Students at the Mechnikov Medical University[in Petersburg] have told Bumaga that the dean’s office has asked them to fill out an online test about their attitude to the war in Ukraine, the president, and the future of Russia.
The students said that they were simply asked to take a survey—they were not informed about possible punishments for those who refused to fill out the test.
Before completing the test, students must log in through their VKontakte accounts or with a phone number, for example.
Students are asked to answer the following questions:
Do you generally trust the rector of your university?
What emotions do you feel when you think about Russia?
How much do you agree that things in our country are moving in the right direction?
Do you generally trust Russian President Vladimir Putin?
Do you think President Vladimir Putin is doing a good job or a poor job as president?
Has your attitude towards President Vladimir Putin changed over the past month? If it has changed, has it worsened or improved?
Choose the symbol that best fits the concept of “President of Russia.”
In your opinion, does Russia face the threat of a military attack?
Do you support Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine?
Choose the symbol that best fits the concept of “Special Military Operation.”
The survey also asks students to indicate what the country’s leadership should prioritize: strengthening sovereignty, strengthening the state, or developing the economy. The only alternative to these options is “undecided.”
The survey was created by the platform Concerned Individual, which operates in cooperation with the Education Ministry. It is marked as “April University Student Survey.” An employee of the Herzen Russian State Pedagogical University [in Petersburg] also reported to Bumaga that [students there had been asked to complete the survey].
If you have received such a request, tell us about it by writing to our Telegram bot: @PaperPaperNewsBot. It’s anonymous and safe.
Universities in all regions of Russia will join the platform Concerned Individual to become initiators and participants of positive change at their educational institutions and in the higher education system as a whole.
Along with the Russian Science and Higher Education Ministry, the Russian Education Ministry, Tomsk State University, and the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), Concerned Individual is launching a program of regular opinion polling of students, teachers, and administrative staff at Russian universities. We plan to recruit representatives of more than 700 tertiary educational institutions to the platform by the end of 2024.
The project’s aim is to form a permanent feedback mechanism between the university community and state authorities, to identify problems that need solving as well as promising directions for the growth of higher education.
“We believe that such a dialogue is especially necessary today, and our platform is technologically and methodically ready to provide it. Concerned people are the key potential for change in the universities, regions, and country. And opinion polls are a scientifically grounded tool that has proven itself well and reflect a real cross-section of the situation. Therefore, we urge students, teachers, and administrative staff to take part in the project and voice their opinion on the most pressing social issues,” comments Vadim Arakelov, CEO of the company Concerned Citizen.
The first wave of polls will kick off on April 10. Respondents will answer questions about the quality of education, media consumption, socio-psychological well-being, and other topics. In 2023, polls will also be conducted in May, September, October, and November. You can take part in the surveys by clicking on the link posted in your personal university account.
The results of the surveys will be published on Concerned Individual’s Telegram channel and website, and posted in the personal accounts of students and university staff.
It’s not the prices that are rising — it’s the ruble that is falling. The “special operation” is a war. You can’t force Ukraine to like you. We haven’t surrendered to NATO. The neighbors have no more Nazis than we do. Soldiers should be alive, healthy, and at home. The president has gone mad, and everyone is afraid to contradict him. Your children love you and want to live like human beings.
That’s it, thank you. So that’s how it is. Yeah, it’s time to end it. Wow. Thanks, I feel relieved. Oh, would that they would explain it that way on TV.
The war has made us take a look around. In whose midst do we live? Do our fellow citizens think the same way we do? Public Sociology Lab (PS Lab) is a research team that studies politics and society in Russia. In 2022, it launched a project to study the attitudes of Russians to the war.
How do people explain the conflict’s causes to themselves? How does their attitude to politics affect their personal interactions and self-perception? Do they have a political position at all? We talked about this with researchers at PS Lab. Svetlana Erpyleva works at the Center for Eastern European Studies at the University of Bremen, while Maxim Alyukov, a political sociologist, works at the Institute for Russian Studies at King’s College London.
How is your research on the attitude of Russians to the war with Ukraine set up?
Svetlana Erpyleva: Qualitative methods are the main difference between our team and the other teams doing systematic research on perceptions of the war. We have long conversations with our informants and try to find out not only their attitude to the war directly, but also many other things related to it — what sources of information they trust, how they interact with loved ones, their fears and hopes, and so on.
We searched for respondents using social networks, ads, and the “snowball” method (that is, when an informant helps us set up a conversation with their ow friends). It was a big help in contacting people who do not often reflect on politics.
Some people responded enthusiastically to the ads we placed about finding informants — they wanted to talk to us themselves. Moreover, these are not only people who have a clear stance for or against the war and are willing to share it, but also those who feel that their opinion is not represented in public discussion. Such people do not see other people who think like them on social networks or in the media and want to put themselves on the map.
For example, during the the second stage of our research, in the autumn of 2022, we realized that dividing people into “supporters of the war,” “opponents,” and “doubters” (as we had done in the spring) was no longer warranted. Our sources support some decisions by the authorities, but not others. They regard the war as necessary in some ways, but some things about it terrify them, while other things cause them to doubt. Our interviews, which last about an hour (sometimes longer), have in fact enabled us to understand the peculiarities of how the war is regarded by Russians, with all their contradictions and complications.
Our other goal is to study the dynamics of how the war is regarded. We conducted the first series of interviews in the spring of 2022. We did the second series between October and December 2022. It is important to note here that in the autumn we spoke only with “non-opponents of the war,” that is, with those whom in the spring we had provisionally labeled “supporters” and “doubters.”
