Monday, August 10, 2015

Russians Join Putin’s ‘Parallel Reality’ on Kursk Disaster and Fewer Blame Him for It

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 10 – Fifteen years ago this week, shortly after the start of Vladimir Putin’s reign in Russia, that country suffered one of its greatest recent naval disasters when the Kursk atomic submarine sank in the Barents Sea and all 118 men aboard died, a tragedy that outraged Russians at the time because Moscow seemed unprepared to respond.

            According to polls taken at the time, 72 percent of Russians said that they did not believe that the authorities had done all they could to save the men, a feeling driven in part by Moscow’s obvious dithering over what to do and its refusal of offers from the West to provide rescue assistance.

            But today, a new Levada Center poll shows that the percentage of Russians who feel the authorities did not do all they could in 2000 has been halved, with only 35 percent declaring that. The polling agency points out that this share has been falling more or less constantly since that time: in 2010, it notes, 46 percent held that view (

            The Levada Center poll also found that those who felt the government had done the right thing had grown from 23 percent in 2000 to 34 percent in 2010, and 40 percent now. Moreover, 28 percent of Russians said Moscow acted correctly by refusing Western offers of assistance, although even now 41 percent took the opposite position.

            Some of this shift reflects simply the passing of time. As events like the Kursk tragedy become more distant, people are both less focused on them and less animated by the immediate passions such events provoke.  But there is another aspect to this which makes it a matter of concern.

            As Vadim Dovnar, of Kyiv’s Novy Region-2 news agency points out, this shift also reflects Vladimir Putin’s success in creating “a parallel reality” about his world and drawing ever more Russians into it (

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