Archives for posts with tag: epic post

(update 11/07/15: added a map and some comments to the third section below.)

if you’re a wise person who doesn’t fritter away their time on twitter, then you will have missed the short discussion the week before last about communism and east germany which was prompted by this tweet…

as in the convos regarding russia and eastern europe in general which i mentioned in my last post, many tweeps attributed the very high rates of non-religious people in eastern germany versus western to that region’s years under communism. it was, in fact, this debate about east germany which reminded me that i had intended to post about the case of russia and civicness and corruption, etc. (which i then did!), but i wanted to address the matter of eastern germany in a separate post since there are several interesting nuances related to the question of europe’s east-west divide to be uncovered here which are particular to germany/central europe. (or at least i think they’re interesting!). so, here we go…eastern germany, medieval manorialism, and (yes) the hajnal line…

again, just as in the case of russia, in order to try to settle the debate about whether or not communism left any long-lasting effects on the behavioral patterns (and beliefs, in this case) of east germans, i think we should start by asking if there were any similar such differences between east and west germans before the gdr existed. if yes, then i’d say we could pretty quickly rule out the communist state as having been much of an influencing force. at the very least, that premise would start to look pretty shaky. another approach might be to check the actual history: did the powers that be of the gdr actually suppress religious belief during the forty or so years of its existence? let’s look at the latter question first.

the consensus among historians (as much as such a thing can ever exist) appears to be, no — for most of time that the gdr was in existence, the communist authorities were fairly tolerant of christianity under a system known as “church in socialism” (“kirche im sozialismus”). here from Eastern Germany: the most godless place on Earth by peter thompson:

“Different reasons are adduced for the absence of religion in the east. The first one that is usually brought out is the fact that that area was run by the Communist party from 1945 to 1990 and that its explicit hostility to religion meant that it was largely stamped out. However, this is not entirely the case. In fact, after initial hostilities in the first years of the GDR, the SED came to a relatively comfortable accommodation with what was called the Church in Socialism. The churches in the GDR were given a high degree of autonomy by SED standards and indeed became the organisational focus of the dissident movement of the 1990s, which was to some extent led by Protestant pastors.”

while it’s true that religious education was banned in schools, theology faculties remained open at the major universities — although spies were deployed into those departments (like everywhere else, i suppose). but, also…

“…the Protestant Youth Committees, with their open-minded and different approach, attracted large numbers of young people from outside the church as well as from within it. The ‘Open Youth Work’ carried on by some pastors was an especially powerful draw for disaffected youths.” [pg. 51]


“Throughout its existence, there was a continuity in the basic policy of the GDR *Kirchenbund* towards the GDR authorities, summed up by the phrase ‘church within socialism’, avoiding the extremes of total assimilation or outright resistance to the policies of the SED [socialist unity party of germany]. The policy was only possible, however, because the GDR authorities themselves were prepared to tolerate the existence of a church which was not fully integrated into the SED dominated system of ‘democratic centralism’…. This created a space for the development of a limited ‘civil society’ and the growth of political disaffection….” [pg. 100]


“[I]n the early years of the GDR the state had made moves to diminish the importance of church festivals by turning days such as Christmas Day and Good Friday into ordinary work days. This meant that only Christians who were prepared to declare their faith in public by asking for special permission for leave could take time off to go to church. The Christmas holidays were turned into ‘New Year holidays’, but more fanciful attempts to blot out Christmas by calling Christmas trees ‘end of year trees’ and the Christ Child the ‘Solidarity Child’ seem to have fallen by the wayside.

“At their midnight services on Christmas Eve, churches were always full. Werner Krusche says he will never forget the cathedral in Magdeburg overflowing, with around 5,000 people coming to the different services, despite the icy cold. Many among them were not even members of the church. ‘Why did they come?’, he asks. ‘Perhaps they themselves didn’t exactly know. Enough that they were there and joined the celebration.'” [pg. 74]

so although the state did exercise a lot of control over the churches in east germany, it didn’t impact much on the religiosity of the populace — at least not according to the historians.

here, however, is more from thompson [my emphasis]:

“Another factor is that religion in eastern Germany is also overwhelmingly Protestant, both historically and in contemporary terms. Of the 25% who do identify themselves as religious, 21% of them are Protestants. The other 4% is made up of a small number of Catholics as well as Muslims and adherents of other new evangelical groups, new-age sects or alternative religions. The Protestant church is in steep decline with twice as many people leaving it every year as joining.”

this brings us back to the first of my questions: were there any similar such differences between east and west germans before the gdr existed? and the answer is: yes, indeed. and precisely in the department of religion! jayman’s also previously pointed out that in the 1920s and 30s (north-)eastern germans voted quite differently than (south-)western germans. now we also have a religious divide — one that goes right back to at least the 1600s. here’s a map of the religious divisions in germany in 1610 (taken from here) on which i’ve attempted (*ahem*) to draw the borders of east germany [click on map to see a LARGER view]:

germany_religious_1610 + east germany border 02

as you can see, in 1610 the vast majority of the population in the area that would centuries later become east germany was protestant (either lutheran or calvinist), and in general protestantism was more prevalent in the northern part of what is today germany than in the south. again, this is very much in accordance with what jayman blogged: that there’s a north-south as well as an east-west divide in germany.

edit (11/07):

following a suggestion by margulon who commented

“One problem with your argument is that whether the reformation took long-term roots in a particular territory was not only decided by the local population within any territory of the Holy Roman Empire, but by the principle ‘cuius regio, eius religio.’ In other words, it was mainly the ruling princely family – members of a supra-regional elite – that decided about the religion in their respective territories according to their respective preferences. This also led to population exchanges of holdouts refusing to convert. I would therefore hesitate to draw conclusions from the predominant religion after 1648 or so.”

