Biopolitics and the Challenges of Russian Society

Valerij Gryshin
Head of the Information Department
Council of Ministers

I would like to thank the organizers of this Symposium for the opportunity to present the concept of Russia’s participation in international programs concerning the realization of Biopolitics.

Biopolitics, indisputably of paramount importance, is currently being pursued by countries with democratic political systems and dynamic economic potential. However, these concerns are not a priority in the Soviet Union since this country is experiencing an extremely deep economic and political crisis.

In the course of several decades, the people of the Soviet Union have been preoccupied with the question of why this large country, with vast natural potential for economic development, acclaimed scientific advances, and a well-developed culture, had such a low standard of living. It was already clear at the time that the totalitarian system was the main encumbrance.

An efficient development of society could only be attained through the following methods:

  • integration into the world community;
  • application of all the top-level scientific achievements as well as practical activities;
  • removal of internal inhibitions; and
  • abandonment of ideological stereotypes in politics.

The realization of these goals required that the economic and political system be disintegrated. It is pertinent to note that the confrontation between the Soviet Union and the leading industrial states of the West has lasted for seven decades.

The state made significant progress in developing the military industrial complex, but at what costs? The enormous economic potential of this country was exploited for maintaining the military strategic parity. For example, over seventy per cent of the total number of activities based in the USSR were involved to some extent in different types of defense projects. Natural resources were squandered, every available facility was used, and the efforts of the underdeveloped construction industry were focused on constructing military testing facilities. The industrial plants, instead of manufacturing consumer goods, were used for military production. Hence, the needs of this military monster were satisfied by the colossal industrial machinery, including fuel energy, raw material production and the chemical industry. An industrial system focused on the production of weapons was created.

This extremely inefficient economic system was built upon the principle of alienating the people from the results of their activities. Such a system inevitably resulted in an economic retardation and, in the last few years, in a complete standstill in the field of economy.

The totalitarian communist ideology, a tool for inculcating the people with hegemony-complex stereotypes, homogenized and even obliterated the unique national cultures of the peoples of the USSR. The results cultivated the image of a non-existent, monolithic and indomitable unification of people and culture. In order to further such attempts, ancient temples, cultural and architectural masterpieces were destroyed.

A way out of the situation was sought and was provided by the proclaimed perestroika policy. These political developments initiated an evolution of the pre-existent political system. Beginning in 1988, the policies gradually acquired a revolutionary and, in the aftermath of the August 1991 coup, an irreversible, democratic character.

As witnessed by the situation in the country, the transition from the totalitarian societal system to a more democratic one cannot be realized by moderate, `painless’ methods. Breaking down the traditional state establishment, changing the ownership relations and further expanding political pluralism in society resulted in an accelerated development of new power structures and market economy elements. This was naturally followed by an enlargement of the spectrum of political parties and social movements. In the background of all these changes, secessionist forces are unleashed thereby increasing ethnic unrest and social tensions.

In the course of seven decades, the communist totalitarian establishment provided the people with a standardized minimum of goods and social services. Several generations of Soviet people were raised in these conditions. Thus an insensitivity to minor changes in the socio-economic situation developed and gave rise to the social egalitarianism complex: inertia and selfish dependence on others. The people became accustomed to believing that the state and society were responsible for their personal fate. Cumulatively, all these points proved a serious obstacle to carrying out economic reforms.

Consider the following: perestroika almost completely wiped out the myth of non-existing alternatives to a state-adopted ideology. People became convinced of the benefits of a market economy, as well as of the necessity to accelerate its development in this country. However, the very first steps have demonstrated that the market system is not able to provide for the welfare of all citizens, nor should it be considered the duty of an incipient market economy.

The developments taking place in this painful and dangerous period have led to increasing national, ethnic and social unrest; insufficient discipline in work and social activities; and a decline in the ecological situation. The network of relations developed in the course of many years is being destroyed. The living standards of the people are declining, and social differentiation is increasing. Realizing this fact results in the loss of social and psychological stability. This is happening while the consumer goods market, limited as it has been, is being completely eliminated. People are losing their feeling of personal security. The only way of improving the critical situation is to accelerate the realization of the whole complex of political and market economy-oriented reforms. This country is already going this way and will hardly abandon its track.

The transformation of the military industrial complex for its use in alternative ways is also a top priority problem. These undertakings have accumulated a vast scientific and technological potential which can be successfully exploited for the production of consumer goods, satisfying the vital needs of the population. These facilities can now be used to produce equipment for the agricultural and raw material processing industry, as well as devices for medical or domestic use. Of special promise is the option to convert military undertakings into joint ventures involving foreign companies. It involves joint modernization of the medical and biological industries and the development of ecologically clean, energetically economical, and waste-free production processes.

Apart from this, the realization of full-scale market-oriented reforms is accompanied by the promotion of cooperation with other countries. The scope of this cooperation is extremely wide. Efficient facilities for monitoring the ecological situation will be designed and implemented. Joint medical and biological programs will be launched and the top-level developments of foreign ergonomics will be applied in organizing the processes of production and creativity. Joint programs on social adaptation and help to the disabled will also be initiated.

At present, accelerated development is characteristic of the enterprises in the field of alternative economy. A great number of joint ventures, stock markets, commercial banks, consortia and cooperatives have come into being as well as a variety of other activities.

I would like to thank the organizers of this representative meeting for their kind invitation. On behalf of Russia, I am inviting you to actively participate in the joint efforts for the realization of programs within the field of Biopolitics.



Since the formation of the Russian Federation, Valerij Gryshin has been one of the closest persons to the President B. Yeltzin, heading the information department of the Council of Ministers of Russia.