Generation, Age, and Time: The Dynamics of Political Learning during Russia's Transformation


  • This is a revised version of a manuscript first presented at the European Consortium for Political Research General Conference, September 8–10, 2005, Budapest, Hungary. The research was supported in part by a British Economic and Social Research grant on ‘Diverging Paths of Post Communist Regimes’ (RES000-23-0193). We appreciate the data management assistance of Neil Munro and the critical comments and suggestions of Harold Clarke, Steven Finkel, Bradford Jones, Orsolya Lazar, Marianne Stewart, the participants in the ECPR workshop, and the several anonymous reviewers for this journal.

William Mishler is professor of political science, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721 ( Richard Rose is professor of politics, Centre for the Study of Public Policy, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland AB24 3QY (


When the Soviet Union collapsed, most Russians had lived their entire lives in a quintessentially authoritarian culture. Having been socialized in this environment, how could citizens acquire the attitudes and behaviors necessary to support a new, more pluralistic regime? Cultural theories of political learning emphasize the primacy of childhood socialization and hold that altering initial attitudes is a decades-long process that depends on generational replacement. Institutional theories emphasize adult relearning in response to changing circumstances regardless of socialization. Lifetime learning integrates the competing perspectives. Multilevel models using New Russia Barometer data from 1992 to 2005 confirm the persistence of some generational differences in Russian political attitudes but demonstrate even larger effects resulting from adult relearning. Lifetime learning provides the most comprehensive account and suggests that Russians would quickly acquire the attitudes and behaviors appropriate to democracy—if Russian elites supply more authentic democratic institutions.