Saturday, February 2, 2019

Russians Deeply Depressed and Searching for Someone to Blame, Rostovsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 1 – For the first time since 2006, more Russians are pessimistic about their situation and that of their country than are optimistic about either, Mikhail Rostovsky says, creating “a new reality” for Russians in which Putin is in office but “there is no happiness” among them.

            To be sure, the Moscow commentator writes in Moskovsky komsomolets, “the period after the end of the New Year’s holidays is not the best time for conducting sociological surveys in Russia.” The parties are over, the days are still short, and the nights are dark and long (

            But the new pessimism, he continues, is not just the product of the weather and the time of year.  “Russian society has fallen into a deep depression. [It] has lost a feeling of social optimism and a sense of prospects,” something that was evident to all observers even before the poll results were released. Indeed, the real situation may be worse than they.

            One should nonetheless avoid overstating just how bad things are. Twenty years ago, Russians were in worse shape.  “Putin’s political magic as before is ‘more living than all the living.’ The stability of the present Russian political regime in the short and medium term is not threatened by any ‘specters.’”

            “But the psychological self-assessment of the country will change even further for the worse, Rostovsky says. The demonstrations of 2011 and 2012 were by people who were well off but angry about politics.  Now, people are angry about the fact that their pockets have been picked and the shelves in stores are empty or with goods whose prices they can’t pay.

            Instead of facing up to these problems and showing some understanding and sympathy, the Russian powers that be have made the situation for Russia and themselves worse by making outrageous statements showing their contempt for the population and its suffering and adopting policies they do not need to adopt that take money from the people and give to the elites.

            As a result, the commentator says, Russian society, “accustomed to the idea that the term ‘Putin’ and ‘fat years’ are intertwines suddenly has encountered a new and unexpected reality, a reality in which as  before Putin is present but there is not the accustomed ‘positive’ nature” of their lives.

            Russians are looking for someone to blame for their problems. So far, many accept the idea that the West or lower-ranking officials are. But with time, Rostovsky says, this search for someone to be held responsible “will begin inevitably to rise up the vertical of power” within the Russian Federation.

            At some point, unless things change, Russians will turn their anger on Putin, who is at the top of this “pyramid.” The main political question in Russia now is whether or not Putin will be able to counter this trend. 

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