Staunton, August 21 – Despite all the talk about a revival of socialism in the face of stagnation, Sergey Shelin says, “Russians are fully reconciled to capitalism, consider it completely practicable, and do not want even to think about the socialist past,” a fundamental transformation of Russian values over the last 30 years.
But this does not mean, the Rosbalt commentator says, that Russians view entrepreneurial activity “not only as a means of production and source of income but as an expression of freedom and creativity.” There is still a long way to go to reach that understanding, he suggests (ej.ru/?a=note&id=34084).
Those analysts and commentators who think that some return to socialism would have support should consider the results of a survey conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation on “conditions for entrepreneurialism in Russia.” They show just how much Russians have shifted in their views about capitalism and socialism and also how much more they have to go.
According to the poll, 59 percent of Russians say that private entrepreneurial activity has brought Russia more good than harm, while only 16 percent say the reverse – and most of them are concentrated among people over 60. But even among pensioners, those holding positive views about entrepreneurialism were about equal to those with negative ones.
Indeed, Shelin says, “there was not a single significant group among Russians, whether by age, education, economic status or place of residence who were ready to call for doing away with private business,” an impressive showing of change in the face of those who insist that “Russians haven’t changed and remain ‘simple Soviet people.’”
But while capitalism has these positive ratings, very few Russians – only five percent – say they are themselves entrepreneurs, although another 36 percent report that they have entrepreneurs among their circle of acquaintances.
The pollsters also asked how Russians evaluate the business climate in their country. Forty-three percent say that Russia has an unfavorable one, and only 24 percent say it has a favorable one. At the same time, 32 percent say this climate has gotten worse in recent years while 17 percent say it has gotten better.
Those who identify as entrepreneurs have a slightly more positive view of the situation than non-entrepreneurs, Shelin says, a sign that “among our entrepreneurial stratum there is a significant group of optimists who are satisfied with the business climate and pleased tha tit is becoming still better.”
But if Russians are reconciled to capitalism, they still want the state to be even more involved than it is today. Thirty-seven percent of respondents to the poll say they favor a stronger state presence in the economy, while only 16 percent favor a reduced amount of state involvement.
What this all means, Shelin suggests, is that Russians favor more regulation of the market but not the disbanding of market relations. Anyone in authority who ignores that recality will create a situation which will make the recent protests over Moscow city elections look like child’s play.