Staunton, May 12 – Polling agencies, both those controlled by the Kremlin and those which are independent, routinely report large majorities of Russians say they back Putin’s war in Ukraine. But a newly published survey by the Laboratory of Public Sociology finds that “in most cases,” this is not active support but rather “non-resistance” to what Russians say is inevitable.
The 269-page study, Accepting the Inevitable (in Russian at publicsociology.tilda.ws/report2sibreal.org/a/strah-porazheniya-ili-podderzhka-pochemu-rossiyane-vybirayut-voynu/32408235.html).
This is the second such survey conducted by the Laboratory. The first took place immediately after Putin launched his expanded invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 (publicsociology.tilda.ws/war_report). The new one focused exclusively on declared supporters of the war and like its predecessor cannot because of its size claim to be representative.
Nonetheless, its results, like those of the first survey, are suggestive, especially since by the time of the second survey, Russians had come to recognize that the war in Ukraine was not going to be over quickly or take place without large losses on both sides, including among their countrymen.
According to Maksim Alyukov, one of the authors of the report, “the largest portion” of those who support the war “consists not of enthusiastic supporters but those who passively approve,” a group that in turn can be divided up according to the arguments they employ and their willingness to deploy them.
“But in general,” he says, “all passive supporters of the war have a mechanism of ‘support’ which is the same: ‘These people understand that war is bad” not only because of Soviet traditions but because they well understand “that what Russia is doing in Ukraine involves destruction and victims.”
“Their support then,” Alyukov says, “is a compensatory mechanism when you on the one hand understand that what your country is doing is very bad, but on the other, you do not have political experience, you live in an apolitical society, and you understand that you cannot influence anything.”
The simultaneous existence of these two feelings forces Russians to adopt the following strategy, he continues. “In order to preserve a positive moral image in one’s own eyes, people begin to search for arguments which permit them to justify the war” even if they think it is bad and even if they don’t really want to.
The Putin regime is relying on this, but at the same time, such attitudes suggest that real support for its policies is far less deep than many assume.