Suicide in Russia : A macro-sociological study
Abstract: This work constitutes a macro-sociological study of suicide. The empirical focus is on suicide mortality in Russia, which is among the highest in the world and has, moreover, developed in a dramatic manner over the second half of the 20th century. Suicide mortality in contemporary Russia is here placed within the context of development over a longer time period through empirical studies on 1) the general and sex- and age-specific developments in suicide over the period 1870–2007, 2) underlying dynamics of Russian suicide mortality 1956–2005 pertaining to differences between age groups, time periods, and particular generations and 3) the continuity in the aggregate-level relationship between heavy alcohol consumption and suicide mortality from late Tsarist period to post-World War II Russia. In addition, a fourth study explores an alternative to Émile Durkheim’s dominating macro-sociological perspective on suicide by making use of Niklas Luhmann’s theory of social systems. With the help of Luhmann’s macro-sociological perspective it is possible to consider suicide and its causes also in terms of processes at the individual level (i.e. at the level of psychic systems) in a manner that contrasts with the ‘holistic’ perspective of Durkheim. The results of the empirical studies show that Russian suicide mortality, despite its exceptionally high level and dramatic changes in the contemporary period, shares many similarities with the patterns seen in Western countries when examined over a longer time period. Societal modernization in particular seems to have contributed to the increased rate of suicide in Russia in a manner similar to what happened earlier in Western Europe. In addition, the positive relationship between heavy alcohol consumption and suicide mortality proved to be remarkably stable across the past one and a half centuries. These results were interpreted using the Luhmannian perspective on suicide developed in this work.
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