Transformations of the Social Structure of Russian Society in Late 1980s – Late 2010s

Transformations of the Social Structure of Russian Society in Late 1980s – Late 2010s

Tikhonova N.Ye.

Dr. Sci. (Sociol.), Leading Researcher, Institute of Sociology of FCTAS RAS, Russia, Moscow

ID of the Article:

For citation:

Tikhonova N.Ye. Transformations of the Social Structure of Russian Society in Late 1980s – Late 2010s. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. 2021. No 8. P. 22-32


The article describes specifics of the social structure of Soviet society, three stages of its transformation in the late 1980s – late 2010s, and stratification models of modern Russian society. It is shown that the key foundations of the social differentiation in late Soviet society (merging of power and property, role of non-monetary privileges, etc.) retained their significance throughout this period, although in the 1990s the effect of access to the ‘deficit’ has disappeared, and since the end of the 2000s importance of higher education has also started to decline. Moreover, the role of such factors of social differentiation as accumulated wealth, current income, employment stability and the resource of social networks has sharply increased in the 1990s, and the role of attributes of precariousness in employment and the social origin has increased in the 2000s. It is shown that the social structure of Russian society currently consists of four main macro-groups: the “top” of society where most power and property is concentrated (top 5%), and three opposing strata of the mass population. Among the latter – a stratum privileged against the background of other Russians, accounting for slightly less than 20% of population; the median stratum, which includes about half of the total population and sets the typical standard of life for modern Russia; the lower stratum, uniting about a quarter of population, whose lives are dominated by the deprivations and risks that are atypical for average Russian. In the determination of the place in the stratification hierarchy in the first two of these macro-groups, the volume and type of resources that determine the position in various markets (including labor market) play a decisive role, which allows us to view them as a basis for the formation of the upper and middle classes. However, the inequalities of the non-class type (age, health, family composition, etc.) play a decisive role in falling into the median or lower strata.

social structure; social stratification; strata; social inequalities


Anikin V.A. (2018) Social Stratification Based on Life Chances: Operationalization for Mass Surveys. Monitoring obshchestvennogo mneniya: ekonomicheskiye i sotsial'nye peremeny [Monitoring of Public Opinion: Economic and Social Changes]. No. 4: 39–67. DOI: 10.14515/monitoring.2018.4.03. (In Russ.)

Credit Suisse. (2018) Global Wealth Databook 2018. Credit Suisse group AG. Switzerland.

Karavay A.V. (2019) Basic Models of Socio-economic Adaptation in Different Strata of Russian Society. Terra Economicus. Vol. 17. No. 3: 128–145. DOI: 10.23683/2073-6606-2019-17-3-128-145. (In Russ.)

Karavay A.V. (2020) Factors of Inequality of Russians’ Life Chances (Empirical Analysis). Sociologicheskaja Nauka i Social’naja Praktika [Sociological Science and Social Practice]. Vol. 8. No. 1: 63–78. DOI: 10.19181/snsp.2020.8.1.7095. (In Russ.)

Lezhnina Y. (2019) The Risks and Capabilities of Russians as a Base for Social Dynamics. Zhurnal issledovaniy sotsialnoy politiki [The Journal of Social Policy Studies]. Vol. 17. No. 2: 207–222. DOI: 10.17323/727-0634-2019-17-2-207-222. (In Russ.)

Lukyanova A.L. (2010) Returns to Education in Russia: Evidence from Meta-Analysis. Ekonomicheskiy zhurnal Vysshey shkoly ekonomiki [HSE Economic Journal]. Vol. 14. No. 3: 326–348. (In Russ.)

Mareeva S.V. (2019) Inequality of Life Chances in Work-Life Balance of Russians. Monitoring obshchestvennogo mneniya: ekonomicheskiye i sotsial'nye peremeny [Monitoring of Public Opinion: Economic and Social Changes]. No. 3: 324–344. DOI: 10.14515/monitoring.2019.3.18. (In Russ.)

Naumova F.M. (1990) Transition Period: World Experience and Our Problems. Kommunist [Communist]. No. 8: 3–14. (In Russ.)

Novokmet F., Piketty T., Zucman G. From Soviets to Oligarchs: Inequality and Property in Russia, 1905–2016. National Bureau of Economic Research. Working Paper 201709. DOI: 10.3386/w23712.

Radaev V.V., Shkaratan O.I. (1996) Social Stratification. Moscow: Aspect Press. (In Russ.)

Shkaratan O.I. (2012) Sociology of Inequality: Theory and Reality. Moscow: VShE. (In Russ.)

Slobodenyk S. (2019) Stratification of the Russian Society by Life Chances and Risks: The Dynamics of the Structure and Mobility of Russians. Vestnik obshchestvennogo mneniya. Dannyye. Analiz. Diskussii [The Russian Public Opinion Herald. Data. Analysis. Discussions]. No. 3–4(129): 57–68. (In Russ.)

Starikov Ye.N. (1990) Does the Emergence of a Middle Class “Threaten” Us? Znamya [Banner]. No. 10: 192–196. (In Russ.)

Tikhonova N.E. (1999) Factors of Social Stratification in the Context of Transition to a Market Economy. Moscow: ROSSPEN. (In Russ.)

Tikhonova N.E. (ed.) (2018) Income Stratification Model of Russian Society: Dynamics, Factors, Crosscountry Comparisons. Мoscow: Nestor-Istoriya. (In Russ.)

Tikhonova N.E. (2021) Intergenerational Reproduction of Professional Statuses and Class in Modern Russian Society. Voprosy teoreticheskoy ekonomiki [Theoretical Economics]. No. 2: 61–78. DOI: 10.52342/2587-7666VTE_2021_2_61_78. (In Russ.)

Tikhonova N.E. (2018) Stratification by Life Chances of Mass Strata in Modern Russian Society. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. No. 6: 53–65. DOI: 10.7868/ S0132162518060053. (In Russ.)

Tikhonova N.E. (2014) The Social Structure of Russia: Theories and Reality. Moscow: Novyi khronograf; IS RAN. (In Russ.)

Tikhоnova N. (2020) The Worldviews and Identities of the Mass Strata of Modern Russian Society. Mir Rossii [Universe of Russia]. Vol. 29. No 1: 6–30. DOI: 10.17323/1811-038X-2020-29-1-6-30. (In Russ.)

Tikhonova N.E., Karavay A.V. (2018) Dynamics of Some Indicators of Russians’ General Human Capital in 2010–2015. Sotsiologicheskiye issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. No. 5: 84–98. DOI: 10.7868/ S0132162518050082. (In Russ.)

Tikhonova N.E., Karavay A.V. (2017) The Impact of the 2014–2016 Economic Crisis on the Employment of Russian. Monitoring obshchestvennogo mneniya: ekonomicheskiye i sotsial'nye peremeny [Monitoring of Public Opinion: Economic and Social Changes]. No. 2: 1–17. DOI: 10.14515/ monitoring.2017.2.01. (In Russ.)

Toshchenko Zh.T. (2018) Precariat: From Protoclass to a New Class. Moscow: Nauka.

USSR in Figures in 1989. (1990) Moscow: Finansy i statistika. (In Russ.)

Weber M. (1978) Economy and Society. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Zaslavskaya T.I. (1996) Transformation of the Social Structure of Russian Society. In: Where is Russia Heading? Social Transformation of the post-Soviet Space. Iss. 3. Moscow: Aspect Press: 11–21. Received: 24.03.21. Final version: 10.05.21. Accepted: 15.05.2

Content No 8, 2021