Friday, May 5, 2023

Russians Overwhelmingly Support War in Ukraine but Without Particular Enthusiasm, Survey Shows

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 3 – Russians overwhelmingly support Putin’s war in Ukraine but do not show any particular enthusiasm for it, the result of the depoliticization of Russian society and thus its willingness to accept the war as normal or inevitable rather than something they need to form their own opinion about, Svetlana Yepyleva and Sasha Kappinen say.

            The two Bremen-based Russian sociologists have been surveying Russians about their attitudes toward the war in Ukraine since Putin launched its expanded version a little over a year ago; and they note that many Russians who were shocked by the war when it began quickly became its passive supporters (

            Initially disordered by the start of the war, the two sociologists say, “our informants soon began to try to fit the war into their ordinary picture of the world. They searched for conditions and arguments to offset” their original feelings and thus “normalize the war,” making it into something they could accept.

            They turned to propaganda cliches in defense of the war and used them but they did not do so automatically but instead engaged in cognitive, rhetorical and even physical efforts, Yepyleva and Kappinen say. “These efforts allowed them to overcome moral conflict and resolve the moral dilemmas, to escape from a state of shock and thus to return to normal life.”

            As a result, “what had appeared to them impossible yesterday, today appears to be something inevitable” that they have no choice but to accept and in accepting to support. What is important here, they insist, is that support for the war by the majority of those they spoke with “is not the consequence of their conscious political position. It is passive and reactive.”

            And at the foundation of such support is “the depoliticization of Russian society” that Vladimir Putin has promoted throughout his time in power. That linkage has four serious consequences, they suggest.

            First, it means that while Russians support the war, most don’t do so with any enthusiasm or even positive emotions. Second, their support is based on the sense that there was no alternative to the war. Third, this support has been selective with Russians critical of those aspects of the war that directly touch them such as mobilization.

            And fourth, much of this support relies on reversing cause and effect. Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion for most Russians has become the basis for Russian support of the war even though that resistance is the product of Russian actions rather than something that came before them.

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