Being unneeded in post-Soviet Russia: Lessons for an anthropology of loneliness

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9 Scopus citations


The problem of loneliness is receiving increasing attention in the popular media and among social scientists. Despite anthropology's rich engagement with emotions and experience, the anthropology of loneliness is still scant. In psychology, loneliness has been defined as relational lack. In this article, I reconsider one culturally specific form of relational lack—being unneeded among post-Soviet Muscovites. I draw on the anthropological literature on emotion, exchange, and morality to suggest that being unneeded is an ethical commentary on a lack of recognition. During Soviet times, recognition was secured through informal social exchange practices. Being unneeded among middle-aged and elderly post-Soviet Muscovites is therefore connected to a constricted ability to give and experience recognition. One avenue of analysis for an anthropology of loneliness is to consider social exchange practices and how these connect with societal and moral dimensions of loneliness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)635-648
Number of pages14
JournalTranscultural Psychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • Russia
  • loneliness
  • morality
  • recognition
  • unneeded

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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