…here’s a map of the state of the reformation in germany from earlier in the period — 1560 — with the gdr outlined (roughly!) by me [map source — click on map for LARGER view]:

Confessional Divisions 1560 + east germany

even as early as 1560, then, the region that would become east germany was almost entirely populated by protestants — mostly lutherans, but also some anabaptists. there doesn’t appear to be much of a calvinist population at this point, for whatever reason, unlike by 1610 (the map above). and again, on the whole, the northern parts of what would become germany had greater numbers of protestants than southern germany. the website from which i sourced this map, german history documents and images, says much the same:

“The map shows where the Reformation had been introduced by 1560. The most important areas lay in the Empire’s northern and central zones: Lutheranism in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg, Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Hesse, Saxony, and (though outside the Empire’s boundary) Prussia. In the south, Lutheranism was established in Württemberg, parts of Franconia, and numerous Imperial cities. After c. 1580, the Catholic Church experienced a massive revival, which halted the advance of Protestantism and even allowed the old faith to recover some episcopal territories and most of the Austrian lands and the kingdom of Bohemia. Catholicism remained predominant in the western and southwestern portions of the Empire, including most of Alsace and all of Lorraine, as well as Bavaria. The third, Reformed confession spread via Geneva to France, the Netherlands, and some of the German lands. The outcome was a religious geography which survived both the demographic shifts caused by both the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) and the Second World War.”

end edit.

the root cause behind these regional differences is not, i don’t think, simply religious or political or some other set of cultural practices, but rather lies in the recent evolutionary histories of these subgroups. as i said in my last post:

“the circa eleven to twelve hundred years since the major restructuring of society that occurred in ‘core’ europe in the early medieval period — i.e. the beginnings of manorialism, the start of consistent and sustained outbreeding (i.e. the avoidance of close cousin marriage), and the appearance of voluntary associations — is ample time for northwestern europeans to have gone down a unique evolutionary pathway and to acquire behavioral traits quite different from those of other europeans — including eastern europeans — who did not go down the same pathway (but who would’ve gone down their *own* evolutionary pathways, btw).

“what i think happened was that the newly created socioeconomic structures and cultural (in this case largely religious) practices of the early medieval period in northwest ‘core’ europe introduced a whole new set of selective pressures on northwest europeans compared to those which had existed previously. rather than a suite of traits connected to familial or nepostic altruism (or clannishness) being selected for, the new society selected for traits more connected to reciprocal altruism.

the “core” of “core” europe was the frankish kingdom of austrasia (from whence the pepinids or carolingians hailed), and this is both where the (bipartite) manor system originated in the 500s and where the avoidance of close cousin marriage (outbreeding) became de rigueur in the 800s. here’s a map indicating (as best as i could manage!) the austrasia of the 400s-800s as well as the much later gdr [click on map for LARGER view]:

westerneurope-physical-map + austrasia + east germany

most of east germany (the gdr) lies outside of the region formerly known as austrasia, as does large parts of both today’s northern and southern germany. southeast germany was incorporated into the frankish kingdom quite early (in the early 500s — swabia on the map below), but both northern germany and southwestern germany much later — not until the late 700s (saxony and bavaria on map). eastern germany, as we will see below, even later than that. the later the incorporation into the frankish empire, the later the introduction of both manorialism and outbreeding. and, keeping in mind recent, rapid, and local human evolution, that should mean that these more peripheral populations experienced whatever selective pressures manorialism and outbreeding exerted for shorter periods of time than the “core” core europeans back in austrasia. here’s a map of the expansion of the frankish kingdoms so you can get yourself oriented [source – click on image for LARGER view]:


in Why Europe?, historian michael mitterauer has this to say about the expansion of the frankish state and the spread of the manor system [pgs. 45-46 – my emphasis]:

“The most significant expansion of the model agricultural system in the Frankish heartland between the Seine and the Rhine took place toward the east. Its diffusion embraced almost the whole of central Europe and large parts of eastern Europe…. This great colonizing process, which transmitted Frankish agricultural structures and their accompanying forms of lordship…”

…not to mention people…

“…took off at the latest around the middle of the eighth century. Frankish majordomos or kings from the Carolingian house introduced manorial estates (*Villikation*) and the hide system (*Hufenverfassung*) throughout the royal estates east of the Rhine as well — in Mainfranken (now Middle Franconia), in Hessia, and in Thuringia…. The eastern limit of the Carolingian Empire was for a long time an important dividing line between the expanding Frankish agricultural system and eastern European agricultural structures. When the push toward colonization continued with more force in the High Middle Ages, newer models of *Rentengrundherrschaft* predominated — but they were still founded on the hide system. This pattern was consequently established over a wide area: in the Baltic, in large parts of Poland, in Bohemia, Moravia and parts of Slovakia, in western Hungary, and in Slovenia. Colonization established a line stretching roughly from St. Petersburg to Trieste….”

i think you all know what that line is by now. (~_^)

“The sixteenth century witnessed the last great attempt to establish the hide system throughout an eastern European region when King Sigismund II of Poland tried it in the Lithuanian part of his empire in what is now modern-day Belarus. The eastward expansion of Frankish agrarian reform therefore spanned at least eight centuries. The basic model of the hide system was of course often modified over such a long period, but there was structural continuity nevertheless.”

