Skip to content

Russian Military and Foreign Policy Veteran on Russian Cultural Revival

Under the title “A Massive Transformation Is Taking Place in Russia, and the West Is Blind to It,” a veteran Russian military and policy leader reports that all Russians, including those not directly engaged in the war, are experiencing a dramatic cultural change. “The central focus of post-Soviet Russia—money—has not been eliminated, of course, but has certainly lost its unquestionable dominance.... Non-material values are coming back,” writes Dmitri Trenin, a member of Russia’s Foreign and Defense Policy Council, former Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, and retired colonel of Russian military intelligence. Trenin served for 21 years in the Soviet Army and Russian Ground Forces, before joining Carnegie in 1994.

“Patriotism, reviled and derided in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse, is re-emerging in force.... Russian popular culture is shedding—slowly, perhaps, but steadily—the habit of imitating what’s hot in the West. Instead, the traditions of Russian literature, including poetry, film, music are being revived and developed. A spike in domestic tourism has opened to ordinary Russians the treasures of their own country—until recently neglected, as a thirst for travel abroad was quenched.”

“Nearly two-thirds of young men who left Russia in 2022 for fear of being mobilized have returned, some of them quite embittered by their experience abroad,” he adds.

“Those who stayed in Russia know that yachts in the Mediterranean, villas on the Côte d’Azur, and mansions in London are no longer available to them, or at least no longer safe to keep. Within Russia, a new model of a mid-level businessperson is emerging: one who combines money with social engagement (not the ESG model), and who builds his/her future inside the country….

“Russian attitudes to the West are also complex,” he writes. “There is appreciation of Western classical and modern (but not so much post-modern) culture, the arts and technology, and of living standards to an extent. Recently, the previously unadulterated positive image of the West as a society has been spoiled by the aggressive promotion of LGBTQ values, of cancel culture, and the like. What has also changed is the view of Western policies, politics and especially politicians, which have lost the respect most Russians once had for them.”