Maxim Alyukov: I would also make another important clarification. When people talk about studying perceptions of the war, they often have in mind representative surveys. Using them, we can indeed more or less accurately describe the range of opinions around the country. But polls cannot show how opinions about the war are shaped, or what emotions people experience. We are going deep rather than wide. Yes, we cannot draw large-scale conclusions about public opinion in general, but, unlike the polling projects, it is easier for us to talk about specific mechanisms — what emotions tend to shape certain positions, how different types of media consumption affect perceptions of the war, and so on.
What is the difference between how people regarded the war in the spring and the autumn?
SE: On the one hand, we see from the autumn interviews that perceptions of the war had not changed radically. Almost none of the people with whom we had repeat conversations had changed their attitude to the war from “plus” to “minus” and vice versa. Of course, there have been small shifts in this regard. For example, some of the springtime convinced supporters remained “optimists,” while others had become “pessimists.” The former believe that the “special operation” is going in the right direction, despite all the shortcomings, while the latter criticize the chaos in the army, the chaos during the mobilization, retreats by Russian troops, and so on.
But we shouldn’t deceive ourselves: the pessimists have not stopped supporting the war. Rather, they want Russia to act tougher and more effectively, and ultimately win.
In the first series of interviews in the spring, we identified a group of so-called doubters. But it is clear that even back then different informants in this group were closer to one or the other pole of opinion. Some doubted, but were inclined to support the war, while others were against it. In the autumn, there were fewer informants who were completely unsure of their position. Those who had been closer to the supporters of the war had often begun to support the war a little more. The same thing happened to those who had been more against the war than not: many of them had become a little more strongly opposed to the war (without turning into unambiguous opponents).
On the other hand, the ways people have for justifying the war have changed. Some of the old methods are losing popularity, while others are emerging.
For example, one of the new justifications for war involves imagining it as a natural disaster. We feel sorry, of course, for those who perish in a flood. We cannot regard this other than negatively. But it is impossible for us to oppose it. The same thing has happened with the war.
From the viewpoint of the informants who have resorted to this excuse, the war just happened. It is a terrible reality that we can only accept.
Another new way of rationalizing the war involves turning its consequences into its alleged causes, as when our informants say, “Ukraine has been bombing our border cities, so we need to continue the war,” or, “The war has shown that we are fighting not with Ukraine, but with the collective West. We are fighting not with a fraternal people, but with our perennial enemy, so it is right that we started this war.” The second statement had also come up in the spring, but it has become much more popular. The rationale behind such justifications involves arguing that events that happened after the war started seemingly reveal the enemy’s true identity.
MA: Attitudes towards sources of information have also changed. There are two trends: polarization and stabilization. At the war’s outset, people tried to seek out information, including information from the “opposite camp.” For example, those who supported the war sometimes read opposition and Ukrainian media, because they understood that the Russian state media are propagandistic. Now, on the contrary, many people are so weary that they have not only reduced their consumption of information in general, but also have stopped following sources that reflect the opposite opinion.
At the beginning of the war, the following idea was often discussed: information about the destruction, civilian casualties, and losses among Russian soldiers would gradually undermine the effect of propaganda. Now we see that, over time, the simultaneous consumption of information from pro-government and opposition sources, which paint radically different pictures of the world, has had the opposite effect. It causes discomfort, which leads to the fact that people who are less involved try to shield themselves from information about the war in general, while more involved people consume propaganda and stop paying attention to alternative sources. This is a conscious choice: they realize that they are consuming propaganda. I remember the words of one informant: “There are different points of view, but the brain tends to stick to one theory. I’m inclined to choose the theory of my country, of the state media, so that my brain follows it.”
It transpires that the person understands perfectly well that they are consuming propaganda, and they consciously choose it amidst conflicting explanations that cause discomfort.
Do these changes produce any practical actions? Maybe people stop talking to certain people or get involved in charity?
SE: There are only a few volunteers among our informants.
People can have a positive view of charity, and worry about their country, but most of them do not take any action themselves.
And yet, volunteering that involves assistance to the mobilized is certainly seen positively by our informants (that is, by “non-opponents” with very different views of the war). Such volunteering is regarded not as involvement in the war, but as support for “our boys,” for “our country.” This is not surprising: there are always significantly fewer “activists” and volunteers than there are sympathizers. Only a few people are involved in protests, too.
Changes have also been taking place in the way people talk about the war with their loved ones. For example, many of our informants described the summer as a carefree time when the war had completely disappeared from their lives: they stopped discussing it. The mobilization was the “new February 24” for those informants (who were most often people remote from politics). The topic of war had returned to everyday conversations again. The informants were discussing the events even with strangers. For example, one of our sources told us that even at work meetings with her clients she had occasion to discuss the mobilization.
Do attitudes to specific events affect everyday practices? For example, the mobilization began and people decided to check whether their foreign travel passports were still valid.
SE: Unfortunately, we didn’t talk much about everyday practices in our interviews. Probably the most common reaction to the mobilization’s announcement was anxiety and, simultaneously, the absence of concrete action: “Whatever will be will be, but I hope that nothing bad happens.” Some of our informants who did not want to be sent to the front changed their places of work and residence, but we didn’t often encounter such people in our interviews. (It is important to understand that we were talking to “non-opponents” of the war.)
MA: It’s also worth recalling that a minority of Russians have the possibility of leaving the country. According to our research on social networks (this is another project that my colleagues and I are doing), the most common reaction to the mobilization has been evasion.