here’s a map of the carolingian empire between 843-888 [source] with the gdr (roughly!) indicated. from mitterauer again: “The eastern limit of the Carolingian Empire was for a long time an important dividing line between the expanding Frankish agricultural system and eastern European agricultural structures.” that “eastern limit” is the lilac border on the map, and as you can see something like two-thirds of what would become the gdr lay outside of that border [click on map for LARGER view]:

carolingian empire + east germany

in the earliest days of manorialism — back in austrasia in the 400-500s — manor life was a bit like living on a kibbutz — labor was pooled and everyone ate their meals together in the manor’s great hall. this was a holdover from the roman villa system which was run on the backs of slaves who lived in dormitories and were fed as a group by the owner of the villa. the manor system in core austrasia changed pretty rapidly (already by the 500s) to one in which the lord of the manor (who might’ve been an abbot in a monastery) distributed farms to couples for them to work independently in exchange for a certain amount of labor on the lord’s manor (the demesne). this is what’s known as bipartite manorialism. and from almost the beginning, then, bipartite manorialism pushed the population into nuclear families, which may for some generations have remained what i call residential nuclear families (i.e. residing as a conjugal couple, but still having regular contact and interaction with extended family members). over the centuries, however, these became the true, atomized nuclear families that characterize northwest europe today.

for the first couple (few?) hundred years of this manor system, sons did not necessarily inherit the farms that their fathers worked. when they came of age, and if and when a farm on the manor became available, a young man — and his new wife (one would not marry before getting a farm — not if you wanted to be a part of the manor system) — would be granted the rights to another farm. (peasants could also, and did, own their own private property — some more than others — but this varied in place and time.) over time, this practice changed as well, and eventually peasant farms on manors became virtually hereditary. (i’m not sure when this change happened, though — i still need to find that out.) finally, during the high middle ages (1100s-1300s) the labor obligations of peasants were phased out and it became common practice for farmers simply to pay rent to the manor lords. this is the Rentengrundherrschaft mentioned by mitterauer in the quote above. [see mitterauer for more details on all of this. and see also my previous post medieval manorialism’s selection pressures.]

so here we have some major differences in the selection pressures that western+southwestern versus eastern+northern+southeastern germans would’ve experienced in the early and high middle ages:

– western and southwestern germans of austrasia and swabia (see this map again) would’ve experienced both kibbutz-style and bipartite manorialism from very early on beginning in the 400-500s. contrasted with this, northern (saxony) and southeastern germans (bavaria) wouldn’t have experienced any sort of manorialism until after the late 700s at the earliest — three to four hundred years after the more western germans. so for a dozen or more generations, western germans (some of them would later become the french, of course) were engaged in bipartite manorialism, in which they had to delay marriage (if they wanted to take part in the system), and they were living in nuclear families.

– the region that would one day become east germany (the gdr) didn’t see any manorialism or nuclear families at all until germanic peoples (and some others) migrated to those areas during the ostsiedlung in the high middle ages, at least some six or seven hundred years after the populations in austrasia began experiencing these new selection pressures. and when manors were finally established there, they were based upon the rent system rather than being bipartite.

one important feature of the ostsiedlung — the migration of mostly germanic peoples from the west to central and parts of eastern europe — is that the subgroups of germanics from various regions in the west moved pretty much on straight west-to-east axes:

“As a result, the Southeast was settled by South Germans (Bavarians, Swabians), the Northeast by Saxons (in particular those from Westphalia, Flanders, Holland, and Frisia), while central regions were settled by Franks.”

so, the regions that would eventually become northern and east germany (the gdr) were populated by people not only from saxony (the one on the map above), who were a group late to manorialism and christianity (and, therefore, outbreeding), but also by people from places like frisia (and ditmarsia, iirc). i don’t know if you remember the frisians or not, but they never experienced manorialism. ever. and i suspect that the ditmarsians didn’t, either, but i’ll get back to you on that. (along with the peripheral populations of europe, there are other pockets inside the hajnal line where manorialism was weak or entirely absent, for example in the auvergne.) finally, the slavs (or wends) native to northern and eastern germany would not have been manorialized in the early medieval period, and most likely would’ve still been living in extended family groups, so any incorporation of slavs into communities newly settled by the germans (either by marriage or just direct assimilation of slavic families) would’ve again amounted to introgression from a population unlike that of the austrasian germans.

to conclude, when east germany was eventually settled by germanic peoples in the high middle ages, it was comparatively late (six or seven hundred years after the germans in the west began living under the manor system); the manor system in the region was not of the bipartite form, but rather the more abstract rental form; and the migrants consisted primarily of individuals from a population only recently manorialized or never manorialized. in other words, the medieval ancestors of today’s east germans experienced quite different selection pressures than west germans. so, too, did northern germans on the whole compared to southern germans. these differences could go a long way in explaining the north-south and east-west divides within germany that jayman and others have pointed out.

what does any of this evolutionary history have to do with the fact that eastern germans today are much less likely to be religious than western germans, or that greater numbers of northern germans voted for the nazi party in the inter-war years than southern germans?

in my opinion, the latter question is more easily answered — or speculated about (in an informed and educated sort-of way) — than the first one. since northern germans have a shorter evolutionary history of manorialism and nuclear families and even outbreeding (due to their later conversion to christianity), then they may very well be more clannish, or exhibit more nepotistic altruism, than southern germans who are descended from the austrasian franks. thus, nationalsozialismus — not the most universalistic of political philosophies — might’ve appealed. dunno. Further Research is Required™.

