Staunton, May 15 – A year ago, many were struck by the large number of young Russians who appeared to be taking part in protests in Moscow and other Russian cities; but a new study by the Levada Center and the Freidrich Ebert Stiftung says that impression was deceptive and that young Russians share most of the views of their parents.
As reported this week by Switzerland’s Tages-Anzeiger, the study finds that “almost 60 percent of 14 to 30 year old respondents are not interested in politics … But this is now bad news for the Kremlin but for the West … Young Russians have come to terms with the new confrontation between east and west” (tagesanzeiger.ch/die-protestbilder-aus-moskau-taeuschen-466192560377).
“The consider these tense relations normal and have drawn their own conclusions: 58 percent of those polled say that Russia is not a European country. Only eight percent decisively support the opposite view. And three quarters do not feel any influence of Western culture,” saying “Europeans simply do not have any importance for us.”
The Europeans “have never liked us and always feared us,” Russian young people say. “This struggle is endless.” Moreover, 67 percent of them are “firmly convinced” that Moscow “must not give back Crimea even if in exchange that would lead to a weakening of Western sanctions.”
“The majority of young Russians also think that the fault for the conflict between Europe and Russia does not lie on the Russian side. Only 15 percent of those questioned accuse the Kremlin for that, and only two percent blame the Russian army. Fifty percent say that the main guilty party is the USW which in their opinion, has set Europe and Russia against one another.”
A majority of Russian young people does believe that relations between Russia and the West can be friendly, “but 42 percent are convinced that distrust will always dominate them. ‘We can live well without them,’ one respondent said. ‘We are an independent country which has enough of all the resources needed for that.’”
Such attitudes, the Tages-Anzeiger says, “cast doubt on the policy of the West toward Russia.” Only a third of young Russians think that Western sanctions will force Moscow to change course. And “more than a third” of the same view the disintegration of the USSR as Putin does, as a disaster and have positive views of the Soviet past.
Young Russians, especially those outside major cities, view Vladimir Putin and the Russian Army as the chief defenders of their country, and they value the stability the Kremlin promises more than anything else, the survey found and the Swiss newspaper underlines in its report.
Many young people have a positive view of democracy, the paper says, but at the same time, nearly half consider that Russia needs a firm hand at the top and a ruling party to set the course for the country. Few see any reason to go into the streets to challenge the regime, although it is entirely possible that things may change under the impact of the current crisis.
Young Russians are focused on their own lives, and as long as they believe that they can achieve progress in them, they aren’t focused on the broader question of the political leadership of the country. But should they conclude that the regime is getting in the way of their personal happiness, they could come out to protest in defense of that.