Is it possible, then, to talk about a desire for inneremigration among those who have remained in Russia? For example, a person says, “Actually, I have a lot more important and valuable things in my life [than the war], and I want to pursue them.”
SE: It was the presence of this desire among people in the spring of 2022 that made us single out the doubters as a separate group. All of them were typified by the notion that the “distant war” was secondary compared to more important values — work, loved ones, and family. But in the autumn, we saw that fewer and fewer of our informants were able to take a neutral stance, to completely distance themselves from assessing the war. Our informants talked about pressure: they seemed to feel that society demanded that they voice their opinion. In this sense, as Maxim has said, the polarization of views has been increasing.
But our informants assess [this polarization] in different ways. Many supporters of the war say that it is awesome because people are becoming more united, more interested in what is happening around them. The “anti-patriots” will leave the country, but patriotic Russians will remain. Others complain that it is hard for them to cope with the pressure. They would like to take a neutral position, but they cannot manage it. One of my sources described it this way (I’m quoting from memory, of course, but nearly verbatim): “I would like not to take a side, but my smart friends say that the war should be continued. And I understand that they are right, that one should support one’s country in such circumstances. I’m unable to take a back seat.” But a little later she said: “I’m afraid that time will pass and [people] will come and ask me, ‘Have you been reading Meduza? Have you been watching Channel One? Whose side are you on?’ And I won’t have any answer.” This situation even makes her think about emigrating. That is, on the one hand, she chooses to side with supporters of the war; on the other hand, she is afraid to make this choice.
MA: I would add that the desire for neutrality remains. One respondent put it this way: “There is war all round, but I try to maintain peace on my VKontakte page.” He moderates disputes there and shares links to articles about the importance of neutrality. For him, this is a way of creating a space for himself in which there is the possibility of remaining neutral, since he doesn’t have this possibility in other contexts. It is another matter that there are fewer and fewer opportunities for such neutrality.
You say that your respondents feel pressure. Where do they feel this pressure? In interactions with loved ones and colleagues, or somewhere else?
SE: It is often the pressure of their immediate environment. Many opponents of the war have left the country, and the doubters thus have fewer contacts with their viewpoint. They are surrounded, as a rule, more by supporters of the “special operation.” But the cause of such pressure may be an inner conflict. For example, our sources tell us that they were taught at school that when the country is in difficult straits, the worst stance is neutrality. But now they have found themselves in exactly this position. It is really difficult for them: they see the propaganda on both sides, but do not feel strong enough to resist it. This can be illustrated as follows: “Maybe Russia was right to attack, or maybe it was wrong to do so. Maybe Ukraine is the enemy, or maybe it isn’t the enemy. I don’t understand what’s going on at all. But how can I fail to take a stance?”
In such circumstances, people turn to what seems certain to them — for example, to their Russian identity. You may not know who is right, but you have a native country and it must be supported.
MA: This feeling of pressure consists of two parts. The first is personal interaction, about which we have said our piece. The second is the influence of the media, in which you can constantly see appeals and reminders of the war. This background encourages a person to clearly articulate their position.
Is the official newspeak (“special operation”, “line of contact,” etc.) incorporated into the explanations given by the “non-opponents” of the war? Is the state discourse generally used to justify it?
MA: Yes and no. It does happen that our sources literally quote propaganda narratives. For example, they start saying on TV that there are fakes everywhere, and a person repeats this idea. But at the same time, an absolute minority of our sources trust state broadcasts, although there are such people among them. They have doubts and come up with their own hypotheses. But it is important to take into account that our informants live in large cities, so it is likely that, for example, in smaller cities far from the capitals, the ratio is different, that there are fewer people there who are like the majority of our respondents, and more people who trust propaganda.
SE: You also have to understand that there are different types of support for the war, and therefore different explanations for it. There are people who accept the explanations given by the state media. Most often these people are elderly: they regularly watch TV, and then rehash the rhetoric of the propagandists. But there are other kinds of people — for example, those whom we call “committed supporters.” Their attitude to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict was shaped back in 2014, or even in 2004. They can be quite critical of propaganda narratives and are fond of saying, “We have bad propaganda. It is incapable of explaining anything.” Such people are able to explain the war’s causes on their own. And there are, for example, people who are remote from politics, who might watch TV sometimes, but it doesn’t convince them. They can even rehash propaganda cliches, but they do not adopt them, they do not present them as their own words. For example, they say, “We were told that…” or “We are told that…”
Is it possible then to say that, despite propaganda, polarization, and state pressure, even those who are not against the war are in a gray area? In other words, there are no views that could unite people, and accordingly, that is why they cannot unite and make demands.
SE: Yes, that’s right. Unless “convinced supporters” could try to create some kind of association. But I’m sure they’re a minority. Most people are busy with their daily affairs: they are not interested in political positions and movements. We are currently preparing a second analytical report on the results of the autumn stage of our study, and there we even try to avoid the word “position.”
Most of our informants have no “position.” Their attitude to the war is a bundle of fears, doubts, hopes, and other feelings. Such people may want Russia to win, but sincerely worry about the victims of the shelling in Ukraine.
One of our informants said, “If I had been subject to the mobilization I would have been out of Russia in three minutes.” And yet she, for example, wants Russia to win.
MA: Especially since propaganda does not just attempt to impose a certain point of view. It also generates a multitude of contradictory narratives that simply confuse people. This is a paradox of authoritarian propaganda: the state needs this vital demobilizing effect to maintain control, but it also prevents it from generating broad support for the war.
