Friday, July 3, 2015

Having Expected Worse, Russians Don't Blame West or Putin for Problems, Moscow Paper Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 3 – Because Russians were “psychologically prepared for difficulties and expected the worst, things seem to them now not to be so bad” and they are not inclined to blame those many expected them to, according to an analysis of some apparently inconsistent poll results by the editors of Moscow’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta.”

            In a lead article today, the paper’s editors say that it turns out that for Russians “neither Obama and Merkel nor the Russian authorities are responsible for the fall in [their] standard of living. Either people do not see this as a tragedy or do not connect it with sanctions and the political events of the last year and a half” (

            At the same time, “the policy of the Russian authorities toward Ukraine and the West appears to citizens to be correct and to correspond to their expectations. And the rating of the authorities, of course, grows because Russians consider that the ruling elite is sacrificing its own and not their interests.”

            Of course, the editors say, “the situation could have developed otherwise if the speed of the sharp fall of November-December had not slowed and the exchange rate of the ruble not been stabilized.” All this means, they add, that the government’s propaganda efforts are “working ever less successfully. Now, indeed, they seem excessive” and could be cut back.

            These conclusions are supported by the paper’s reading of the latest results of a Levada Center poll devoted to sanctions and Crimea.  Those results, the editors continue, “are quite curious. Eight percent fewer Russians now compared to six months ago believe that Western sanctions are directed against the Russian population.

            At the same time, 14 percent more Russians think that these sanctions are intended “to inflict harm only on a narrow circle of people responsible for Russian policy with regard to Ukraine.

            “It would be logical to expect,” the editors argue, that with this pattern of answers, the share of Russians supporting the Kremlin’s policies in Ukraine would also fall. “However, this has not taken place.” Instead, the share of Russians supporting counter-sanctions has gone up from 34 percent in January to 38 percent now and backing the government’s general approach to 37 percent from 32 percent.

            Russian support for the annexation of Crimea has risen slightly over the same period, from 85 to 87 percent, while the share of those favoring annexation of eastern Ukraine has risen to 19 percent compared to 15 percent in February, the polls show, according to the “Nezavisimaya” editors.

            “Only a third of Russians feel the burden of sanctions now, the paper says, with the share of those asserting that they have not had any problems so far having increased from 57 percent to 62 percent and the share of those who say they expect problems in the future declining – a pattern that suggests Russians will continue to support the Kremlin rather than blame it and that there will be little pressure from the population at large for a change in course.


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