Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Class Tensions Greater than Ethnic Ones in Russia Today, New Poll Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 16 – A new VTsIOM poll finds that Russians feel there are greater tensions between rich and poor, between intellectuals and workers, between city and countryside and between indigenous groups and migrants than there are between people of different nationalities, although younger people are somewhat more concerned about ethnic divisions.

           In presenting the findings of the poll, Elena Mikhaylova, the director of VTsIOM’s Special Programs, says that “the key factor of divisiveness constitutes to be economic inequality” rather than ethnicity but that “cultural differences between various groups” ethnic are more significant for young people” (

            These patterns reflect the efforts of the young to find an identity for themselves and also the greater experience with and awareness of differences between indigenous populations and migrants, including the greater cultural distance among peoples which “earlier were united in a single soviet space.” Those things are all “gradually increasing.”

            Russians as a whole by an overwhelming majority, 86 percent this year as opposed to 81 percent in 1991, “consider that in [Russian] society there is tension between rich and poor.”  At the same time, tensions between workers and managers are rated as having somewhat improved: In 1991, 80 percent spoke of these tensions; now only 74 percent do.

           Tensions between members of the intelligentsia and the working class are considered to be high by 58 percent now as compared to 55 percent in 1991, and tensions between indigenous populations and arriving migrants are now viewed as bad by far more Russians than 25 years ago, 52 percent as compared to 39 percent.

           Tensions between Russians and non-Russians are rated now at almost the same level as at the dawn of the post-Soviet era. In 1991, 63 percent said there was hostility between various nationalities; now, 60 percent do, within the margin of error but at least potentially indicating that ethnicity has been eclipsed by class as a source of tensions.

           One relationship where Russians appear to believe that the situation has improved concerns that between urban residents and rural ones. In 1991, 61 percent of Russians said there was real hostility between those two groups; now, only 46 percent of the sample make a similar declaration.

            Perhaps the most interesting findings are those indicating that there are significant differences among various age cohorts in their evaluation of the level of tension in society. If there are only small differences among them on issues of economic inequality, there are far larger ones on cultural issues.
          Thus, today, 73 percent of those aged 18 to 24 say that there are tensions among the nationalities of the Russian Federation, compared to only 47 percent of those over 60. Young people are also more inclined to speak of tensions between intellectuals and workers, between city residents and rural ones, and between indigenous groups and migrants than are older ones.

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