Staunton, Feb. 23 – An obvious element in Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch his expanded aggression against Ukraine is his faith that wars are bonds that tie Russians together. He bases that assumption on the fact that World War II is indeed such a bond; but there is evidence that the power of that bond is gradually fading among the young, a new survey finds.
And the fact that two prominent telegram channels (t.me/tolk_tolk/11644 and t.me/russica2) have today picked up that academic study makes its conclusions even more likely to become part of discussions in Moscow about the war in Ukraine and how much benefit Putin and Russia more generally will obtain from that action – or not.
Conducted by two Southern Federal University sociologists, Viktor Filonenko and Aleksey Magranov, its results appeared as “Ideas of Present-Day Students about the Role of the USSR in the Great Fatherland War” (in Russian; Vlast 29:6 (2021): 218-222; available online at jour.fnisc.ru/index.php/vlast/issue/view/580).
On the basis of a survey of 1841 students in eight higher educational institutions and three branch facilities in Rostov Oblast, the two offer the following conclusions:
· When asked whether accusations that the USSR was involved in unleashing World War II, 40.8 percent said such accusations were unjust, down from 61 percent in 2015.
· Almost a third – 27.5 percent – weren’t able to give an answer to this question now, compared to 11.9 percent seven years ago.
· 9.6 percent of the sample believe that the Soviet Union occupied a number of European countries during and after World War II. Only 27.9 percent completely reject that idea, down from 45.8 percent in 2015.
· 7.1 percent are confident that the leaders of the Russian Liberation Army, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and Other Movements were “directed not against the Red Army but against Stalin’s Bolshvik regime, and 17.9 percent more said they were inclined to accept that view. The share rejecting that fell from 22.2 percent in 2015 to 12 percent now.
· 14 percent said Stalin’s leadership was critical, down from 20.4 percent seven years ago.
Putin and his age cohort undoubtedly share the views the Kremlin wants Russians to have about that war and war in general; but it certainly appears that many younger Russians don’t, something that will likely have an impact on how they view what Putin is doing now in Ukraine.