You mentioned sympathy for the victims of the shelling. In your spring report, some of your sources say that they would tolerate a decline in the material standard of living, because for them what matters are spiritual values. Since they are so clearly aware of losses, can we say that Russians perceive themselves as victims?
SE: We rarely see people regarding themselves as victims directly. They say, “The situation has become worse in Russia as a whole, but everything is fine with me. Yes, people are being mobilized, and that’s scary, but my loved ones aren’t being mobilized. Prices have gone up, but we’re coping.” Our sources often regard Russia as a whole as a victim. They are offended on Russia’s behalf: it was forced into the conflict, and it is humiliated everywhere and considered an aggressor. That is, they don’t think “[international] brands have abandoned me,” but those brands have abandoned “poor Russia.”
MA: Ukrainians are also regarded as victims. “The poor residents of Ukraine are being used by NATO. Would that it were over as soon as possible.” In many ways, this is part of the propaganda narrative that Ukraine has become a firing range on which NATO and Russia are fighting using Ukrainians as proxies. But this is, rather, a propaganda cliche that people simply repeat without thinking through their own position on this issue.
It follows that “non-opponents” of the war do not regard it as part of their personal lives?
SE: This is a generalization, of course, but I would say that it is basically true. For the opponents of the war, on the contrary, the war has become an existential challenge. Sometimes they even make themselves experience it as such: “I cannot live an ordinary life. I must remember that there is a war going on.”
But isn’t there a contradiction here? The “non-opponents” of the war do not regard it as a personal matter, but we are saying that they feel pressure from their loved ones, are trying to find their own identity, and are grasping for rationalizations.
SE: This is a difficult question, but let’s try thinking about it. Compared to opponents, supporters and doubters are more likely to try to rid themselves of negative thoughts, to distance themselves from the war. And yet it regularly makes its presence felt. The latter is a new trend, and many of [our respondents] do not like it: they would prefer to live their lives without being reminded about the war. But it has become more difficult to do this.
MA: In our research on how the war is seen by Russians, we have been observing what I had observed in my pre-war research. People, if they are not politicized, rarely hold consistent positions at all. I will give an example from my research on Russian perceptions of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine prior to February 24. A person has a smorgasbord of different political ideas. He supports all the decisions made by the authorities, including the annexation of Crimea and military backing for the so-called DPR and LPR. And yet half an hour later he says, “Basically, it would be a good idea to withdraw the troops and leave Ukraine alone. It’s bad for us.” It’s just that he hadn’t needed to make connections between his disparate views on this issue before. This necessity emerged during our conversation.
We have been observing the same thing now. People are trying to push the war out of their lives. They need arguments in favor of the war — not because it is their political position, but because it is safer to live that way. For many of our respondents, the interview was like an exam in which they were forced for the first time to think about logical chains and formulate at least some kind of a clear opinion about the war, which they had not tried to formulate before.
What goes on in your mind?
I think that I am falling down.
What goes on in your mind?
I think that I am upside down.
Lady, be good, and do what you should,
you know it'll work alright.
Lady, be good, do what you should,
you know it'll be alright.
I'm goin' up, and I'm goin' down.
I'm gonna fly from side to side.
See the bells, up in the sky,
Somebody's cut the string in two.
Lady, be good, and do what you should,
you know it'll work alright.
Lady, be good, do what you should,
you know it'll be alright.
One minute one, one minute two.
One minute up and one minute down.
What goes on here in your mind?
I think that I am falling down.
Lady, be good, and do what you should,
you know it'll work alright.
Lady, be good, do what you should,
you know it'll be alright.
Throughout Putin’s war on Ukraine, the attitudes of the Russian public toward the regime and the conflict have been the subject of much scrutiny. This talk addresses this question by analyzing data released by the Presidential Administration that summarizes monthly correspondence received from the public from January 2021 through December 2022. While the identity of these correspondents is not known, their decision to send non-anonymous appeals to the President suggests that they support or tolerate the Putin regime. The data demonstrate that after an initial period of uncertainty about the war’s economic impact, these concerns abated until the announcement of mobilization in September. Since then, the appeals depict a Russian public that is increasingly concerned about conditions of military service and the war’s impact on service members and their families. At the same time, the data indicate that the Kremlin’s strategy to shift the blame for mobilization from the President to regional authorities appears successful.
Pollsters argue over how many Russians support the Ukraine war
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, sociologists have grappled with the question of how many Russians support the Russian army in Ukraine. Both independent and state-run pollsters claim they are the majority, and these studies are frequently referenced in Western media. However, at the same time, a group of independent sociologists have pointed out that these polls may not be representative — many Russians are reluctant to speak freely about their thoughts on the conflict due to draconian wartime censorship laws.
Independent researchers from the Khroniki project recently presented the findings from their latest survey, which suggest using a percentage of how many Russians support the war may not be a very meaningful statistic. In their view, this figure comprises a misleadingly wide spectrum of people: from those who volunteered to fight in Ukraine to those afraid of repression. Moreover, at least half of those who are opposed to the war are afraid to speak out, the Khroniki sociologists said.
To identify the core pro- and anti-war groups in Russia, the pollsters devised a series of questions. The results of their survey suggests that the core support group represents 22% of the population, while the core opposition is 20.1%.
