Sunday, November 8, 2015

Rural Russians Far More Trusting than Muscovites Are, Surveys Show

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 8 – Russians have significantly lower levels of trust than do other nations, especially in the major cities like Moscow where “only about one percent” trust anyone (  But in small cities and rural areas, their levels of trust in others are somewhat greater (

            Indeed, commentator Pavel Pryannikov says, “the further one goes into the provinces, the higher the level of trust,” especially in priests and doctors, where a majority in the conservative agrarian Belgorod oblast say that they trust members of these two groups and trust others at levels comparable to many places in Central Europe.

            That explains, he suggests, the fragmentation of society in urban areas and the greater social cohesion in rural locations whose residents display greater trust in Vladimir Putin and other government authorities and are less inclined to take part in protests. He cites new research published in “Sotsiologicheskiye issledovaniya,” no. 6 (2015).

            That research concluded that “the characteristic of the socio-cultural component of contemporary Russian society is a massive recognition of the weak control by people of their own situation not to speak about society as a whole,” something that is reflected in the distrust people have for those beyond a very narrow circle or for formal institutions.

            It also reflects, the authors of the study say, the fact that “many are not satisfied by the lack of opportunities” they feel to act as they would like and leads to a situation in which only about one Russian in six, even in rural areas, thinks about the future or makes any but short-term plans.

            The lack of inter-personal trust, the authors continue, is a product of the traumatic experiences Russians have had and also the sense among many of them that those who do get ahead have violating all ethical and legal norms. “Consequently, trust has begun to be considered as an unjustified risk or an obstacle to the achievement of success.”

            Only one Belgorod resident in five considers that it is possible for society to exist without trust, but three out of five (60.9 percent) say that society can exist even if people have little trust in others.

            The survey found that Russians are more likely to trust relatives than any other group and that they do not trust journalists or politicians as a group.  “Russian society,” the investigators said, “especially in the provinces remains traditionalist with trust given either to groups close to the individual or to institutions which are personalized” rather than institutionalized.

            And that conclusion, of course, explains why Russians simultaneously have a high degree of trust in Putin and his personalized power and a low degree of trust in political and government institutions.

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