Staunton, November 20 – A new Levada Center poll finds that Russians are ever more frequently talking about civil rights (levada.ru/2019/11/20/prava-cheloveka/), but Lev Gudkov who heads the Center says that the most intriguing findings of the new survey are that there is a growing difference between Moscow residents and those beyond the ring road.
While both are angry, he tells Andrey Polunin of Svobodnaya pressa, those most likely to talk about the need for various freedoms and social guarantees are “more educated people but who live in the provinces.” In the poll, it is they and not those in Moscow who lead in this regard (svpressa.ru/politic/article/249525/).
And while people who are middle aged are the angriest about the situation they find themselves in, Gudkov continues, it is the young who are especially inclined to speak out about rights and the provision of civic services. The right to a dignified life and to medicine are things older and less educated people speak about, but again more in the provinces than in Moscow.
Compared to the rest of the country, the survey showed that Muscovites are more concerned about courts that are just and freedom of speech. So far, however, much of this anger is “diffuse and not very concentrated,” but it is clear that ever more groups of Russians are angry and concerned about their rights.
Gudkov says that in his view, “the authorities have a poor idea about what Russian society is now, and they hope that purely repressive policies and demagoguery will extinguish the anger and dissatisfaction.” But the pollster says, “the Kremlin simply isn’t in a position to react to these new phenomena.”
One of Gudkov’s colleagues, sociologist Karina Pipiya adds that just because people are angrier and more inclined to list things they want, “this does not mean that protest activity is growing.” But it does mean, she argues, that “the situation is becoming dangerous for the Kremlin.”
Like other analysts, she points out that “by itself, a worsening of conditions in the country if it takes place gradually does not increase the level of protest activity.” For example, Polunin comments, “today, families with children who live in mid-sized and smaller cities can’t accord meat, fish, cheese of sausages.”
And their situation is deteriorating because inflation is hitting such foodstuffs far harder than it is affecting the price of luxury goods. “More than that,” the Svobodnaya pressa commentator continues, “in Russia, the poorer the citizens, the firmer the powers that be,” as the 1996 presidential election showed.
“Yes,” he concludes on the basis of his conversations with Gudkov and Pipiya, “the Kremlin’s base of support is narrowing and voters are increasingly negative toward candidates from the party of power. The problem is, however, that people do not see any politicians or parties who could satisfy their demands.”