Separately, researchers stress that “the fridge counters the effects of the TV,” and this effect is felt more and more with each passing month. The level of support for the war among TV viewers who are encountering economic pressures is falling. Among TV viewers who have encountered at least one economic problem, support for the war was down 11 percentage points in February.
Other polls, however, show that a vast majority of Russians support the war. For example, according to state-run pollster VTsIOM, 68% of Russian residents welcomed the invasion of Ukraine and just 20% are opposed to it. And leading independent polling agency Levada Center published results in January that suggested 75% of Russians support the war — to varying degrees.
Why the world should care:
It’s not easy to work out exactly what proportion of the Russian population supports the war, but Khroniki is certain that the pro-war lobby is far smaller than polls from leading agencies would suggest. If that is true, it casts doubt on the widely-held belief in the west that the war in Ukraine is supported by most Russians who remain inside the country.
On 1 September 2022, I returned to Russia after almost a year away. The war that began six months ago had been present in my life daily: in the news, in conversations with friends and colleagues, and in the Ukrainian flags on the streets of the European city where I lived. But there was no trace of the war in the town near Moscow where I grew up, and where my parents still live. I did not see pro-war or anti-war graffiti or slogans; war was not mentioned in the streets or by my friends and acquaintances. As I sank into the familiar rhythm of my childhood town, I caught myself thinking that perhaps I was beginning to forget about it too. That all changed on September 21, the day ‘partial mobilisation’ was announced. Suddenly, the war was being mentioned all around me, or rather whispered about, in the cafe where I listened to Putin’s address, in the local library, in the street, on the train from Moscow to St. Petersburg. The war seemed to have reappeared in Russian society instantaneously, with the snap of a finger.
I had observed something similar before, not around me, but as a researcher: in the data my colleagues and I collected. Our Public Sociology Lab began conducting a qualitative study on Russians’ perceptions of the war on February 27, 2022, just three days after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began. During the first months of the war, we conducted (link in Russian) over 200 interviews with supporters of the war, its opponents and doubters. At that moment, many of our informants, including those who were far from being exclusively anti-war, also said that they had been shocked by the news of the start of the ‘special military operation’ and had tried to make sense of events in their conversations with friends and relatives. But after a few weeks, the emotions of shock and confusion began to fade. The war became routine and faded into background noise.
So we knew that the ‘return of war to society’ following the announcement of mobilisation would also likely be temporary. We waited a few weeks and, on October 11th, conducted our first interview as part of the second stage of our research into Russians’ perceptions of war. Between October and December 2022, we conducted 88 interviews with ‘non-opponents’ of the war, deciding this time to focus the study on support for and disengagement from the war, rather than resistance to it. Forty of these interviews were repeated conversations with supporters of the war as well as its doubters doubters, with whom we had already spoken in the spring.
We were driven by the desire to understand how perceptions of, and predominantly support for, the war were evolving. From the interviews conducted in the spring of 2022, we roughly divided all ‘non-opponents’ of the war into supporters and doubters. Despite the fact that among supporters of the war, there were interviewees who were convinced to a greater or lesser extent, all of them found some means to justify the ‘special military operation’. Some were staunch supporters of ‘the Russian world’ and believed that the war would push the geopolitical threat away from Russia’s borders and strengthen the country’s position; some were worried about loved ones in Donbas and rejoiced at the prospect of an imminent resolution to the longstanding conflict; some, viewers of Russian TV channels, spoke of ‘combating fascism’ and ‘protecting the Russian-speaking population of Donbas’; many expressed confidence or, at the very least, hope: ‘if our government started the war, then it must have been necessary’. Although these people were worried about the casualties caused by the war and looked with apprehension at a future defined by isolation and sanctions, they remained supporters of the ‘special operation’.
It seemed to us, as it did to many others, that the announcement of mobilisation might fundamentally change something in the way Russians viewed the war. However, in addition to mobilisation, the war was marked by a series of other events, each of which could have left an impression on Russian society: the seizure of new territories and their subsequent annexation to Russia, the retreat of Russian troops, the bombing of the Crimean bridge, news of the bombing of Russian border regions. All this occurred against a backdrop of increasing Western sanctions, muddled explanations from the authorities as to why the country was at war, repression of dissenters, and increasing polarisation of views on the war in society. In such a state of affairs, we assumed that the views of the war held by ordinary Russians could not be sustained. In some ways, our assumptions were right, and in other ways, we were wrong.
It was not without reason that we waited a few weeks after the announcement of mobilisation and the swift ‘return of the war to society’ before we began the second stage of our research. The October interviews showed that the emotions associated with the announcement of mobilisation were as strong as they were fleeting. After a few weeks, they began to subside, and ‘partial mobilisation’ became normalised as a part of the new everyday reality. But, most interestingly, despite the negative attitudes towards mobilisation expressed by many of our informants who were not opposed to the war, their dissatisfaction with mobilisation rarely translated into dissatisfaction with the ‘special military operation’.
Russian workers called toxicity the worst quality among bosses, according to Gazeta.Ru, citing the results of surveys carried out by the Team Awards for creating strong teams.
The greatest number of Russians surveyed (40%) believe that toxicity [toksichnost’] is the worst trait in a boss. Incompetence (35.1%) and inefficiency (24.3%) took second and third places, respectively. The list of negative qualities also includes aggressiveness (23.8%) and bias (19.8%).
Only 10% of respondents consider an authoritarian boss to be exemplary.
The respondents also spoke about what qualities an ideal leader should have. Motivating employees was in first place (41.2%), while preventing burnout was in second place (27.6%). Respondents also identified encouraging professional development (18.8%) and resolving conflicts (17.1%) as important qualities in a good leader.
