Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Russian Attitudes toward Putin and His System Increasingly Negative since March Vote, Study Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 24 – Since the Russian presidential election in March 2012, Russians have become increasingly negative about Vladimir Putin personally and about his current impact on the country, according to a detailed focus group study out by the Moscow Center for Strategic Research of Civil Initiatives.

            The 122 page report on shifts in Russian attitudes toward Putin and even more toward the Russian president’s policies and impact on the country was commissioned by Aleksey Kudrin’s Center for Civic Initiatives and confirms many of the trends suggested by polls conducted over the last six months (

            On the one hand, the study identified four major shifts in Russian attitudes toward Putin.  And on the other, it suggested that Russians are ever more concerned about the state of their country under his stewardship and ever more open to thinking about what could happen if he stays in office and what could happen if he departs.

            The four trends the study identified, according to citations from it published today by ( First, “practically in all focus groups, the respondents talked about the possibility and at times about the desirability of a revolution” and they did so “not some much in an emotional key but in a rational one.”

            Strikingly, the report continues, “concerns and fears relative to a revolution with its possible excesses were expressed significantly more rarely than in the spring,” and that shift, it says, represents a “transitional shift in social consciousness which can lead to the final destruction of the so-called ideology of ‘Putinist stability.’”

            “In the eyes of the mass strata,” the report continues, “the legitimacy of revolutionary protest renewal of the powers that be have markedly intensified.” And the regime’s ability to counter these attitudes “can for a certain time slow the manifestation of political activism but [cannot any longer affect] the widespread political convictions of the population.”

            Second, a minority of participants in the focus groups said, the reports compiled added, that there could be “a voluntary self-renewal of the powers that be,” with Putin leaving office before the end of his term as Boris Yeltsin did in 1999 or replacing many of those around him.  Many others in the focus groups dismissed this as a “utopian” hope.

Third, all the focus groups the Moscow Center organized were uniformly “negative” about Putin’s “public relations” efforts.  “Instead of serious government affairs,” the member of the groups said, the Russian president “as before is occupying himself with secondary questions which do not have serious importance for the population.”

And fourth, the participants in these focus groups had an “extremely negative” attitude toward new legislation restricting meetings, imposing harsher penalties for slander, and restricting the work of “non-commercial” groups, all of which have “complicated the lives of the legal opposition.”

            Commenting on these findings, Viktor Shenderovich, who writes a blog for Ekho Moskvy, suggested that in the face of such attitudes, “an armed uprising was improbable,” thus leaving the political system with three possible “scenarios” (

First, and Shenderovich argued this was the most realities, would be the rise of “massive civil disobedience,” especially if Russia goes into a yet deeper economic crisis.  Second, he said, would be “the voluntary self-renewal of the powers that be,” not necessarily requiring the departure of Putin but certainly others.

And third, and in this Shenderovich was echoed by an unsigned piece on the portal, “if a change of the powers that be does not take place, then Russia will face ‘the withering of the nation … depression and alcoholization.’” Those trends in turn would lead to “a fall in fertility and the mass influx of immigrants,” who share of the population would reach “critical” mass quickly (

            Such a scenario, the authors of the Moscow say and underlines, would mean “the national death of the Russian people, and this is the precise course along which the current Russian powers that be are leading the country.”

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