Staunton, March 7 – Polls have consistently shown that Russians are very much divided between those who want Russia to be a great power feared and respected by others and those who want to see a rising standard of living for themselves, Ekaterina Schulmann of the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service says.
And consequently, it is a mistake to think that they are “intoxicated” with the same militarist sentiments that animate much of the Russian political elite. Instead, what the people fear is not so much war as militarization which will take money from butter and give it to guns instead (echo.msk.ru/blog/partofair/2160754-echo/).
Over the last 15 years, Schulmann says, the Levada Center has asked Russian to express their preference for these two positions; and in the most recent poll, those supporting a better life outnumbered those favoring building military power by 56 percent to 42 percent. “The maximum of militarism” in the population was in 2014 and even then Russians divided evenly with 48 percent favoring pursuit of great power status and 47 percent a higher standard of living.
A similar difference between the population and the elite is found in the case of religiosity. Members of the elite are far more likely to manifest that than is the population as a whole. “And on many other parameters, for example attitudes toward women, family and children, those people at the top are different from the population as a whole.”
These two groups also divide between an elite that constantly focuses on Russia being surrounded by enemies and thus needing to develop military force, Schulmann says; and a population which has a different agenda. In every case, she continues, “there is a difference between elites and citizens with the elites always living a little in their own world.”
No one should be shocked by this, she says. The average voter in Russia is a 39-year-old woman, while the average person near the top of the political pyramid is “a man over 60.” These are “different generations, different people and have different views on the world.” They shouldn’t be confused.
It is perhaps especially important to remember this distinction today when Vladimir Putin who stands at the apex of the Russian state declared that while Russia would only use nuclear weapons if attacked, he would be prepared to use nuclear weapons to anihilate the entire world if Russia’s existence was threatened.
“As a citizen of Russia and as head of the Russian state,” Putin declared, “I have to ask myself why we would need such a world if Russia is not going to exist?” (dsnews.ua/world/putin-obyavil-chto-unichtozhit-ves-mir-esli-ne-stanet-rossii-07032018112200).