I found an interesting article written by psychologist Henry P. David (1923-2009) and I thought I would share it. This report was fascinating and I wanted to know more about him after discovering some of his later work. In addition to this report, I found that his life story and academic work are worth a read. As a child, he escaped the Nazis and immigrated to the US. Over his distinguished career, Henry founded the Transnational Family Research Institute and studied on mental health and population issues in developing countries and in the Eastern Bloc. This quote sheds light on the Soviet psychological profession in the early 1970s as seen from Henry’s outsider perspective. More information about Henry David can be found on this page [A].
Today, more than 50 years after the October 1917 revolution, Soviet life reflects a mixture of ageless Russian culture, evolving Marxist ideology and the dynamics of modern technology. The most significant aspect of Soviet life is that it is planned, with central direction residing in the state. There is considerable pressure toward conformity, toward behaving in a socially and politically acceptable fashion. There is a relative de-emphasis of personal needs in favor of the primacy of the collective to which the individual is expected to yield.
From birth through nursery school and all the school grades and Communist Party youth organizations, the Soviet child is reared to function as a member of the collective. Personality development and behavior change are achieved through group rewards and punishments. Individual achievements are considered in terms of their value to the collective. Membership in a collective provides identification, a sense of personal well-being, and satisfaction of material and emotional needs. It serves to socialize the Soviet child and to strengthen early acceptance of the values of adult society.
The concept of the collective also dominates university life. Both undergraduate and graduate students are fully aware that they receive a very expensive state-subsidized education, plus cost-of-living stipends. There seems to be an understanding that this education is provided because the larger collective–the people of the Soviets–need the student’s talents and the resulting contribution he is expected to make. This is in concert with the Soviet attitude that every citizen, whether male or female, should contribute to society which, in turn, will meet his need for social security. One Soviet colleague put it this way, “I don’t have to save for a rainy day. I know I will always have a job or a pension. Medical care is free and our children will be educated without any cost to us”.