Russian and Indian millennials: Born in the same era, but so different!

Russian Millennials are supporters of market capitalism with a limited share of state and sympathize modern, post-industrial, diversified economy

Representative image
Representative image

Ashish Kumar Singh & Dmitry Kochegurov

Millennials, that is the people born from 1981 to 1996, are important factor in daily life of modern society and now play a leading role in the global economy and politics, replacing the boomers. It is interesting to find out important similarities and differences between the Indian and Russian societies as the two countries and societies are not only geographically very different, their cultures and social values too reflect vast differences.

The increased role of Millennials has been emphasized in numerous books and articles in recent years. Regular research of Russian and Indian youth’s position on current global trends and issues is carried out by the consulting company Deloitte.

The starting point of discussions about Russian Millennials (RM) and Indian Millennials (IM) are some common features that bring them closer. They are the first global generation and the first generation that grew up in the Internet age. Another joint phenomenon is their relation to work and lifestyle. They are hardworking, but want to find a work-life balance. They want not only to earn money, but also to fulfill and self-realise themselves.

Studies show that Millennials were about 50% of the workforce and by 2025 this number is expected to reach about 75% in India. Generation Y cannot be categorized as a homogenous group across the globe. The influencing factors in each country and culture differ hugely.

Given the population size, the generation Y is going to be a major factor in determining the impact of human capital in the growing knowledge economy. Irrespective of their place of work they will share some common traits as their place of origin will be the same. India is already facing employability challenge, however, there is abundance of talent. The Factor that has affected this generation most intensely was the opening up the market post liberalisation in 1990s, which was followed by the entry of numerous Multi-Nationals Corporations (MNCs) and BPOs.

The rapid westernisation of values and homogenisation of culture came together with information technology boom. However, given India’s geographical disperse socially different population, this growth was felt by only a small percentage of the population. A big chunk of population still resides in villages and Tier I and II cities of India with a relatively low income and is not able to afford good quality education.

In the post-1990s India, people are more vocal about their demands for accountable government, empowerment of women, better and affordable education for all and for developing employable skills with education. Indian Millennials are the main breadwinners of their families, unlike other countries. The median age in the country is 28.4 years, making India one of the youngest nations in the world, especially compared with the ageing populations and workforce in the US, China, Germany and Japan. The share of wallet of IM is increasing, which will make them major contributors in the country’s economic growth.

Vivan Marwaha researched on the economic aspirations, social views and political attitudes of IM in small towns and cities of north and south India during April-May 2019. As per the research, despite high unemployment rate between Modi’s first term as the prime minister, nearly 40% of 18-35 years old voters opted to bring him back to power in 2019. What it shows about IM is that they want leaders who speak, pray and look like them. It was unlike previous leaders of the government, several of whom were western educated technocrats, who preferred to speak in English largely overlooking vernacular mass, Vivan Marwaha adds.

English has always been seen as the language of elites, and middle-class Indians turned towards it for upward social mobility. Furthermore, IM want promises of stability and security from their politicians, which Modi managed to convey through his speeches. To the Hindu majority population, BJP in power is a form of assurance promising them public goods. IM see and understand different socio-political issues concerning them, however, due to the current nature of Indian politics, they are not inclined to take part in it directly. They are active on social media and are helping out for the cause they believe in, but we don’t see a clear demarcation of left-right politics among IM. It is more about which leader looks more promising, and who can deliver.

It is important that we take into account the significance of jointly experienced events for the formation of RM and IM. If we turn to Russian Millennials (RM), they entered adulthood during the turbulent 1990s and the most prosperous period of the 2000s. The fact cannot be overlooked that it was the period of historical reforms and transition from the Soviet communist totalitarian regime with plan-based, state-controlled economy to the model of capitalist, liberal-democratic, federal, law-based state. It can be assumed that the time of social cataclysms forced RM to become more independent, decisive and purposeful than American (Western).

At the same time, it seems that RM are absolutely typical first 'Russian Europeans', but still special Europeans, due to the fact that their collective identity is still influenced by the (old) Western world of the previous century.

That is why RM are not similar with modern American (Western) left-liberal, progressive, social Millennials and combine conservative values with classical liberal stance on politics and economy. RM are supporters of market capitalism with a limited share of state and sympathise with modern, post-industrial, diversified economy. RM prefer low taxes for the rich and middle class and restriction of social programmes for poor and illegal immigrants. However, in general, RM have nothing against state participation in strategically important sectors of industry if there is clear understanding between the state, business and society.

We can’t say that RM are nihilists devoid of their own views. RM are much more right-wing (conservative, classical) liberals, by necessity not standing apart from some elements of nationalism. RM insist on the rights and freedoms as primal value and support a strong state – guarantee of natural rights. RM believe in existence of universal, fundamental and inalienable rights.

RM combine faith in progress and positivist science with respect to traditional values such as family and church. Compared to conservatives, RM are more willing to support the demolition of quite orthodox traditions and prejudices, but compared to left-liberals they are more religious and that is why are not fond of free love and same-sex marriage.

RM are not followers of multiculturalism and favor strict control of illegal migration. RM are skeptical about tolerance to sexual and ethnic minorities in its modern interpretation and are not in favor of creating artificial advantages for minorities. For RM, privileges and discrimination are equally unacceptable. The ideal model of society is an 'apartment building' where you need to follow the rules, but in general «nobody truly cares about anyone».RM respect strong political leaders and support parties of 'Law & Order', such as 'United Russia', and that is why advocate a more active struggle against crime, support more serious punishments for criminals, pay special attention to the fight against terrorism.

As for foreign policy, RM believe in president Vladimir Putin and support his vision of Russia’s status in international arena. But it is also true that even if they support Russia’s great-power aspirations and display a high level of patriotism, their preference goes to domestic issues over foreign policy ones.

Millennials are at the forefront of modern life. We see that patterns of change are different. In some cases, like use of digital technologies, millennials contribute to acceleration of existing trends whereas in other cases, like multiculturalism, they provide a break in these trends.

If we formulate the future historical role of RM in politics, they will unlikely try to change configuration of modern society, because the image of the future different from the previous thirty years of modern Russia has not been formed at all. As for IM we don’t see a clear demarcation of left-right politics among them. It is more about which leader looks more promising, and who can deliver. When compared to RM, IM are more polarized drifting towards conservative specter.

(Ashish is a doctoral candidate of political science at the NRU-HSE, Moscow, Russia. Dmitry Kochegurov, PhD, is a Research Fellow at the Institute for the US and Canadian Studies (ISKRAN), Moscow, Russia)

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