Staunton, November 28 – Surveys of university-age Russians over the last decade show that these young people quickly accept the regime’s list of enemies but almost as quickly shift when the regime’s outlets do and that these shifts have little impact on the way in which young Russians view their country’s place in the world.
The Center for Youth Research at the Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg has been conducting surveys of the attitudes of young Russians since 2008, and Alina Mayboroda these conclusions on the basis of its surveys in an article on the Polit.ru portal this week (polit.ru/article/2016/11/27/mayboroda/).
Mayboroda, a researcher at the center, writes that over this period, the surveys have asked young people in various higher and secondary educational institutions about their attitudes toward other countries in an effort to identify those with whom they sympathize and those they do not like.
In 2008, she continues, “it turned out that among the countries eliciting the greatest antipathy were Georgia and Afghanistan,” two countries with which Russia had problems because of its military actions in the former and the continuing fighting in the latter. But seven years later, few students mentioned these as among those they felt hostility to.
Instead, students in 2015-2016 said they felt hostility to the US and Ukraine, a reflection of government coverage of events in Ukraine and American support for Kyiv. But given this shift in opinion, Mayboroda says, “one can assert that the effect of the rhetoric of the authorities is limited and not long-lasting.”
“When a theme passes from the political arena,” she argues, “the new generation already doesn’t support the old trends that were promoted but more often follows the new agenda.” But there are continuities, negative and positive: Young Russians continue to be hostile to migrants, and they retain their identification with larger cultural communities such as Europe or Asia.
“If the antipathies of respondents are situational and change depending on political and media ‘agendas,’” Mayboroda points out, “then the sympathies of young people have practically not changed.” Those who were oriented toward Europe are still oriented toward Europe, and those who are oriented toward the Muslim world remain oriented in that way.
In all four cities where research was carried out – St. Petersburg, Kazan, Ulyanovsk and Makhachkala, attitudes toward the United States were very much divided. “On the one hand, America firmly leads among those viewed with antipathy, but on the other hand, it is also listed among the ten countries that elicit the greatest sympathies of the respondents.”
Among the four cities, “there exist differences connected with religiosity and ethnicity,” she says. “If an orientation toward European countries is a global trend, manifested in all four cities, then in Makhachkala,” sympathy for the Arab world is equal to that for European countries. In Kazan, in contrast, “Arab countries are in practice not mentioned.” And the Tatars show an orientation to Europe “almost identical” to that found in St. Petersburg.
St. Petersburg and Kazan students identified with Europe as oppose to Asia by almost exactly two to one, 64.2 percent to 24.2 percent in the former, and 65 percent to 21.2 percent in the latter. Ulyanovsk and Makhachkala also were dominated by those oriented toward Europe, but in both cases, this leaning was less pronounced.
Summing up, Mayboroda says that young people may change their identification of enemies in response to propaganda but that they haven’t shifted their identification away from Europe. Instead, “young Russians as a whole want to see themselves as part of the Western world,” whatever Russian television suggests.