CESSI — Institute for comparative social research
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A study of the socio-economic transitions in Russia

The RUSSET Panel (Russian socio-economic transition panel) is a representative longitudinal study of Russian households. It provides information on among others household composition, satisfaction, employment, earnings, health and political participation. The Panel was started in 1993 and was stopped in 1999. During this period, after the collapse of the Sovjet Union, many changes have taken place. This makes Russia an ideal place to study social, political, and economical change. Russia is so to say a social experiment which makes social change studies possible that otherwise would take decades of research.

Background of the study

In 1990 the Russian sociologist Prof. Dr. Vladimir Andreenkov suggested in a discussion with Prof. Dr. Willem Saris that Russia, one of the largest and potentially most powerful countries of the world, could be seen as a social science laboratory because the changes in Russia happened so rapidly. Shifts in public behaviour and public consciousness usually happen under influence of significant changes in social, economic and political environment, but such changes are normally going very slowly. Therefore the social scientists are limited in their studies of change by the long duration of social processes. The current time Russia is unique in the sense that all processes happen with much higher speed due to the fast transformations in the economic and political system of the country. People's lives are moving in front of us with the speed of movie-like shots. In this situation researchers get a chance to study events and processes in a period of years where otherwise one needs to observe for decades.

When in 1992 the Dutch Organisation for scientific research (NWO) offered the possibility for research in Russia in co-operation with Russian researchers, Willem Saris made a proposal for a panel study. The main idea of this panel was to look at the socio-economic transitions in Russia in the aftermath of the fall of communism, and the consequences of these transitions with respect to changes in people's satisfaction with life in general and specific domains of life in particular. Because the purpose of the study was the evaluation of socio-economic transitions, we have called the panel the Russian Socio- Economic Transition panel or RUSSET panel. A subsidy for this study has been obtained from the Dutch Organisation for scientific research (NWO) for a period of 7 years (from 1993 till 1999).