According to the sociologist, Russian respondents have a difficult time making a distinction between ethnicity and citizenship.” During the Chechen war, Chechens were viewed as “not entirely Russian … but now when the hot phase of the conflict is behind and Chechnya is viewed as part of Russia” that has changed and Russians’ view of Chechens has improved.
Lev Gudkov, the head of the Levada Center, agrees but stresses that the current poll measures attitudes that Russians have right now rather than the ones they may hold at a deeper level have about a group or nationality over a longer period of time.
Many ethnic prejudices are from the time of the Russian Empire and even more from Soviet times. And those have become overlaid in some cases and displaced in others by “new prejudices.” The old prejudices limit but do not preclude the rise of new ones, the sociologist suggests.
Gudkov says that the sharp decline in negative attitudes toward Chechens and others from the Caucasus, from 54 percent in 2913 to 27 percent this year, is a product of “the powerful anti-Ukrainian propaganda” of the Moscow media. But that doesn’t mean that at bottom, Russians really have a better attitude toward North Caucasians.
Instead, it signals, he argues, that “the former prejudices and negative attitudes are frozen, in a ‘sleeping’ position and Ukrainophobia has come out ahead of them.”
In another comment to Kavkaz-Uzel, Gudkov says that today’s Russian respondents do not make a clear distinction between residents of the North Caucasus and those of the Southern Caucasus.” In the 1990s, they did during the hot phase of conflicts in the south; but then they stopped doing so as those conflicts ebbed while others in the north grew.