Sunday, March 13, 2022

Sanctions Regime Leading Russians to Rally around Putin But Perhaps Only for a Time, Sociologists Say

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 9 – Russians are responding to Western sanctions and the exodus of Western products and firms from the marketplace as occasions to rally around Vladimir Putin and the Russian government and to become ever more anti-Western in their attitudes, the Nezygar telegram channel says, citing Russian sociologists.

            Polls and focus groups show that “Russian society was not ready for such harsh limitations” but to date have responded to them not with demands that the Kremlin change course but rather with more support for what the Moscow powers that be are doing (

            According to Moscow sociologist Mariya Fil, “if one considers the public opinion of Russians as a whole rather than focusing on Moscow and St. Petersburg alone, then one must note the approval of the decisions taken by the leadership of the country.” But she points to one intriguing finding: “The less a region depends on imports, the more it supports the president.”

            She also suggests that this pattern may not hold as people experience real problems getting spare parts or other things from abroad they have come to depend on. If the Russian government can provide real support, the attitudes of the people won’t change; but if it doesn’t, as the pandemic showed, then they will and will become increasingly oppose to the regime.

            If the Kremlin were prepared to give the Russian people the opportunity to develop on their own, the current situation could lead to favorable results; but that seems unlikely because the only way that the people could do so would be for the regime to loosen the reins, exactly the reverse of what it is doing. As a result, things are likely to go wrong more or less quickly.

            Nezygar, in summarizing the findings of Fils and other sociologists, observes that “when characterizing the current public mood, one must focus on the historical tendency of the Russian national character to self-abasement,” to a belief that only by relying on foreigners can Russia do anything positive.

            “Now,” the telegram channel suggests, “this ‘learned helplessness’ will have to be overcome collectively. That is difficult because people have to leave their comfort zones, but today, external circumstances are forcing Russians to do so.”


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