Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Rising Pessimism Costing Kremlin Ability to Mobilize Population, ‘Nezavisimaya gazeta’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 14 – A new Public Opinion Foundation poll shows that Russians in general and younger Russians in particular are increasingly pessimistic about the future of their country, a development the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta say deprives the Kremlin of its ability to mobilize the population as it did earlier.

            One can view this trend as an emotional response to the situation the pandemic has created, the paper says in a lead article today, but it may very well be a more thoughtful response by the population to the political-economic system in the country and the inability of the regime to respond to challenges (ng.ru/editorial/2020-09-14/2_7963_editorial.html).

            Actions by the political leadership certainly influence social attitudes, but the reverse is true also, Nezavisimaya gazeta continues. The amount of optimism or pessimism in a country “defines the character of public politics.” In Russia today, people no longer feel things are getting better and better; and that limits the ability of the powers to organize and mobilize them.

            When things appear to be going in the right direction, it is far easier for the regime to unite people around it; and the powers that be may even be able to count on the memories of that more optimistic past among older generations. But the same cannot be said of those who are now under 30. 

            In the 18 to 30-year cohort, the new poll shows, “pessimistic assessments about the future are encountered more often than optimistic ones. And it is difficult to mobilize such people using the tested methods of the times of the cold war – images of attacking enemies and a besieged fortress.”

            Such young people, the editors say, “do not understand why it is necessary to tighten their belts and be patient for the powers that be,” especially given what the latter have “given the country over the last decade.”  And there is an especially worrisome aspect about the pessimism of the young.

            Most young people are far more optimistic about their personal lives than they are about Russia as a whole. That makes them even more skeptical of the government and ever less willing to follow its lead for reasons that may still be effective with Russians in older age groups, the paper suggests.

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