We recently wrote that Elon Musk had staged another wave of cuts on Twitter. He laid off 200 employees — that is, about 10% of the workforce. Esther Crawford, the head of the Twitter Blue subscription, who was considered one of the new Twitter owner’s most loyal supporters, was among the employees made redundant.
Russians consider toxicity to be the worst quality in a boss according to a survey done by Team Awards, a prize awarded in the field of strong team building. Gazeta.Ru reviewed the results of the survey.
The top qualities that, according to respondents, are at odds with image of an ideal manager were toxicity (40%), incompetence (35.1%) and inefficiency (24.3%). In addition, the rating also included aggressiveness (23.8%) and bias (19.8%).
The respondents also saw the boss’s role on a team differently. The majority (41.2%) believe that a leader should motivate their subordinates, thereby increasing labor productivity. The next answer on the list is preventing employees from burning out (27.6%). Another 18.8% want the boss to be engaged in their professional development, while 17.1% believe that the leader should be able to resolve conflicts on the team.
Interestingly, only 10% consider a boss who subscribes to authoritarianism exemplary.
Earlier, we reported that every third Russian avoids networking [netvorking] because of uncertainty about their own competence.
500 vacancies for military registration specialists were advertised from late September to last December last year, according to HeadHunter. Previously, this specialization was considered a rather rare and generally not very sought-after profile in the personnel departments of Russian organizations (private and public). For comparison: only 145 such vacancies were advertised in the whole of 2021. The military mobilization has changed the situation: since September — that is, in just three months — the number of such offers on the labor market has increased by about two and a half times (Superjob’s data also show the same thing). The reasons? One of them (apparently, the main one) is an increase in fines for lapses in paperwork: to avoid them, employers are willing to pay applicants for the popular vacancy 70-80 thousand rubles a month. And this is despite the fact that there is a shortage of a number of other specialists on the labor market (and, presumably, they are no less valuable than SMO-era personnel officers). The number of vacancies on Avito Jobs alone, according to a recent company study, increased by 69% in 2022. Most likely, the trend will continue, serving as a natural continuation of the outflow of people and, ultimately, personnel.
$81.69 billion — the total amount of deposits by Russian nationals in foreign banks as of the end of November of last year, according to the latest data from the Russian Central Bank. (4.989 trillion rubles were recalculated at the exchange rate in effect on that date.) Over the past eleven months, the amount has more than doubled — and this is even if we rely entirely on the statistics of the Central Bank, which may not have a complete picture of what is happening. (Russian laws oblige citizens to report when they open accounts in foreign banks and move funds in them, but we cannot be absolutely sure that everyone strictly obeys them.) While one part of these funds remains in these bank accounts, the other goes to the purchase of real estate that, for the most part, is also located outside the Russian Federation.
16,300 houses and apartments in Turkey were purchased by Russian nationals in 2022, according to data published by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), as studied by RBC. This is not just three times more than in 2021 (when Russian nationals purchased 5,400 housing units in the Turkish Republic), but also more than the total volume of such transactions over the past six years (16,200). It is not surprising that last year, for the first time, Russians took first place among foreigners in buying housing in Turkey, producing almost a quarter of the corresponding demand with their money. Earlier, we wrote that our compatriots purchased two thousand houses and apartments in Turkey in October 2022 alone, overtaking all other foreign home buyers in that country, as reported by TurkStat.
At first glance, the advantages of investing in Turkey are not entire obvious. Inflation in the country, according to TurkStat, exceeded 84% in November, once again breaking records previously established in the autumn of 1998. The Inflation Analysis Group, an independent Turkish entity, estimated that inflation had reached a whopping 170.7% . In addition, prices for real estate, which have rising robustly, can at any moment just as vigorously drop, taking into account, in particular, the rather murky prospects for “Erdonomics,” depending on the results of the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. According to Endeksa, in September, the average price for one square meter of housing in Turkey was about 12 thousand Turkish lira (approx. $644), while the average price per housing unit was just over 1.5 million Turkish lira (approx. $83,700). The term of return on investment in housing is estimated at nineteen years, although in the summer this figure was recalculated to seventeen years.
The intense interest on the part of Russian nationals in buying real estate in Turkey is primarily related to the prospect of obtaining Turkish citizenship, Anna Larina, head of the foreign real estate department at NF Group, explained to Republic. (In turn, having a Turkish passport makes it possible to obtain an American E-2 visa, which speeds up the process of immigrating to the United States.) In this sense, it is logical that Russians have become leaders in terms of the number of residence permits issued in Turkey — 153,000, of which, however, as the Turkish Ministry of Migration clarified, 132,000 are short-term tourist residence permits, which are valid for two years.
Turkey is one of the few countries (but not the only country) that is still open to Russian nationals and their private capital. Thus, as 2022 came to a close, Russian citizens took first place among non-residents in buying real estate in Dubai, Bloomberg recently reported, citing figures provided by the brokerage firm Betterhomes.
Withdrawing funds and setting up a new life abroad eloquently testify to the sentiments prevailing among the Russian urban middle class, primarily. Not all people who sell Russian real estate and buy foreign real estate are necessarily irreconcilable opponents of the regime. And yet, it is clear that the vast majority of these people do not want to live and raise children in Putin’s version of the future, which is practically incompatible with modern civilization. In its own way, it is symptomatic that Russians who support the government and dutifully follow it into its deadly adventures are also dissatisfied with what is happening. If it were possible, they would rather return to the past, to a point in time thirty, forty, or fifty years ago.
