Staunton, November 21 – In a new study, the St. Petersburg Politics Foundation says that Russians increasingly view themselves and their society as good and the Russian government as evil, a set of attitudes which “devalues” the value of the stability the regime has made a central theme and sets up new kinds of clashes between society and the state.
Indeed, the Foundation’s report suggests, the powers that be should display a greater concern for doing good for society and advertise the specific ways that they have lest this divide between the state and society deepen and lead to serious social and political consequences (kommersant.ru/doc/4165650).
The current image of the ‘evil’ powers that be, the report continues, “exerts ‘a neurotic impact ‘ on society, generates ‘a common growth of concern and uncertainty’ [about the future], ‘intensifies internal tension, and devaluates the value of ‘stability,’” Kommersant reports in its summary of the report.
In response, the report urges the authorities to be more careful in presenting negative developments and refrain from adopting ‘new limiting initiatives” like boosting the pension age which sent the standing of the regime with the population plummeting. This is all the more necessary because Russians feel they and society are behaving better.
The image of the regime that it tries to project, that of “’a strong, dominating, all-powerful, aggressive and closed power’” now stands in “direct contradiction to the demands of society which is seeking to ‘become kinder,’” the report continues.
It cites the findings of a Public Opinion Foundation poll which show that Russians “ever more rarely encounter public manifestations of anger and aggression [among those they associate with] and themselves seek to conduct themselves in a more modest fashion.” And they rate those talk show hosts who show anger below those who don’t.
If public opinion radicalizes and the authorities do not change course, the report says, there is a real danger that there will be “attempts to oppose the ‘good’ society to the ‘evil’ powers that be,” creating a set of attitudes that it may be far more difficult for either side to bridge.
St. Petersburg Politics director Mikhail Vinogradov says that “the authorities feel the negative consequences of the negative agenda, but up to now they have insufficiently softened it and shown goodness.” Konstantin Kalachev, a political analyst, agrees, adding that as the ratings of the authorities fall, the issue of good and evil will grow.
Rostislav Turovsky, another Russian analyst, suggests that “the authorities will be able to adopt targeted decisions which will lower tensions in society and must when they do actively propagandize what they have done.” But a third analyst, Aleksandr Kynyev, says that “all the signals speak about new repression” rather than any softening by the regime.