Staunton, February 27 – Russians now rank nationality problems at the bottom of their concerns, with only five percent saying they are a worry compared to 62 percent who point to inflation, 44 percent to increasing poverty, 41 percent who worry about unemployment, and 34 percent who say they are concerned about inequalities in wealth, a new Levada Center poll finds.
As the economic situation in Russia has deteriorated, Russians are focusing on their standard of living rather than investing those changes with ethnic meaning. Last year, for example, seven percent listed national problems as an issue; now two percent fewer do (levada.ru/2019/02/27/samye-ostrye-problemy-3/).
On the one hand, this is an entirely natural development given how difficult life now is for many Russians especially in comparison with the not too distant past. But on the other, it raises the question as to whether some Russians will eventually blame their problems on ethnic groups and especially immigrants as has happened there before and as occurs elsewhere.
At present, most Russians appear to blame the West or their own government for their difficulties; but if the situation deteriorates further, there are two worrisome possibilities: Either they will spontaneously begin to invest their problems with ethnic meaning; or the government will encourage them to do so to deflect anger away from itself.
At the present time, fortunately, this isn’t happening; but xenophobic attitudes identified by earlier Levada Center polls and xenophobic actions against minorities and those viewed as outsiders mean that it remains an all too real possibility, despite the findings of this one survey.