Staunton, April 18 – A Moscow research firm, the Company for the Development of Social Links (KROS), that is headed by Sergey Zveryev, a former deputy head of the Presidential Administration, has identified five major fears Russians have, something that experts say will be used to guide the Kremlin’s election strategies.
Analyzing the media and Internet, KROS listed the top five fears Russians have: gas explosions, inflation, an arms race, terrorist actions, and tied for fifth environmental degradation and the cutting off of the RUNET from the world wide web, Svobodnaya pressa’s Andrey Polunin reports (svpressa.ru/politic/article/230470/).
The analyst points out that the KROS list is in sharp contract to polls by the Levada Center and VTsIOM which point to economic and health concerns as being at the top. But he suggests that the KROS findings, even though they appear to be driven by what the media covers, may be more important because of Zveryev’s links to the highest levels.
Polunin spokes with two sociologists about the KROS study, Leonty Byzov of the Moscow Institute of Sociology and Aleksandr Shatilov, dean of the sociology and political science department at the government’s Finance University. Both were dismissive of the KROS list, but each made some important comments about phobias and how the regime can use them.
Byzov says that studying phobias is extremely difficult because the answers one gets depends on the way one asks the questions and because people rarely are willing to share their deepest fears, preferring instead to offer those which they think are held by many people and thus are acceptable.
He argues that politicians “undoubtedly can play on social phobias.” But for that to work, Byzov continues, it is important that those organizing the campaigns know what these phobias really are and that voters believe the candidate can do something about them. Given Russian attitudes about the authorities, it will be difficult to play with the fears of the population.
Shatilov says the KROS list is “quite strange” and says Russians are most concerned about economic issues such as pay and employment. Many do fear that the country could return to the wild 1990s. They also fear being able to live in retirement, having good relations with their children or parents, and having to live with more immigrants.
Asked which phobias are “key for the Kremlin,” the sociologist says that at the top of this list is the fear among Russians that the government does not have any strategic plans for the development of the country and that it will carry out more unpopular reforms as a result of which they will suffer.
But “at the same time,” Shatilov says, “the demand for a strong hand is intensifying in Russian society; and this is reducing fears about the excessive centralization of power.”