with regard to the religious differences, i’m not sure. but here’s something that i think i’ve noticed which may or may not be relevant. here’s a map of the religious divisions in europe at the time of the reformation (1555 – source) onto which i’ve (sloppily!) drawn austrasia and neighboring neustria which was swallowed up by austrasia early on (486). if you look away from peripheral europe (places like ireland, spain, italy, greece, russia), it looks to me as though the protestant reformation happened in the regions immediately surrounding austrasia/neustria — at least that’s where the protestant movements largely began:

religious divisions of europe map + austrasia

i really don’t know what to make of this, and don’t have much to say about it right now, except to repeat myself: the “core” core europe region of austrasia (+neustria) experienced bipartite manorialism, outbreeding, and small family types for the longest period, beginning as early as the 500s (for the manorialism and small families — 800s for the beginning of serious outbreeding), whereas the regions bordering this “core” core would’ve done so for shorter periods of time (and they saw different forms of manorialism as well). and way out in peripheral europe, these “westernization” selection pressures were present for very, very short periods of time (for instance, manorialism barely arrived in russia in the modern period, and then it was of a very different form from that of western europe). for whatever reasons, the protestant reformation appears to have happened in the middle zone. and the middle zone is where the former east germany lies.

in 1965, john hajnal published his seminal finding that historically the populations of northwest europe were marked by late marriage — many even remained single — with a concomitant low birthrate. populations in eastern europe (and elsewhere) were not. the border between these two zones has become known as the hajnal line. subsequent research has found that other parts of peripheral europe — finland (parts of?), southern italy, the southern part of the iberian peninsula, and ireland — also lie outside the hajnal line:

hajnal line

michael mitterauer, who spent his career studying (among other things) the history of family types and structures from the middle ages and onwards, has connected the hajnal line to both the extent of bipartite manorialism and the western church’s precepts against cousin marriage. according to him, the hajnal line basically indicates where the bipartite manor system was present in medieval europe and where the cousin marriage bans were most stringently enforced — from the earliest point in time.

here on this blog, i’ve been posting about the apparent connection between the hajnal line and a whole slew of behavioral patterns and traits including (but very probably not limited to): family size, iq, human achievement, democratic tendencies, civicness, corruption, individualism (vs. collectivism), and even violence. see this post for more on all that: big summary post on the hajnal line. the primary factor connecting hajnal’s line to all these traits, i think, is the evolutionary histories of the populations found within and outside of the line. the basic outline of those different evolutionary histories is in the post above. “core” europeans and peripheral europeans vary in their average social behaviors thanks to the selective pressures they’ve experienced ever since the early middle ages, and the variances in those social behaviors impact many areas of those societies, from the highest levels of government and industry to everyday interactions between neighbors.

keep in mind that the hajnal line as indicated on the map above is schematic. it is NOT a perfectly straight line. the real border is fuzzy — a gradient, like most distributions of genes are (here’s lactase persistence in europe, for example). Further Research is Required™ to figure out where the border really is. also keep in mind that the hajnal line has no doubt been shifting over time, from west to east mainly, but also to the north and south, with the spread of manorialism from the “core” of core europe. that’s because human evolution can be recent, fairly rapid, localized…and is ongoing!



one issue which i didn’t take into consideration above is the possible effects of the post-wwii migrations on the population structure of east germany. to be honest with you, if it happened after 1066, my knowledge of it is usually kinda vague. (*^_^*) please, feel free to fill me in on the details of the modern migrations in the comments if you think they may have significantly affected the earlier population distributions. a couple of things that i do now know thanks to wikipedia are that: 1) four million germans entered east germany at the end of the war from east of the oder-neisse line; and 2) one quarter of east germans fled to the west between the end of the war and 1961. those are two very substantial migration/self-sorting events. with regard to those coming in from the east, presumably their evolutionary history would’ve been the same or very similar to the one i’ve just outlined for northern and eastern germans — late manorialism, Rentengrundherrschaft, later start of outbreeding, and late appearance of the nuclear family. and with regard to those east germans who fled to the west, given that one quarter migrated over the course of just fifteen or sixteen years, it wouldn’t surprise me if this had some effect on the average characteristics and behavioral traits of the remaining east german population. who left? who was left behind?


jayman tweeted this the other day — these are the cardiovascular mortality rates in european men from 2000:

cardiovascular mortality rates - euro men - 2000

his comment on this map was: “Great variation in the length of time peoples have had to adapt to agro pathogens.” you know what? i think this is exactly right. agro pathogens or, at least, agro something.

beginning in the early medieval period, northwest europe underwent an agricultural revolution. new grain crops were introduced — rye and oats (then, much later, wheat) — as well as some newfangled technological advancements (heavy plow, water mill). all of these spread through northern/western europe via manorialism. (see chapter 1 in mitterauer for more on all this.) i think you can see this dispersal on the map above. maybe.

italy and spain and parts of gaul would’ve grow wheat when they were a part of the roman empire, so those populations have been consuming wheat for quite a long time. they’re in the green with the lowest rates of cardiovascular mortality. the “founder crops” in europe — those that were introduced during the neolithic revolution from the middle east — were emmer (a two-grained spelt), einkorn (one-seeded wheat), barley, and naked wheat. these have been variously consumed in different parts of europe more or less since the neolithic (roughly speaking). the production of rye and oats (and again at a much later point modern wheat) was the mainstay of the manor system, and i think their arrival in different parts of europe is visible on the map above: france (austrasia) where manorialism started has the lowest rate of cardiovascular mortality (plus the population prolly also benefits from its agri-evolutionary history stretching back to roman days); then you see the spread of manorialism (and rye and oats) to the yellow zones — the advancement of the carolingian empire into central europe and also across the channel to southeast england (and to scandinavia?); east germany remains orange since it was manorialized later than western germany (see above post!) — same with northern and western england and ireland (which wasn’t manorialized until something like the 1400s); finally, eastern europe is in the red zone, “manorialized” (barely) very recently.

that looks like a good fit, but, of course, correlation doesn’t mean causation. (~_^)

previously: community vs. communism and big summary post on the hajnal line and medieval manorialism’s selection pressures and mating patterns of the medieval franks

(note: comments do not require an email. down on the manor.)

