Thursday, December 28, 2023

For Russians, Being a Great Power Compensates for Domestic Shortcomings but Only in Part, Gudkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 26 – There is “no doubt” that the belief, promoted by the Kremlin, that their country is a great power “plays an extremely important compensatory role” with regard to the shortcomings and problems that many Russians face in their daily lives, Lev Gudkov of the Levada Center says.

            But the sociologist says such compensation is far from complete. Instead, most Russians remain far more concerned about their personal problems than they do about steps to make Russia great again are not prepared to make additional sacrifices to achieve that goal ( reposted at

            A major reason for this pattern, Gudkov continues, is that there are differing views as to what being a great power means, with some seeing it as being about ensuring that the population of Russia lives as well as Western countries do but others believing that it is all about having enough military strength to frighten other states and to ignore the demands of others.

            But despite the success the Kremlin has had in using the pursuit of great power status as a compensation for domestic problems, “the majority of Russians ‘really’ would like to live in country” where regardless of its military strength, they would have a good life, one at least as good as those in other states.

            “Only an insignificant minority,” Gudkov says, “is prepared to pay for the greatness of the country” by making more sacrifices. Roughly three out of four Russians over the past 25 years have told Levada pollster that they would rather see Russia’s resources go to improving the lives of Russians rather than building up military power.

            That doesn’t mean that being powerful doesn’t matter to Russians, including to those who say they would like to see more resources going to domestic needs. Even they remain proud of the country’s power, and “the fear of losing that pride paralyzes the potential of civic self-organization.”

            That is because “they do not have any other bases for feeling their own dignity besides being part of an empire.” At the same time, for two thirds of the population, the idea of “empire” involves maintaining power rather than using military force for expansion or dictating the policies of other countries.

            The function of the congeries of ideas about being a great power is “the preservation of collective identity (national pride) and the legitimation of the authorities which in the eyes of the population guarantee this image of the country.” Only a quarter to a third support a policy of militant expansionism, and far fewer want their country to dictate to others.

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