Staunton, August 27 – When Russian officials have talked about the Shiyes protests at all, they have portrayed those involved in these long-running actions as marginals who enjoy little support from the rest of the population of the region which supposedly wants the jobs such a dump would bring or who have been organized by outside agitators of one kind or another.
But a new Levada Center poll of 1008 residents of Arkhangelsk Oblast shows this official version is completely at odds with the facts. According to the survey, 95 percent of the residents oppose building the dump (levada.ru/2019/08/26/otnoshenie-zhitelej-arhangelskoj-oblasti-k-proektu-stroitelstva-ekotehnoparka-shies/; cf. nakanune.ru/articles/115426/ and newizv.ru/news/society/27-08-2019/protiv-svalki-v-shiese-vystupili-95-zhiteley-regiona).
The poll found that 84 percent of the representative sample were completely opposed and 11 percent more were generally opposed. Only one percent said they favor the project. At the same time, 70 percent said that before anything is done, the views of environmentalists and the population must be surveyed and taken into account.
Strikingly, given official efforts to block coverage of the protests, 91 percent of the oblast residents said they were well informed about the demonstrations or had heard something about them. Even more impressively, 49 percent said they were ready to take part in protests against the construction of the dump for Moscow’s trash themselves.
The population is clearly angry about the highhanded approach of Moscow and the regional authorities. In addition to these poll results, the Ombudsman of the Police has collected a set of anonymous reactions to the trash dump plan and posted them on line at vk.com/wall-139453095_1540509?m=1.
Vladimir Putin earlier said that officials need to take public opinion into account on this and other issues; but whether the poll will have an impact remains to be seen. At present, it appears that the powers that be are trying to wait out the demonstrators until cold weather leads most or all of them to leave the Shiyes site.