Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Three Out of Four Russians Now Blame West for Their Problems, Moscow Sociologists Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 22 – More than 60 percent of Russians say they have noted a deterioration of their economic situation over the last year, but 75 percent of them blame the West rather than their own government for this situation, according to a study conducted by the Moscow Institute of Sociology.

            In mass consciousness, the study says, in a summary provided by the Tolkovatel portal, “the external enemy is becoming in mass consciousness the main negative force and is acquiring possible dissatisfaction.” But it says, “only 38 percent of Russians are prepared to sacrifice something for victory over [this] enemy.”

            But the study also suggests, according to Tolkovatel, that the overwhelming majority of Russians aren’t prepared to make sacrifices for long and that the Kremlin has only a year or 18 months before their anger will shift and they will blame not the actions of Western governments for their problems but Moscow itself.

            (The 48-page institute study, “Russian Society: A Year of Crisis and Sanctions,” based on surveys conducted in October 2014 and in October 2015, is available at isras.ru/files/File/Doklad/Ross_obschestvo_god_v_usloviyah_krizisa_i_sanktsiy.pdf; it is summarized at ttolk.ru/?p=25678.)

            Although the crisis has had an impact on a majority of Russians, the study concludes, most of them retain the hope that ‘a year from now, the situation will begin to be corrected in the direction of the better.” From 51 to 63 percent say that their standard of living has declined, and 33 to 38 percent point to deteriorations in health care, housing and corruption.

            For Russians, the study says, “it is obvious that today not only the country is changing but the entire world,” and they believe that “Russia in this new world must acquire its own new place, although success in that regard is far in the future.” And thus it is perhaps not surprising that Russians are focusing increasingly on the situation beyond Russia’s borders.

            “Two years ago, internal threats were the main ones” as far as Russians were concerned, “but at the present time, the focus has shifted to threats, the source of which lies on the other side of the border (75 percent). “Only 24 percent of the population considers that the main sources of possible negative scenarios for Russia must be searched for inside the country.”

            A majority of Russians view the situation in the world as unstable and dangerous, and “about a third of them even suppose that the world today is in a deep crisis or even stands at the brink of catastrophe.”  The share of Russians who think this way has increased over the last year, the sociologists says.

            The increased focus on foreign threats “in part is reducing the degree of social tension that the economic crisis has generated,” the study says.  The main reason, it suggests, is that Russians are prepared to adapt to problems on the basis of the longstanding principle that at least there is no war.

            But the reduction in anger about domestic conditions has been accompanied by “a growth of apathy and indifference,” the study says, although many evaluate such postures as being anger.   At the same time, “many Russians continue to remain optimistic that things will get better in a year or so.

            One thing not especially surprising, the sociologists say, is that “Russians are not prepared to support measures for the rebirth of the power of the country if these measures would involve the further decline in the standard of living in the country,” although 38 percent, with varying qualifications, are prepared for that.

            There are important generational differences. Older people accept that the needs of the state and society must take precedence over those of the individual, but younger ones overwhelmingly say that they “are not prepared to sacrifice their personal well-being even on behalf of important and shared values.”

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