Staunton, February 19 – Lev Gudkov, head of the Levada Center and Russia’s leading independent pollster, sums up his findings over the course of 2019 in an article for Novaya Gazeta (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2020/02/19/83994-hvatit-naraschivat-voennuyu-mosch-daesh-rost-blagosostoyaniya).
He presents them as ten propositions, some of which are self-evident as to their meaning and some of which he provides additional explanations:
1. “’The Crimean mobilization’ ended in 2018 but its consequences will remain for a long time,” including the population’s understanding that “the siloviki who have been put above the law have become the foundation of Putin’s rule.”
2. “Anti-Western and anti-Ukrainian attitudes significantly weakened” over 2019.
3. The regime’s “militarist campaign gave rise not only to fears about the approach of a major war but also silent protest which turned against the authorities.” Russians “believe that “thanks to Putin, Russia has recovered its status as a Great Power,” although many do not believe that other countries view it in that way.
4. Moscow has achieved a great deal by increasing the power of Russia’s armed forces, but it has done so at the price of a reduction in the standard of living of most Russians.
5. Russians increasingly want the government to refocus its attention from gaining power abroad to boosting their standard of living.
6. “Medvedev’s retirement was received with obvious satisfaction.”
7. “Two-thirds of Russians want ‘to live in a great and powerful country’ such as the USSR was but at the same time to have a high status of living, comfort and social security as in Western countries.”
8. “Military campaigns give only short outbursts of mass satisfaction with life.” They do little over the longer term to compensate for a declining standard of living. And declining conditions now help to explain why many look more favorably on an increasingly distant Soviet past.
9. Russians support Putin out of a sense that there is no alternative and in the hope that he will lead the country out of poverty, a combination that constitutes “the organized consensus” that has not allowed his rating to fall below 60 percent. But at the same time, Russians are increasingly disappointed in him, with the level of trust falling from 59 percent to 35 percent over the last two and a half years, and the share of those who say they do not want to see him as president after 2024 to rise over the same period from18 percent to 38 percent.
10. “Putin’s ‘stability’ has led to the stagnation.” That has provided Putin with the opportunity to make the country increasingly authoritarian but “Putinism is not the new Stalinism. Instead, it is the kitsch of totalitarianism. Stylistics here are more indicative than official documents.”