For the health of the nation: comparing healthy lifestyle promotion strategies in Russia
The negative demographic trends that accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union and continue to create uncertainty about Russia’s future have pushed the Russian state towards more direct involvement in the promotion of healthy lifestyle practices with the aim of increasing the population’s longevity and well-being. These efforts have intensified over the past decade as the state has begun to more actively intervene into the bodily habits of Russian citizens on many other fronts, including reproductive behavior and sexual orientation, in order to craft the “ideal” Russian subject and establish the boundaries of “normal” Russian behavior. Meanwhile, other actors throughout society, motivated by their own ideas about what constitutes proper conduct, have been developing alternative strategies to encourage Russians to pursue healthy lifestyles. This thesis examines the content of the official healthy lifestyle promotion strategy, deconstructing how it envisions the ideal Russian body and frames the necessity of leading a healthy lifestyle. It also analyzes some of the strategies that contest the official one, with the aim of finding out which aspects are contested and how, as well as discerning the common discursive threads that run through all of the strategies. The study draws on a broad base of materials, from official policy documents to social media communities, and seeks to understand how various actors throughout Russian society attempt to transform the bodily conduct of their fellow citizens. In doing so, it relies heavily on the insights of Michel Foucault and others about power, biopolitics, discipline, and resistance, which allow for a nuanced understanding of how official discourses about the body and the nation in Russia are contested and how they are reproduced. The analysis revealed the prevalence of several themes across all of the strategies, including the ruinous impact of non-Russian values, the corrupting effects of capitalism and consumerism, the hostility of the outside world towards Russia, the glory of Russia’s past, and the importance of maintaining traditional gender roles.
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