Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Nearly Half of All Russians Can’t or Won’t Say what a ‘Fifth Column’ Is, Levada Center Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 11 – The independent Levada Center polling agency posed an open-ended question to Russians about what they understood by the terms “fifth column” and “national traitors.” Forty-six percent of those surveyed either couldn’t or wouldn’t say what those terms in fact mean.

            The Center said that this means one of two things: either people do not particularly understand what these terms refer to and/or that “this theme does not generate among a significant number of people an emotional response” or much interest (

            Of course, this pattern also may reflect something else: a sense among Russians that talking about things like “a fifth column” or “national traitors” is so politically sensitive that it is the better part of wisdom not to express an opinion about them. That may be especially likely in cases like this where the question was asked in an open-ended way.

              The answers of those who did respond fell into three broad groups. Some suggested that these things were “the collective West;” others suggested that they included Russian elites who had moved abroad or kept their money their; and still a third group opined that the fifth column was made up of critics of the Russian authorities.

            What is perhaps most interesting about all this is that this spread of answers and non-answers suggest that on an issue of apparently central importance to the Kremlin, the regime’s propagandists have failed to provide a clear answer that Russians could assimilate and thus act as the powers that be want. 

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