Saturday, April 30, 2022

‘Mortgage Realism’ Explains Reaction of Russians to Putin’s War in Ukraine, Pirogovsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 20 – Russians sometimes joke that the regime in Russia rests on “’mortgage realism,’” that is, “everyone understands everything” about what is going on but everyone goes along outwardly supportive and certainly without protest because “they’ve all got loans to pay,” Mikhail Pirogovsky says.

            “Russia is a stranger to prosperity,” the retired Moscow journalist says. “Always has been.” But “in the last two decades, a mortgage and a cheap car became a possibility.” Just how much that means to Russians in the middle of the income pyramid is often not appreciated (

            Russians in this middle don’t aspire to rise to the top but don’t want to fall into the bottom, Pirogovsky says. They “just want to be left alone” and they “can’t muster the mental strength to do or care for anything else,” including the war in Ukraine. Instead, they hope against hope that it will all “blow over in a couple of months” and things will return to what they were.

“They’re not anti-war, because they don’t have the energy for a political position, much less action — even before they were the object of the Kremlin’s hard work to stamp out any grassroots disagreement,” but “they’re not aggressive either,” only siding with the powers so that the latter don’t go after them.

According to Pirogovsky, “this is why the popular theory that Russia is on the brink of neo-fascism is not convincing.” For that to happen, the regime would have to appeal to “some underlying possibly unarticulated aspirations” of the people, but “Russians just want their IKEA back and tickets to the latest of the Avengers movie.”

“Putin’s miscalculated, bloody blunder is still in an early stage,” he continues. “Food supplies will run out by May-June, not coincidentally when the Kremlin hopes to score a victory.” But that will be “only the beginning of troubles in Russia,” at least not yet because so many things Russians have come to accept as theirs won’t be returning.

Consequently, “once the war hysteria subsidies, Putin’s approval ratings” almost certainly will be headed to “Lukashenko-level lows.” In this situation, it will be the Russian people’s desire to get back the goods they were used to be able to buying rather than something grander, good or bad.

Because that is what “’mortgage realism’” means. 

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