Tuesday, August 30, 2022

On Ukraine, Putin in Near Perfect Unison with Vast Majority of Russians, Levinson Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 28 – Much as many do not want to admit it, Vladimir Putin has achieved something his predecessors did not: he and his policies in Ukraine and many other issues as well are in near perfect unison with the vast majority of Russians, according to Levada Center sociologist Aleksey Levinson.

            In an interview with Radio France International’s Russian Service, he says that all polls conducted show that the Kremlin leader is backed by 75 percent or more  of the Russian people, a figure that isn’t the product of fear or propaganda alone (rfi.fr/ru/россия/20220828-главная-идея-в-том-что-путин-это-навсегда-социолог-алексей-левинсон-о-том-почему-режим-путина-добился-небывалого-унисона-с-российским-большинством).

            Propaganda may have given shape to the feelings of Russians but it didn’t create them, Levinson says. Instead, most Russians are proud their country is standing up against its enemies abroad and have thus given carte blanche to its leaders to oppose that enemy, which in the case of Ukraine is the West in general and the US and the UK in particular.

            Russians don’t know when or how the war will end, he continues; but they are confidence that Russia will win a victory not so much in terms of particular results but “in a moral sense.” Thus, Putin has a broad range of outcomes that he can define as a victory and that the Russian people will accept, even though radicals want even more aggressive steps than those taken so far.

            This is possible because “the Putin regime has achieved unison with the Russian majority that neither the Stalin, Brezhnev or Khrushchev regimes did. This must recognized” because “it is a fact,” Levinson says. Those who don’t acknowledge that will fundamentally misread the situation.

       Moreover, he says, despite all the problems the war has caused for Russia, it has not had great influence on most Russians on things they care most about. “The difference between the current situation and that which was the case before February 24th for the greater part of Russia is not as great as many imagine. Life in Russia has changed very little.”

            Over the long term, that may change and Russian attitudes may change as well. But “the experience of the Afghan and Chechen wars suggests that society is not becoming entirely anti-war. That is not the case. There are strong anti-war sentiments but they do not take the form of a serious movement.” Again, Levinson says, that could change but it won’t happen anytime soon.

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