Saturday, December 27, 2014

Window on Eurasia: ‘Crisis? What Crisis?’ Chelyabinsk Residents Ask, Government Survey Reports

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 27 – A majority of the residents of Chelyabinsk say that sanctions and the decline of the ruble have not affected their lives and that they continue to support both the Russian central government and the regional authorities, according to a poll conducted by the regional branch of the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service.

            While this finding stands in sharp contrast to the media reports about life in Moscow and recalls an American country and western song in which the singer recalls that he and his family were too poor to have noticed that the stock market had collapsed in1929, it offers a corrective to the assumption that the economic situation is pushing all Russians in the same direction.

            But perhaps even more important, these findings may be typical of the kind of information that Kremlin subordinates are now supplying Vladimir Putin and thus reinforcing his obvious conviction that he can and will ride out the current crisis whatever other sources of information are suggesting.

            According to the poll, 59.2 percent of the residents of the city said that their families were not living worse now than they were a year ago, and 17.8 percent said that they had were now living better than in 2013.  Three percent said they were living much worse, and 15.3 percent said they were living slightly worse (

             At the same time, Chelyabinsk residents do not view the future with much optimism. Only 15.1 percent said they hope for positive changes in 2015, although only about 30 percent said they expected deterioration.  Just over 40 percent said they expected to be able to maintain their current standard of living.

            The Academy which conducted the survey, of course, is closely tied to the Kremlin, and therefore is inclined to put the best face on things: In publishing the results of the poll, it pointed out, in the words of, that they represent “a unique reaction to the economic war unleashed by the West against Russia.”
            Chelyabinsk, a city of a million people just east of the Urals, was closed to foreigners until 1992 and has attracted only intermittent attention since, sometimes because of nearby nuclear facilities that have left it one of the most environmentally contaminated cities in Russia and in 2013 because of a meteorite fall.



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