It is clear that this sentiment is primarily voiced by the 46–60 age group (88% of whom are “nostalgic”) and to some extent, people aged 31–45 years (79% of whom are “nostalgic”), assuming that a considerable portion of these people associate the late USSR with their happy childhoods and wild youths. However, according to the poll, even today’s Russian youth, that is, people aged 18–30, mostly (64%) consider the Soviet era “generally a good time.” Of course, their judgments are based on the stories of older generations, and most importantly, on the inevitable comparison with what is happening with the largest post-Soviet country right now.
There wasn’t much left of Russian army Sgt. Andrei Akhromov’s body when it arrived in a zinc coffin at his hometown, a four-hour drive south of Moscow, relatives said. The 21-year-old died in April near the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv when his tank was hit by enemy fire.
Sgt. Akhromov’s cousin, Sergei Akhromov, said a representative of the regional governor’s office told the family it took the armed forces three weeks to identify what remained of him using DNA analysis. Loved ones didn’t look into the casket before burying him last week, he said.
“I only blame America—not Ukraine, not Russia,” Mr. Akhromov, a 32-year-old parks-and-recreation worker, said. “Biden, or however he is called, allowed for Nazism to flourish in Ukraine, and so Russia had to fight not only to protect its people and borders, but also the Ukrainian people, women, children, elderly.”
Source: Evan Gershkovich, “As Coffins Come Home, Russians Confront Toll of Ukraine Invasion,” Wall Street Journal, 4 May 2022
I see that there is a struggle underway over the numbers [of Russians] supporting the war. We are all asked whether Russians want war, how different segments of society relate to the war, etc. There is a temptation (a natural desire) to find grounds — everyone has their own — for our “sense of society’s reaction to the war.” The old liberal circles in Moscow, of course, do not want to reconcile themselves to the fact that society in a patriotic frenzy sincerely supports all the monstrous violence, destruction, and sowing of death and grief produced by Russia’s political leadership and army. Hence the struggle arises. VTsIOM says 75% [of Russians support the war], but independent sociologists says it’s 58-59%. And look at Levada’s figures: by the end of the second month [of the war], support had fallen from 74% to 68%. And so on.
However, if you think about it, what is the political significance of this struggle over the sociological grounds for “non-support”? There is none, since there is no way to mold “non-support” into a political factor. It’s like when the Polish uprising of 1863 was put down. Russian society, including the educated classes, experienced a patriotic upsurge. This is a historical fact. Some people, of course, did not support it, but politically that didn’t mean anything. Therefore, no “figures” or “focus groups” change anything now. They do not enable one to shift Russian society’s attitudes to the war from where they are now. This society is currently under martial law – undeclared, but de facto — because the norms of military censorship have been been instituted, economic data has been partly made off-limits, and civil rights have been completely restricted. Under martial law, “non-support” is tantamount to desertion, “alarmism,” sabotage, and treason. Under martial law, there are no civil institutions within which you can politically voice your “non-support.” Therefore, what are we talking about when we raise the question of who supports the war and why they support it?
Source: Alexander Morozov, Facebook, 4 May 2022. Translation and photo by the Russian Reader
Russia for the Rueful: A Map of Fear | Ivan Davydov | Republic | 7 December 2021
Once upon a time, an influential, respected person and I came up with a project meant to illustrate the absurdity of the Russian Criminal Code’s infamous Article 282, the one about “inciting hatred and enmity.” Oh, what a long time ago it was. Back then, there were simply no other articles in the Criminal Code that covered thought crimes. Can you imagine?
The idea was simple: gather quotes from classic Russian literature that were obvious violations of Article 282, make a website, and send an angry letter to the authorities. How long must this go on? we would write. Enough is enough! Ban books that sow hatred!
Actually, that’s why we focused on the Russian classics. It would have been easy to find the same kind of incitement in Homer, but uniformed readers might not react to his name. But they had definitely heard the surname Pushkin.
When everything was almost ready, however, my senior colleague (a wise person) said, “You know, let’s not do this. After all, they might just up and ban these books. But we have to go on living. How will we live with ourselves then?”
I recalled this story while reading the amazing news about the Investigative Committee’s war on Russian rap. First, an alarming dispatch appeared on the newswires: the head of the Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, after receiving an appeal from a “pressure group of patriots,” had ordered an inquiry into the new albums by Oxxxymiron and Noize MC. The pressure had informed the general that the rappers had whitewashed Nazism and promoted extremism.
It was a news item like any other. There is no other kind of news nowadays in Russia, nor can there be any other kind of news.
But then there was more news: the text of the letter by the “patriots” turned up on the LiveJournal blog of a moderately successful online humorist. The country’s chief investigator was not bothered, it transpired, by passages such as the following: “To tell the truth, the faces of Russian law enforcement chiefs are really not always so elegant, and when they start talking, they sometimes seem like aggressive morons, thus generating depression and suicidal moods [among the populace]. It’s also good that they’ve stopped showing the MP Irina Yarovaya on TV. Something needs to be done in this case, because our enemies exploit this weakness.” Famous for his habit of viewing publications on the internet through a magnifying glass, Bastyrkin failed to notice the ridicule.
Alexander Bastyrkin, checking whether the internet is whitewashing Nazism. Photo: Russian Investigative Committee
The author of the “letter” has now been making the rounds of the media, trying to prove that he had been joking. But it doesn’t matter: Veterans of Russia, which is a real (not fictional) pressure group, said that they would write an actual denunciation against the rappers.
