Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Putin’s ‘Negative Stabilization’ has Left Russians in Worse Shape than in 1990s, Loginov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 18 – Today’s economic crisis in Russia is not as severe as the one in the 1990s, but the prospects for the future Russians see are far worse than they were two decades ago, according to Dmitry Loginov, a specialist on social development at the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service.

            Consequently, he says, “the most suitable term” to characterize the situation the majority of Russians find themselves in is “negative stabilization,” a state in which people don’t feel that things are falling apart but also don’t see any way that their lives will improve in the foreseeable future (lenta.ru/articles/2018/03/13/terpi/).

            At the end of 2014, Loginov says, sociologists noted the first upsurge of negative assessments of the economy by the population. “This was the beginning of the crisis.” Then a second upsurge happened in 2016 when people became convinced that the crisis was going to last for a long time.

            “In the 1990s,” the sociologist continues, “the crisis was much more serious but then were opening new horizons.” Now those seem to be ever more distant. It is harder to find a job if you lose one, and opening a business is much more difficult than it was two decades ago.  “No one sees” any prospects and so they are holding on to what they have.

            Consequently, most Russians have shifted from being pro-active as they were then to defensive now in all spheres of consumption.  About 60 percent of Russians now say they assume that their standard of living “will remain unchanged for the next two years.” Twenty percent say it will get worse, “but 14 percent expect improvements.”

            The latter figure includes not only optimists but the 10 percent of the population which has not suffered from the crisis. “Such people have sufficient resources” to ride it out, and they expect to be able to. But overwhelmingly, even including them, Russians aren’t optimistic about the future.

            Russians are being ever more careful about their purchases, after a brief uptick in buying televisions at the end of 2014, Loginov says.  And while they are reluctant to say how much money they have saved, most acknowledge that if they lost their jobs, they have resources only for about three months before they would become destitute.

            According to Loginov, Russians are putting most of their savings in banks but only up to the limit of one million rubles (17,000 US dollars) for which deposits are insured by the state. Anything about that amount they are retaining at home or elsewhere. 

            By way of conclusion, the scholar observes: “Russians place their hopes in the state” for some improvement, “but they rely only on themselves,” a major shift in values that could make Russia a very different place if and when the crisis finally ends.

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