fewer respondents picked options related to ethnic identity such as better opportunities for sustaining language and culture (8%) or improved chances for a flourishing national culture (6%). Yet another broader category consisted of answer options related to civil liberties such as freedom of speech (7%), human rights (7%), freedom of doing business (3%), and access to consumer goods (1%).

Looking closer at the demographic characteristics of respondents, age and socio-economic status are good predictors of endorsement of the dissolution of the Soviet Union as a positive thing. Those with higher educational attainment are more likely to pick categories related to the country’s independence as an explanation for why the collapse was a positive event. Relative to those in Tbilisi, rural Georgians are less likely to name categories related to civil liberties.

Importantly, attitudes towards democracy and foreign policy preferences are associated with respondents’ endorsement of collapse of the Soviet Union. Respondents who think that democracy is preferable over other political systems are about seven times more likely to pick the identity category as a reason why the collapse was a positive event, controlling for other factors. They also are more likely to name national independence and liberties than other respondents. Respondents saying that Georgia is a democracy are fifteen times more likely to select categories related to identity, twice as likely to name independence, and ten times more likely to choose liberties as an explanation for their positive assessment of the collapse.

Those with pro-western attitudes have the highest probability of assessing the dissolution of the Soviet Union as a positive event. Such respondents are seven times more likely to identify categories related to national identity as a main reason behind their endorsement, almost four times more likely to choose independence, and about twelve times more likely to name liberties than those who are not pro-western.

Positive attitudes towards the dissolution of the Soviet Union are associated with socio-economic status and age. Those with higher educational attainment, more wealth, and younger people are more likely to evaluate the collapse positively. Similar to factors associated with nostalgia, positive assessment of the dissolution of the Soviet Union is highly correlated with feelings towards democracy and Western-leaning foreign policy preferences.

These blog posts have looked at factors associated with both positive and negative attitudes towards the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The data are consistent with the “winners and losers of transition” proposition as well as the political hypotheses explaining Soviet nostalgia. Those groups who would be expected to be losers of transition, such as less educated and poorer respondents are more nostalgic while respondents with higher socioeconomic status view the dissolution of the Soviet Union as a positive thing. As the political hypothesis of explaining nostalgia goes, Georgians with skeptical views on democracy are more likely to be nostalgic and vice versa. In short, both Georgian Ostalgie and anti-nostalgia reflect the long and winding road the country took through its post-Soviet transition.

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