Friday, September 7, 2018

Worries of Russians Rise to Pre-1998 Default Levels, Levada Center Poll Reports

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 6 – Russians are more worried about more things than they were a year ago, with public concerns now approaching levels first found in the months leading up to the 1998 default, the Levada Center says. But it is far from clear that these will lead to more protests as those with the greatest concerns are not those who led the 2011-2012 demonstrations.

            In its annual report of polling, the Levada Center reports that social worries among Russians have intensified across the board, with people especially concerned about inflation, impoverishment and unemployment ( and

            Seventy-two percent of Russians now say they are worried about inflation; 52 percent, about the impoverishment of the population; 48 percent about unemployment; 30 percent, about the economic crisis and unjust distribution of incomes; and 21 percent, about “the crisis in morality and culture.”

            Smaller but increased numbers of Russians say they are worried about the deterioration of the environment and the growth of crime. Russians are relatively unconcerned about terrorist acts in Chechnya and the North Caucasus (3 percent), conflicts within the elites (3 percent), HIV/AIDS (4 percent), and restrictions on civil rights (six percent).

            Levada Center director Lev Gudkov says that across the board, Russians are about a third more concerned than they were a year ago and that today’s levels of worry were last in evidence 20 years ago “on the eve of the 1998 default.” He says that the growth in dissatisfaction began at the end of last year, was put on hold by the elections, and then restarted with the pension fiasco.

            So far, however, these worries remain “unformed.” That is, “citizens feel the growth of spending on the army, bureaucrats, the war in Syria, the meaning of which people do not understand, and confrontation with the West.” On top of these worries, the Putin pension plan violated “the unspoken social contract” and has sent nervousness up.

            But he says that there is as yet no indication that any of these concerns will lead to an uptick in demonstrations.  “For strong protests,” Gudkov continues, “one needs strong organizations. Now, the inert strata have increased,” but “these are not the groups which demonstrated in 2011-2013.”

            Not only are most of these people in the mid-sized cities rather than Moscow, he says; they are also upset about a different mix of concerns than those which Aleksey Navalny has used in the past to get people to go into the streets.

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