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Russian Paranoia

Even people who are paranoid have real enemies and are being watched. Paranoia can be both personal, associated with individual fear, and social, caused by collective fears, easily transmitted within a social group. To have suspicion and concern is normal to a certain extent. When these fears are exaggerated and not based on any real basis, however, these notions are termed paranoia.

Russia's strategic culture has Soviet roots, although they manifest themselves in modernized forms. The first and main element is suspicion on the verge of paranoia about the capabilities and intentions of the West. It has deep roots. Nervousness about the place of Russia in the world was present a century before the Bolsheviks.

Xenophobia and paranoia are chronic diseases of the Russian ruling class, regardless of whether it is imperial-Romanovsky, imperial-Soviet, or post-Soviet. Some call for responding to Russian paranoia with a “therapeutic” approach based on the idea that the more satisfied Russia is, the better it will behave. A common theme, even among regular observers, is to try to appease Russia's paranoia, instead of opposing it. Russia is overwhelmed with paranoid fear that other countries can deceive it and use its resources cheaply. The 1990s are seen as a period when Russia was robbed, taking away the geopolitical legacy of the USSR, and the West plundered natural resources and impudently imposed reforms.

Some argued that pro-Western leaders worked in Russia at the highest political posts, to directly influence the country's foreign and domestic policies. In the past, Alexander Yakovlev, Eduard Shevardnadze and Mikhail Gorbachev were accused of these sins. Then it came to Andrei Kozyrev, Egor Gaidr and Anatoly Chubais, and later to Dmitry Medvedev, Arkady Dvorkovich and Alexei Kudrin. Strategic paranoia is focused especially on foreign intervention in the space of the former USSR. The “color” revolutions in Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Georgia have become an example of such intervention in the Kremlin. They immediately threw away the idea that the protesters could really be outraged by dishonest elections with corruption or economic backwardness, and saw in it only certain hands of the puppeteers. They see the help of international organizations not as altruism, but as “intervention”.

The paranoia thesis has often been used to explain Russian reaction to the West. Paranoid personality disorder is a mental health condition in which a person has a long-term pattern of distrust and suspicion of others, but does not have a full-blown psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia. Persons with paranoid personality disorder are very suspicious of other people. They often feel that they are in danger and look for evidence to support their suspicions. They have trouble seeing that their distrustfulness is out of proportion to their environment.

Kraepelin gave to paranoia its present (1967) precise formulation, reserving the term for cases of chronic highly systematized, incurable delusions but without general personality deterioration. Freud conceived of the principal paranoia defense as projection, that is, the rejection from consciousness of some intolerable accusation against oneself and the localization of it among other persons, known or unknown.

Most of the delusional states that were previously considered in the framework of Kraepelin's paranoia, they now confidently relate to delusional schizophrenia. However, psychiatrists working in large clinics have the opportunity, although very rarely, to observe patients with so few features typical of schizophrenia that they have to agree with the existence of a particular disease - paranoia.

This, even today, seems not merely to describe what is seen happening in persons who become paranoid, but to make their delusional misinterpretations intelligible. It places paranoid delusions close enough to the misinterpretations of every day life and to the ancient, universal practice of finding scapegoats to make it worthwhile to study and work with the paranoid human being, instead of merely labeling him.

Paranoiacs seem incapable of adapting their thinking to the consensus; they try rather to bend objective reality to accord with their delusional thinking. They are excessively concerned about what others think of them and that they show a progressive inability to validate or invalidate their suspicions or to correct their conclusions in personal matters. The paranoid patient frequently considers himself endowed with superior or unique abilities. The paranoid system is particularly isolated from much of the normal stream of consciousness. The American Psychiatric Association Committee on Nomenclature defined paranoid state, which is usually called paranoid reaction in the current literature, as characterized by delusions. It is likely to be of short duration although it may be persistent and chronic.

It may be beneficial to measure paranoia on a continuum, reflecting cultural, nonclinical, and clinical paranoia. It's not paranoia if they are out to get you. The term Cultural Paranoia was coined by Grier and Cobbs in 1968 in their development of a psychological health model for African Americans which covers defense reactions that Blacks use to bar against the negative effects of racism. More generally, culture-related anxiety and paranoia can be reinforced by socially normative practices and beliefs. There is increasing theoretical and empirical support for the notion that paranoid symptoms fall along a continuum of severity extending from mild, reality-based expressions of lack of trust, suspiciousness, and self-consciousness to the florid delusions found in schizophrenia. Moreover, cultural influences on paranoid thinking occur at the mild end of the continuum. Despite the fact that the Cold War has ended and the threat of nuclear annihilation has been dramatically lessened by most estimates, the paranoia that characterized the period has not gone away. Indeed, this paranoia has been internalized, scattered, and reiterated.

At various times, Russians were acutely fearful. But those fears, although at times extreme, were scarcely insane. Soviet Russian paranoia about Western intentions was not unwarranted. Russian paranoia was well-founded, being a well-developed and long-cultivated tradition in Russian public discourse. Russia’s ruling elites regard themselves and Russia as facing constant threat from within and without. A marriage of paranoia and truculent boastfulness is a tsarist and Soviet heritage of Russian politics and diplomacy, and contain more than a little imperial arrogance, particulary when things are going well for Moscow.

In Western countries and in Russia, the essence of trust and the role it plays in business are completely differently understood. Managers in the West initially trust everyone, because trust is understood as a prerequisite for the emergence of relationships. This is something that helps to establish contact. Leaders in Russia, as a rule, trust only a narrow circle of their college acquaintances and relatives, because for them trust is the ultimate goal of all relationships. Russians start from the highest level of distrust and in the course of communication they constantly test each other for strength, cultivating trust like a flower. Paranoia is the king's disease. Most of all, the leaders of organizations suffers from it. Among Russian leaders, paranoia occurs too often - it is very difficult for them to establish trusting relationships with all employees. Russians are terrible skeptics. First, they do not trust anything that's not been recorded on paper and signed. There is even a proverb that says: talk is cheap. It means that verbal agreements without a record in writing do not constitute a real obligation. Russians are often afraid of being cheated and are very careful. "That is why they want to double-check every little thing a dozen times. This can be very annoying. It does not matter that the opposition in the Russian society is in the super-minority, they nevertheless clearly frighten the Kremlin. The brutal suppression of two demonstrations in Moscow and St. Petersburg testifies to the nervousness prevailing in the corridors of the Russian authorities. However, the motley coalition led by former world chess champion Garry Kasparov can in no way pose a threat to the regime, which is being made more and more authoritarian by the efforts of Vladimir Putin, who intends to return Russia to its former glory.

All the TV channels and most of the other media are under the control of the Kremlin, so it’s not entirely clear how the performances of several thousand people, who are practically silenced in Russia, can be a threat to public order. Beating with batons and detention only leads to increased tension in society and spoil the image of Russia, which is gradually losing the credit of sympathy that it had in Europe.

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Page last modified: 07-02-2019 18:55:05 ZULU