Staunton, December 24 – New polls of Russian expectations may not be accurate in all details – few Russians are going to tell sociologists they don’t know or trust their deepest fears – but taken as a whole, these surveys suggest the population is entering 2018 without confidence that it will be better than the crisis years they have just been through, Sergey Shelin says.
They have fresh evidence that their leaders are lying about what is going on, given that some officials have now conceded that unemployment is more than twice the level the Kremlin and its propagandists say, the Rosbalt commentator says; and thus Russians are increasingly at odds with their leaders about the future (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2017/12/22/1670622.html).
What is most instructive, he suggests, is to compare what Russians say they expect now with what they expected in earlier years. There are two things that have changed little over the last six years: expectations that the coming year will bring more corruption scandals and the ouster of ministers and concerns that there will be another war with one of Russia’s neighbors.
But if Russians’ expectations of those things have changed little, Shelin says, their concerns about other things have changed dramatically. A year ago, only ten percent of Russans considered a war with the US and NATO possible. Now, 23 percent do, an increase of more than two times.
Slightly more than a year ago consider that the economic crisis will continue, 50 percent as against 47 percent; but the share thinking that mass protests about economic problems are possible has jumped from 21 percent to 35 percent. These two figures taken together suggest that Russians really do fear an economic crisis without an obvious exit.
And the possibility that there will be mass protests is now higher than at any time since the end of 2011 when in fact mass demonstrations did take place, Shelin notes.
Intriguingly, the percentage expecting radical changes at the top of the regime has jumped as well, from nine percent at the end of 2016 to 15 percent now, although it is far from certain just what people have in mind when they say that. What is true is that the only time it was higher was again at the end of 2011, when 20 percent said so.
Shelin stresses that “all these figures speak not about the concrete intentions of those questioned … but about the growth of a general dissatisfaction with life.” And there are other indications as well, with more expecting conflicts on an ethnic basis (29 percent now as opposed to 17 percent a year ago) and a deterioration in the North Caucasus (29 percent, up from 22).
A year ago, many Russians appeared to believe that they were coming out of the crisis as their leaders said. Now, they don’t. Instead, their fears of what they were worried about have increased, and new ones have been added to the lot.