Staunton, December 22 – Russians are prepared for 2021 to be even more difficult than 2020 has been, Aleksey Levinson says his Levada Center surveys show. They are ready to live with the current restrictions in their own way – selectively obeying them – and they aren’t more inclined to protest against the government than they were.
He tells Dmitry Kokko of Svobodnaya pressa that Russians aren’t that agitated by what has been going on in Belarus and the Caucasus and they are less fearful of war than they were before the pandemic hit. They are angry about the state of health care and education in Russia and do blame the government for that (svpressa.ru/society/article/285377/).
Many Russians, Levinson says, think the pandemic may be around forever; and “what is interesting” is that they “simultaneously believe that [official] statistics about it are both exaggerated and minimized.” They appear certain that the government isn’t telling them the truth but are uncertain of just how it is lying.
The sociologist says very few Russians are currently interested in the upcoming elections, although that number will grow as the campaign heats up. Most rate their situation as difficult or bad, but at the same time, not very many are inclined to protest and do not now “live with the expectation of a catastrophe.”
On the whole, only “a comparatively small stratum of politically active citizens is agitated by things like repression and the increasingly harsh approach of the political regime,” Levinson continues. And even though this group is paying attention, they expect what is happening and are preparing for things to get still more difficult for them.
One of the restrictions arising from the pandemic that have affected Russians most of all concerns limits on foreign travel. While relatively few actually were able to earlier, the fact that they in principle could was important to them; and the restrictions must be taken seriously as a problem for the regime. Now that some foreign travel is again possible, this has eased.
Russians are tolerating calls to wear masks, he says. They have adapted by achieving a certain “modus vivendi” with the authorities: they either follow the rules or they don’t, and the powers that be sometimes try to insist but at other times allow them to act as they prefer.
According to the pollster, Russians have “seriously distanced themselves” from the events in Belarus. They don’t understand why Belarusians who are doing relatively well economically are protesting their government, and they don’t believe that what is occurring in the streets of Belarusian cities will be repeated in Russia.
The r3ecent situation in the South Caucasus, however, has attracted more attention. Russians are upset by the violence, they are “more favorably inclined to the Armenians than to the Azerbaijanis,” but again only a very small portion of the population has formed a definite opinion on most aspects of the crisis there.
One thing Russians do agree on, Levinson says, is that it is “a good thing that Russia has assumed the role of peacekeeper because it must be the master on the territory of the post-Soviet space and “rein in the spoiled younger brothers.”
Those Russians and observers who want a more upbeat assessment of Russian attitudes can turn to a new poll by VTsIOM, which is closely linked to the Kremlin rather than having been identified as “a foreign agent” as is the case of the Levada Center (wciom.ru/analytical-reviews/analiticheskii-obzor/itogi-2020-go-sobytija-ljudi-ocenki-ozhidanija-ot-2021-go).
According to that polling agency, 70 percent of Russians believe that the year ahead will be “successful or good for themselves personally,” 47 percent think that will be true for Russia, and 40 percent hold that view for the world as a whole.