Staunton, July 11 – The share of Russians who fear a nuclear war has risen over the last two years as international tensions over Ukraine have increased, according to a variety of polls. But these samplings also show that young Russians appear less frightened than their elders who can remember the times of the Cold War.
Aleksandr Tarasov, the direction of the Moscow Phoenix Center for New Sociology and the Study of Practical Politics, told German Petelin of Gazeta.ru that “young people simply do not recognize the consequences of nuclear war” and thus are less fearful of it than their parents and grandparents (gazeta.ru/social/2015/07/10/7633061.shtml).
“The older generation,” he points out, learned in schools “just what nuclear war is and what its consequences would be.” As a result, its members “know what nuclear winter is.” Because of their knowledge, they are afraid of such a war and less willing to use nuclear weapons than are members of the young generation which lacks such knowledge and such fears.
That is not unique to Russia, Tarasov says. Several months ago, he notes, a poll in the US showed that “people who grew up during the times of ‘the Cold War’ were more informed about the consequences of nuclear conflict” than younger groups and that some of the latter felt that they would survive such a conflict.
Doctors at the Moscow Psychological Service say that fear of war has now become part of the background of the fears Muscovites have. Most people still turn to the service for help with personal problems, but, they say, “concern about the war in Ukraine” is something almost all of its patients now mention.
“This is not the main problem” with such people, the doctors say; “it is background, but it is having an impact on the psychological health” of people in the Russian capital.
One Moscow journalist told Gazeta.ru that in her experience, Russians are able to adapt to whatever happens. “But,” she says, “I will never forget the evening when the Boeing fell. The world in that instant changed course … That night for the first time I wasn’t able to sleep. It seemed that nuclear war could begin the next day: this was the last drop; and we seriously discussed what to do then.”
Some people asked themselves whether they should flee to the countryside and get as far away from Moscow as possible, the journalist said. But others, more well off, have decided to build bomb shelters in their apartments in the Russian capital, setting off a construction boom in that sector.
Danila Andreyev, the director of the Special Geo-Projects Company, says that “wealthy clients are constantly coming to him” for the construction of bomb shelters. He said his firm was set up in 2003 but that its business really took off in 2012. “Among its clients are major businessmen and politicians.”
Most such bomb shelters are dual use: On the one hand, they are a preparation for war; but on the other, they can be used for business negotiations because they are sound proof or to hold expensive art collections.
Andreyev says that in one of his bomb shelters, “it is possible to live calmly for more than a month” because of special ventilation systems which work even against radioactivity.”
Ordinary Muscovites are not so lucky. The government has converted many shelters build earlier into parking facilities or storage areas, and since 2012, the city authorities have refused to install bomb shelters in new stations of the subway system. “We haven’t fought anyone for a long time,” they said, but of course that was three years ago.