it is a truth universally acknowledged, that whenever someone posts a map like this

cpi 2014 - europe

…on twitter, that a chorus of people will respond: oh, just look at the terrible effects communism had on eastern europe! for no good reason really because, as we all know, correlation does not equal causation — although it does “waggle its eyebrows suggestively and gesture furtively while mouthing ‘look over there.'”

just because soviet regimes were present in the past in the same areas of europe where there are high corruption levels today does not mean the one is the cause of the other. (and anyway…look at the regions beyond europe! or southern europe, for that matter.) the relationship is certainly suspicious though, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the two were somehow connected.

one way to try to settle this debate would be to look at pre-soviet corruption rates in eastern europe versus the west to see if the situation was any different beforehand.

i have not done that in this post, in large part because i don’t speak any slavic or other eastern european languages, but primarily because it seemed like way too much work. instead, i’m going to take a look a civicness, a set of behaviors — along with things like intelligence, low amounts of corruption, and low levels of violence — that many researchers reckon are necessary in order to have western-style liberal democracies and economies, if that’s what you want in life. i’ll be focusing on russia, again just to kept this little project manageable. but first, italy.

in Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, robert putnam (yes, that robert putnam) concluded that democracy in northern italy functions better than in the south because the north has had a longer tradition — stretching back to the middle ages — of civicness or of having a civic community. (see previous post: democracy in italy.) according to putnam [pgs. 88-89, 91]:

“Citizenship in the civic community entails equal rights and obligations for all. Such a community is bound together by horizontal relations of reciprocity and cooperation, not by vertical relations of authority and dependency. Citizens interact as equals, not as patrons and clients nor as governors and petitioners….

“Citizens in a civic community, on most accounts, are more than merely active, public-spirited, and equal. Virtuous citizens are helpful, respectful, and trustful towards one another, even when they differ on matters of substance….

“One key indicator of civic sociability must be the vibrancy of associational life.”

in civic societies and civic societies ii, i looked at (self-reported) participation rates in voluntary associations across the world as found in the 2005-2008 wave of the world values survey. specifically, i tallied up the number of individuals who responded that, yes, they were ACTIVE members of the following voluntary associations (thus giving some indication of how civic-minded each of the populations is):

– Church or religious organization
– Sport or recreation organization
– Art, music or educational organization
– Labour union
– Political party
– Environmental organization
– Professional association
– Charitable organization
– Any other voluntary organization

the response rates for eastern europe were abysmal, often vying for last place with the middle east (see previous post for more):

wvs - membership voluntary organizations - totals

not much has changed in the latest wave (2010-2014). here, for example, are the active membership rates for the russian federation for each of the organization types — the first figure is from the 2005-2008 wave, the second from 2010-2014:

– Church or religious organization = 2.60% – 2.00%
– Sport or recreation organization = 5.90% – 2.40%
– Art, music or educational organization = 4.20% – 1.50%
– Labour union = 3.40% – 2.00%
– Political party = 0.80% – 0.50%
– Environmental organization = 0.40% – 0.40%
– Professional association = 1.60% – 1.40%
– Charitable organization = 1.10% – 0.6%
– Any other voluntary organization = n/a – 1.4%

as joseph bradley says in Voluntary Associations in Tsarist Russia: Science, Patriotism, and Civil Society (2009), russia is “not known as a nation of joiners.” apparently not! (mind you, i am not in a position to cast any stones on this account. *ahem*)

but were the russians more civic-minded before the revolution?

unfortunately, i don’t have any figures which can be directly compared to our modern world values surveys, but, yes, there was some amount of participation in voluntary civic institutions in russia in the two hundred years or so preceding 1917. however, civic participation didn’t begin in russia until the mid-1700s (and that is a key point to which i’ll return), and for most of that period, it occurred mostly among the upper classes. participation rates did grow across the nation and classes over the next century and a half, until just after the revolution of 1905 when there was a rapid rise in one sort of voluntary association — consumer cooperatives — among all classes of russians. however, civil society was still comparatively shallow in early-twentieth century russia — it hadn’t fully penetrated the whole of society by that point yet because the concept was so relatively new to the populace. here is laura engelstein in “The Dream of Civil Society in Tsarist Russia: Law, State, and Religion” (2000) quoting the sardinian antonio gramsci on the matter [pg. 23]:

“On the margins of the European state system, sharing but not fully integrating the Western cultural heritage, Russia, it is said, has always lacked just these civic and political traits. Antonio Gramsci provides the classic statement of this contrast: ‘In Russia,’ he wrote in the 1920s, ‘the state was everything, civil society was primordial and gelatinous; in the West there was a proper relation between state and civil society, and when the state trembled a sturdy structure of civil society was at once revealed.’ When in 1917 the Russian autocracy not only trembled but tumbled to the ground, there was no ‘powerful system of fortresses and earthworks,’ in Gramsci’s phrase, to prevent the Bolsheviks from erecting another absolutist regime in its place.”

civic society in russia first came to life under catherine the great (1729-1796), who did go some way to promote enlightenment ideals in the empire; perhaps more so when it came to the arts rather than politics, but still…it was a start, albeit one restricted in extent. from engelstein again [pg. 26 – my emphasis]:

“Eighteenth-century Russia had a lively public life. Private presses, a market in print, debating societies, literary salons, private theaters, public lectures, Masonic lodges — all linked inhabitants of the capitals and provincial centers in something of an empirewide conversation. Yet this world was limited in scope, audience, and resources and was fatally dependent on the autocrat’s good will. Catherine, when it pleased her, cracked down on independent publishers.”

