Psychologist Stefan Popov: USSR cannot be restored in same way


The Soviet Union cannot be re-established, at least not in the same way, because it was based on psychological concepts that robbed man of individuality and autonomy, believes psychologist Stefan Popov, president of the Psychology Research Center.

“I believe that the USSR as an idea, as an ideology is a thing of the past,” Stefan Popov told an IPN debate dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the dissolution of the “unbreakable Union”.

“Although throughout history man has always dreamt of creating Uberman, like the one created by Marx or Nietzsche in their ideologies, (...) the experiment called the USSR showed that this is not possible (...) Homo sovieticus, the proletarian man superior to the others, is in conflict with human nature. I don’t think it is possible to restore the USSR, at least not by the same method, by the same way”, said the psychologist.

According to Popov, it is very important to understand how man was perceived in Soviet psychology: “Man was perceived as a simple tool that mirrors society. He has no personality, no individuality. Feelings, emotions, beliefs do not stem from the inside, but from the outside. (...) This creates a huge internal conflict.”

At the same time – continues Stefan Popov – Soviet psychologists believed that human suffering and all internal conflicts stem from the class struggle, which if eliminated, rids man of suffering. “But, in fact, all we had was a very strong repression of inner impulses.”

When Gorbachev initiated his reforms, in particular Glasnost, a rift was created that allowed social and psychological consciousness to come out. “This small crack was enough to cause an explosion of what had been repressed,” says Stefan Popov.

According to him, psychological factors also influenced the Soviet economy. Stefan Popov quoted the Marxist politician and economist Nikolai Bukharin, according to whom intellectuals had to be standardized. Thus, the psychologist noted, the lack of spontaneity, creativity and innovation, among other things, stymied economic growth.

Speaking of nostalgia for the USSR, Popov compared this to a child who runs away from home and after enjoying freedom, returns to his mother to enjoy “a minimum of social protection” instead.

“There is a variable in psychology called the locus of control, which can be internal or external. It measures the degree to which a person is responsible for his or her own life. People with an internal locus of control have initiative, are ambitious, are active and fully enjoy their own freedom, and they actively seek this freedom. On the other hand, there are people with an external locus of control, whose lives are largely determined by external circumstances and who have less ability to take control of their lives and their economic standing”, explained Popov, adding:

“In Western societies, people have a more developed internal locus of control than in other cultures. And citizens with an external locus of control are more prone to this nostalgia, because it is difficult for them to cope in a market economy, in a capitalist culture, where you have to be responsible for your own life. Because in a socialist culture you don’t have to worry, as everything is planned from somewhere above”, the psychologist concluded.

The debate titled “Thirty years without the USSR: why did it disappear, why is it still alive?” is the 216th edition of the “Developing Political Culture” Series, a project implemented by IPN with the support of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.