Thursday, February 28, 2019

Russians Rank Nationality Problems Last among Their Concerns, Levada Center Says

Paul Goble

            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 (

                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. 

‘Russians Now Used to the Idea that a Nuclear Catastrophe is Likely,’ Eidman Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 27 – As a result of statements by Vladimir Putin and his media and developments in the world like the India-Pakistani conflict, “people in Russia have become more used to the idea that a nuclear catastrophe is a likely reality,” according to Russian sociologist Igor Eidman.

            That development, which doesn’t make such an outcome inevitable but does make it less unthinkable, he says, has been very much on view in the reaction to the singing of a song about nuking the US that was sung four days ago by an Orthodox choir in St. Petersburg’s St. Issac’s Cathedral (

            That song, composed in Soviet times as harmless “banter,” has been taken “seriously,” with pro-regime elements celebrating the fact that some is now saying openly what they believe and liberals fearful that the song expresses exactly what the Kremlin would like or even plans to do, Eidman continues. 

            In Soviet times, drunken youths often sang such songs; but no one took them particularly seriously. Now, they have become part of the mainstream.  The St. Isaac’s case has attracted particular attention but there are many other songs of this type now circulating and sending equivalent messages.

            These include “aggressive militarist” lyrics like “Uncle Vova, We’re with You,” “From Donets to the Kremlin is My Motherland,” “The Medal for the Occupation of Washington,” and many others, the sociologist says.  To be cute about nuclear Armageddon has become “glamorous” and thus not so frightening.

            After all, Eidman continues, Putin “himself has said: ‘they all will burn but we will land in paradise. The moral idiotism and irresponsibility of the Russian establishment today is unprecedented as is the threat to the world it represents.”

North Caucasus Men Increasingly Resemble Their Counterparts in Europe, New Study Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 27 – Many people explain what has been taking place in the North Caucasus over the last three decades by suggesting that men there have archaic values and cannot fit into modern society, but a new study conducted by the Heinrich Boll Foundation finds that men there increasingly resemble not this image but their counterparts in Europe.

            Irina Kosterina, who oversaw the survey of 1800 men in four republics of the region (Dagehstan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and Chechnya) as well as in-depth interviews with 80 of them, says that she and others taking part were surprised by the willingness of the men to speak about their lives (, summarized at

            “We feared,” she said, “that they would not begin to share” their views seeing the questions as outside interference. “But the reaction turned out to be calm with respondents pleased that others are interested in their lives.” And the findings of the survey help to explain why this is so.

            “The image of the brutal man in the Caucasus is receding into the past with the current generation completely contemporary and resembling its counterparts in Europe,” Kosterina continues. Men in the North Caucasus aren’t satisfied to be simply the primary breadwinners for their families: they want a chance to be creative as well.

            Opportunities for both are limited not only by harsh economic conditions but also by the actions of the siloviki and local officials, she continues. As a result, many men in the Caucasus see the present as bad and only hope that the situation will improve in the future.  They do not see a return to the past as a good idea.

            One indication of how much has changed in the North Caucasus, Kosterina says, is that a large share of the men, from 53 and 55 percent among the Chechens and Ingush to 63 to 75 percent of the Daghestanis and residents of Kabardino-Balkaria are sexually active before marriage.  But among the religious young, that is less true, she adds.

            Only a small fraction, from seven to 15 percent, support polygamy despite the Koranic permission for it, the survey found. Many even say, Kosterina continues, that traditions in society interfere with their personal lives and that traditional groups like the clan or extended family exercise too much influence. 

            Evidence of this is that “a very large number of men, despite what many believe, want to live with their immediate family separately from their parents so that there won’t be any conflicts between their wives and their own mothers. When that happens, a man must support his mother as tradition dictates, and the wife is offended.”

            Men in the North Caucasus, Kosterina says, recognize that violence within families is a problem but relatively small shares of these communities try to justify it, something that gives hope that over time, such violence will decline – and the men in this region will become even more like their coevals elsewhere.