this public life did continue to grow, however, although in fits and starts. nicholas i (1796-1855) was not too thrilled by it all, and alexander i (1777-1825) actually banned the freemasons, but by the nineteenth century, alexander ii (1818-1881) was, for a tsar, positively a radical when it came to permitting and promoting civic society as was evident in his great reforms. by the late nineteenth century then [pg. 16]:

“…an increasingly active public sphere of debate that included advocacy and representation was no longer in doubt in tsarist Russia. Thus well before the Revolution of 1905, the groundwork was laid for the participation of private associations in the public arena.”

the practice of joining voluntary organizations came later to the russian lower classes. consumer cooperatives began to appear in russia and the empire in the 1860s, but these first cooperatives were organized and run by the upper classes. peasants and workers would’ve been customers only. cooperatives among middle class professionals in towns and cities appear in the early-1890s. the idea spread to villages in 1900 via proselytizing intellectuals (also worth noting), and after 1905, the cooperative movement exploded right across the country. from The Co-operative Movement in Russia: Its History, Signficance, and Character (1917) by j.b. bubnoff — delightfully published in manchester by the co-operative printing society limited (so the work could be a bit biased) [pg. 49]:

“In 1891 consumers’ societies were formed in towns among the lower-grade officials, various classes of employees, teachers, members of liberal professions, and other sections of the population. These societies were of two types. One open only to members of a particular class of officials or to employees of a particular firm or institution; the other was open to all. These latter societies were already marked by the spirit of independence.

“Throughout this period the number of consumers’ societies was not large, and their output was small…. In 1900 the position was the same. Beginning from 1900, the Co-operative Movement spread in the villages…. [T]he first consumers’ societies in the villages were initiated by the intellectuals and by the authorities and were not the outcome of free enterprise on the part of the peasants themselves. At the end of the last century, and particularly at the beginning of the present one, an agrarian movement spread among the peasantry and ended in the revolution of 1905.”

by 1917, provided bubnoff wasn’t exaggerating, there were ca. 20,000 consumer cooperatives in russia (bubnoff notes that the other organizations listed in the table below — credit and loan savings associations, agricultural societies, and the artels — were all either government run or arranged by the large landowners, so they weren’t really voluntary associations in the sense of being organized by the members.):

Russia - The co-operative movement in Russia - table

again, though, this is late for finally getting around to launching civic institutions in your country. nineteen hundred and seventeen (1917) is very, very late compared to what happened in northwestern europe. even compared to what happened in northern italy. as valerie bunce says in “The Historical Origins of the East-West Divide: Civil Society, Politcal Society, and Democracy in Europe” [pg. 222]:

“By the end of the nineteenth century, then, it was evident that there were two Europes, long separated by their histories and, thus, by their politics, economics, social structure, and culture.”

not to mention their evolutionary histories.

so how did northwestern “core” europe (including northern italy) differ from russia historically as far as participation in civic institutions goes? the short answer is: civicness in “core” europe began centuries before it did in russia or the rest of eastern europe, at least 500-600, if not 800-900, years earlier.

here is putnam on the formation and functioning of communes in northern italy beginning in the 1000s [pg. 124-126]:

“[I]n the towns of northern and central Italy…an unprecedented form of self-government was emerging….

“Like the autocratic regime of Frederick II, the new republican regime was a response to the violence and anarchy endemic in medieval Europe, for savage vendettas among aristocratic clans had laid waste to the towns and countryside in the North as in the South. The solution invented in the North, however, was quite different, relying less on vertical hierarchy and more on horizontal collaboration. The communes sprang originally from voluntary associations, formed when groups of neighbors swore personal oaths to render one another mutual assistance, to provide for common defense and economic cooperation…. By the twelfth century communes had been established in Florence, Venice, Bologna, Genoa, Milan, and virtually all the other major towns of northern and central Italy, rooted historically in these primordial social contracts.

“The emerging communes were not democratic in our modern sense, for only a minority of the population were full members…. However, the extent of popular participation in government affairs was extraordinary by any standard: Daniel Waley describes the communes as ‘the paradise of the committee-man’ and reports that Siena, a town with roughly 5000 adult males, had 860 part-time city posts, while in larger towns the city council might have several thousand members, many of them active participants in the deliberations….

“As communal life progressed, guilds were formed by craftsmen and tradesmen to provide self-help and mutual assistance, for social as well as for strictly occupational purposes. ‘The oldest guild-statute is that of Verona, dating from 1303, but evidently copied from some much older statute. “Fraternal assistance in necessity of whatever kind,” “hospitality towards strangers, when passing through the town”…and “obligation of offering comfort in the case of debility” are among the obligations of the members.’ ‘Violation of statutes was met by boycott and social ostracism….’

“Beyond the guilds, local organizations, such as *vicinanze* (neighborhood associations), the *populus* (parish organizations that administered the goods of the local church and elected its priest), confraternities (religious societies for mutual assistance), politico-religious parties bound together by solemn oath-takings, and *consorterie* (‘tower societies’) formed to provide mutual security, were dominant in local affairs.”

in general, nothing like this existed in medieval russia (or eastern europe) — not on this scale anyway — the novgorod republic, which lasted for three centuries and came to an end in 1478, probably being the most notable exception. eastern european society was still very much founded upon the extended family for much of the period (although, again, in certain times and locales that was not the case — russia’s a big place). only a handful of merchants’ guilds were given permission to exist in russia between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries, and the powers that be (including the orthodox church) regularly suppressed craftsmen’s guilds [pg. 13]. by contrast, northern italy was full of civic-mindedness already by the high middle ages.

meanwhile, in england (and other parts of northwestern europe) [pgs. 3-4]:

“As a form of voluntary association, bound by oath and by a (usually modest) material subscription, the fraternity or guild was widespread in late-medieval England and continental Europe. Both the ubiquity and the frequency of the form have been underlined by recent historical case-studies. While the particular purpose and activities of a fraternity might be infinitely various, the organization may be characterized in general as combining pious with social, economic, and political purposes. Its declared aims invariably included important religious functions, expressed in the invocation of a saintly patron and an annual mass with prayers for deceased members. With equal certainty, the annual feast day would bring the members together for a drink or a meal to celebrate their community. The overwhelming majority of English guilds admitted women alongside men: a feature generally characteristic of guilds of medieval northern Europe, although not so prevalent in the Mediterranean world. Sometimes described in modern English accounts as ‘parish fraternities’, these clubs indeed were often founded by groups of parishioners and regularly made use of an altar in a parish church as a devotional focus; yet they as often drew their memberships from a wider field than that of the parish, whose bounds they readily transcended…. An individual might join more than one guild, thereby extending still futher the range of his or her contacts. A significant minority of fraternities crystallized around a particular trade…. The overwhelming majority of guilds, however, were not tied by such association to a single craft, but brought together representatives of various trades and professions.”

extraordinarily, one type of fraternity — of non-kin remember (the whole point of voluntary associations is that they’re made up of non-kin) — appeared in england as early as the late-800s. from a previous post, the importance of the kindred in anglo-saxon society:

“the *gegildan* appears in some of the anglo-saxon laws in the late-800s as an alternative group of people to whom wergeld might be paid if the wronged individual had no kin. by the 900s, though, in southern england, the gegildan might be the only group that received wergeld, bypassing kin altogether. from Wage Labor and Guilds in Medieval Europe [pgs. 39-42]:

“‘The laws of King Alfred of Wessex, dated to 892-893 or a few years earlier, are more informative about the *gegildan*. Again, the context is murder and the wergild — the compensation required for the crime. By Alfred’s time, if not during Ine’s, the *gegildan* is clearly a group of associates who were not related by blood. The clearest example of this is in chapter 31 of the laws: ‘If a man in this position is slain — if he has no relatives (maternal or paternal) — half the wergild shall be paid to the king, and half to the *gegildan*.’ No information exists on the purpose of the *gegildan* other than its role as a substitute for kinship ties for those without any relatives. These associates, who presumably were bound together by an oath for mutual protection, if only to identify who was responsible, would benefit anyone, whether the person had relatives or not…. Although the evidence from the laws of Ine may be read either way, the *gegildan* seems to be an old social institution. As seen more clearly in the tenth and eleventh centuries, it acquired additional functions — a policing role and a religious character.

“‘The nobles, clergy, and commoners of London agreed upon a series of regulations for the city, with the encouragement and approval of King Athelstan, who caused the rules to be set down some time in the late 920s or 930s. The primary purpose of these ordinances was to maintain peace and security in the city, and all those supporting these goals had solemnly pledged themselves to this *gegildan*. This type of inclusive guild, sometimes referred to as a peace guild, was an attempt to create one more additional level of social responsibility to support the king and his officials in keeping the peaces. This social group of every responsible person in London is a broad one, and the law does not use the term *gegildan* to describe the association in general….

“‘The idea of a guild to keep the peace was not limited to London, and a document from the late tenth century contains the rules and duties of the thegn‘s guild in Cambridge. This guild appears to have been a private association, and no king or noble is mentioned as assenting to or encouraging this group. Most of the rules concern the principle purposes of this guild — the security of the members, which receives the most attention, and the spiritual benefits of membership itself. The guild performed the tasks of the old *gegildan*: the members were obliged to defend one another, collect the wergild, and take up vengeance against anyone refusing to pay compensation. The members also swore an oath of loyalty to each other, promising to bring the body of a deceased member to a chosen burial site and supply half the food for the funeral feast. For the first time, another category of help was made explicit — the guild bound itself to common almsgiving for departed members — and the oath of loyalty the members swore included both religious and secular affairs. Although in many respects this guild resembles a confraternity along the lines Hincmar established for the archdiocese of Rheims, the older purpose of the group — mutual protection with its necessary threat of vengeance — makes the Anglo-Saxon guild something more than a prayer meeting. To include almsgiving to members in distress would be a small step, given the scope of activities this guild established. There is no sign that the thegns cooperated in any economic endeavors, but older rules of rural society had already determined methods of sharing responsibility in the villages, and the thegns cooperated on everything that was important in their lives. The thegns of Cambridge had a guild that resembles in some important ways the communal oath, that will be discussed below, of some Italian cities in the next century.'”

the gegildan of early medieval england, then — a voluntary association, a fraternity — appeared on the scene something like two hundred years before the communes of northern italy arose, three hundred plus years before the novgorod republic was formed, and nearly nine hundred years before the russians gave civiness another shot (after novgorod). i’m not aware of any earlier such associations in western medieval europe, although they may have existed. it appears, too, that the gegildan appeared in situ in england, a newly developed social structure to take over some of the earlier functions of the rapidly disappearing kindred (including feuding and protection), although maybe the concept was imported from the carolingians — the heart of the preceding frankish kingdoms, austrasia, was where manorialism had begun, which was then imported across the channel, so perhaps the gegildan concept was as well.

whatever the case, it’s in the core of “core” europe, once again, that we find the earliest evidence for behavioral patterns that are now the hallmarks of western civilization: late marriage and nuclear families, lowest levels of cousin marriage for the longest period of time, low levels of violence, high levels of civic-mindedness (see above), universalism, unparalleled accomplishment — they all appear earliest (in medieval europe), and are still the strongest, in this central area (very roughly the area indicated by the green oval on this map).

so, now we come to it: why? why was it “evident” by the end of the nineteenth century that there were two europes, and what do all these long-standing historical differences have to do with it?

the ultimate cause must lie in our biologies. humans are biological creatures, so there’s no way around it. we know that all behavioral traits are heritable, so we have to look to differences in the populations’ genetics and evolutionary histories.

as i wrote recently: evolution in humans is ongoing, recent, can be pretty rapid (within some constraints), and has been/is localized (as well as global). in fact, human evolution has sped up since the agricultural revolution since the number of individuals, and therefore mutations, on which natural selection might work skyrocketed in post-agricultural societies. remember, too, that “every society selects for something,” and that we’re talking about frequencies of genes in populations and that those frequencies can fluctuate up and down over time.

so there is NO reason NOT to suppose that the differences in behavioral traits that we see between european sub-populations today — including those between western and eastern europe — aren’t genetic and the result of differing evolutionary histories or pathways.

even rapid evolution takes time, though. we’re not talking one or two generations, but more like thirty or forty — fifty’s even better. point is, evolutionary changes don’t only occur on the scale of eons. they can also happen over the course of centuries (again, multiples of centuries, not just one or two). the circa eleven to twelve hundred years since the major restructuring of society that occurred in “core” europe in the early medieval period — i.e. the beginnings of manorialism, the start of consistent and sustained outbreeding (i.e. the avoidance of close cousin marriage), and the appearance of voluntary associations — is ample time for northwestern europeans to have gone down a unique evolutionary pathway and to acquire behavioral traits quite different from those of other europeans — including eastern europeans — who did not go down the same pathway (but who would’ve gone down their own evolutionary pathways, btw).

what i think happened was that the newly created socioeconomic structures and cultural (in this case largely religious) practices of the early medieval period in northwest “core” europe introduced a whole new set of selective pressures on northwest europeans compared to those which had existed previously. rather than a suite of traits connected to familial or nepostic altruism (or clannishness) being selected for, the new society selected for traits more connected to reciprocal altruism.

before the early medieval period, northwest europeans — looking away from the urbanized gallo-romans who may have been something of a special case (more on them another day) — had been kin-based populations of agri-pastoralists whose societies were characterized by inter-clan feuding, honor/shame (vs. integrity/guilt), and particularism (vs. universalism). i think these traits were under constant selection in those populations because: reproductive success in those societies was dependent upon one’s connection to, and one’s standing within, the extended kin-group, so, thanks to being tied to kin rather than non-kin, nepotistic altruism genes would’ve been favored over reciprocal altruism ones; the extended kin-group was the element within which most individuals would’ve interacted with others, those others being related individuals who would’ve been likely to share the same nepotistic altruism genes (alleles) [see here for more]; and cousin marriage was rife, which again would’ve further fuelled the selection for these genes, since members of the same kin-group would’ve had an even greater likelihood of sharing the same versions of their nepotistic altruism genes.

pretty much the opposite happened during the early and high middle ages in “core” europe. manorialism pushed for nuclear families rather than extended family groupings, and so people began to interact more with non-kin rather than kin, enabling the selection for more traits related to reciprocal altruism. the avoidance of close cousin marriage meant that family members would’ve shared fewer altruism genes in common, so any selection for nepotistic altruism would’ve slowed down. and once voluntary associations of non-kin appeared, the selection for reciprocal altruism really would’ve (or, at least, could’ve) taken off. reproductive success was no longer dependent upon connections to the extended family group, but, rather, unrelated individuals living with the community.

the manor system developed in the 500s in “core” europe (austrasia), but did not arrive in russia (and much of eastern europe) until the late medieval/early modern period. (it never got to the balkans.) the extended family was most likely gone on the manors in the west by the 800s (see mitterauer), although it is conceivable that the nuclear families found on the manors in the earliest days were residential nuclear familes rather than the fully atomized ones that we see in the west today. certainly by the 1500s, there are no longer any traces of the extended family among “core” europeans (although there are still some pockets). the avoidance of cousin marriage was underway in earnest by the 800s (possibly earlier, but definitely by the 800s). it was still on shaky ground as late as the 1400s in russia. and, as we’ve seen, voluntary associations appeared very early in “core” western europe, but only very recently in russia (and, presumably, other areas of eastern europe).

most of you will recognize this as the hajnal line story (yet again!) with a few new nuances thrown in. manorialism, outbreeding, and voluntary associations all began in “core” europe — again very roughly the area outlined by the green oval on the map below (the other lines indicate, again roughly the extent of the hajnal line) — and they spread outwards from there over time, eventually reaching russia and other parts of eastern europe, but not until very late. (and the manor system in russia, once it was adopted there, was of a very different form than what had existed in western europe.)

hajnal line - core europe

inside the hajnal line, which (imo) reflects the extent of the strongest selection for behavioral traits related to reciprocal altruism over nepotistic altruism, the populations have stronger democratic traditions, are more civic-minded, are less corrupt, and score higher on individualism (vs. collectivism) on hofstede’s idv dimension than the populations outside the hajnal line. (please, see my big summary post on the hajnal line for more details.) all of these behavioral patterns “fit” better with the idea that these populations are characterized by innate reciprocal altruism tendencies rather than more nepotistic altruism ones. the populations outside the hajnal line seem to be more oppositely inclined.

there is no doubt that soviet communism wreaked havoc on eastern european populations. some untold millions died in the gulags, families and towns and villages were ripped apart, political repression was beyond belief. but smart money says that, along with civicness, many of the “non-western” features of contemporary eastern europe — high corruption rates, etc. — have deeper roots, and are not the consequences of communism, but rather of recent evolution by natural selection.

previously: civic societies and civic societies ii and democracy in italy and big summary post on the hajnal line

(note: comments do not require an email. sorry there’s no tl;dr summary!)