It’s basic knowledge that you don’t kid around with policemen, judges, and border guards. Lately, everyone has been recalling what they did during the “snow revolution” protests, ten years ago, so I’ll indulge in remembering what I did too. In the spring of 2012 (not the winter of 2011), I was tried and fined for being involved in an “unauthorized” protest in which I was not involved. At the trial, I decided to take issue with the arrest report, according to which it had taken the paddy wagon ten minutes to transport me from the Nikitsky Gate (in the very center of Moscow) to a police station in the suburbs.
I contacted experts, who calculated that the unfortunate PAZ bus would have had to race at a speed of 600 kilometers per hour. I presented my thoughts to the judge.
The stern lady looked up at me with tired eyes. “Are you questioning the capabilities of the domestic automotive industry?” she asked. I resigned myself to my fate. Plus the fines were humane back then, nothing like the current ones.
But the list of those who cannot be trifled with is outdated. On Monday, the supremely pro-Kremlin polling agency VTSIOM published data on what things Russians now consider it impossible to laugh at.
Many of our fellow Russians are sure that they have a sense of humor. Overall, forty percent of the respondents said they had a sense of humor, and more than half of the young people surveyed said the same thing. And yet, Russians laugh at the jokes of the Ural Dumplings and love KVN, which makes one wonder about their assessments of their own sense of humor. But let’s get to the point.
In first place on the list of forbidden topics are jokes about the “health characteristics of other people,” and this is probably a good thing. It gets more interesting from there. Eighty percent of those surveyed believe that it is impossible to joke about the [Russian Orthodox] Church. Sixty-nine percent do not see anything funny about “the ethnic traditions and peculiarities of different peoples.” The same number are convinced that there is also little funny about the history of Russia, the USSR and the Russian Empire. (Here, by the way, I agree: there is little that is funny about Russian history.) This includes the sixty-three percent who are against jokes about “historical figures who are not living now.” Fifty-three percent would not touch “the army and the armed forces.” And fifty-one percent consider President Putin off limits (or untouchable?). Reverence for government in general is so strong that forty-five percent are afraid to joke about “other heads of state.”
The list is quite revealing. But it has nothing at all to do with a special species of hypocrisy peculiar to our population. It has to do with the state’s attempts to train the populace like animals. After all, the list perfectly correlates with the news about the campaign that the state has been waging against thought criminals. The feelings of religious believers are fragile, and the more that official spokesmen of traditional confessions talk about love and mercy, the higher are the chances that they would tear you apart for making an innocent joke. Or their particularly zealous adherents would do this: it makes no difference to the targets of their outrage. There has been a lull in the “buttocks war,” but the echoes of this war are still capable of scaring people.
Why people would steer clear of “ethnic traditions” also needs no explanation, nor is it an example of their outstanding political correctness. They understand that some traditions have their own specifics. Some peoples have a tradition of taking offense and demanding an apology on camera after having conversation with the offender that is fraught with bodily injuries of varying severity.
Nor is our reverent love of history love at all. “Whoever remembers old things, pluck out his eyes,” says the proverb. “Or maybe give him five years for whitewashing Nazism,” the Investigative Committee would add. We now have our own favorite stories on this score. The stories about the Investigative Committee and Alexander Bastrykin’s personal campaign against “Hitler’s accomplices” are well known to everyone. In the Chelyabinsk region, a homeless man who decided to dry his socks at the Eternal Flame was charged with whitewashing Nazism. What can we say about smart people who risk talking about the past? Yes, it’s better not to say anything—you’ll be safer. And if you think that all this concerns only the Second World War, then you’re thinking wrong. In Novosibirsk, investigators had a strict conversation with a scholar who dared to speak about Alexander Nevsky without sufficient respect. In St. Petersburg, the probe into the blogger who hung his own portrait in the Hermitage’s Gallery of Heroes of 1812 so that he could take selfies has not yet been completed. And so on.
The fact that the Russian President rounds out the list of topics forbidden for humor is a direct rebuke to Federation Council member Andrei Klishas. The law he wrote on mandatory respect for the authorities is not really working. (Although the police on the ground have been trying: they have been catching jokers on VKontakte and rolling out gigantic fines for them.) The Investigative Committee should probably take a closer look and figure out whether there has been any sabotage on Klishas’s part. Times are turbulent: there’s a hybrid war underway, and the enemy can entrench itself even at the Federation Council. You can’t let your guard down for a minute.
A Map of Fear
I don’t know what the pollsters at VTsIOM hoped to achieve when they did their survey. But they have produced a perfect map of fear. The state has been trying to intimidate its subjects, and, as we can see, its efforts have not been in vain. Although we should note that the Church, the “traditions of certain peoples,” and their own history frighten Russians more than the authorities, which is evidence that the state cannot finish the job even in this case. They cannot pull off everything: the police-state vertical has not yet been built. But I have to give them credit: they keep on working, they don’t give up.
What can I say. Let’s remember that laughter is the most effective cure for fear. By setting traps for pranksters, the country’s current proprietors do not demonstrate their own strength. They only point up their own weak spots. By intimidating us and nurturing our fears, they demonstrate their own fear. It’s good to see this. Although this is cold consolation for someone who has been imprisoned for making a joke.
But to avoid succumbing to excessive pessimism (and thus delighting government officials), let’s recall these lines of verse by Nikolai Karamzin, the founding father of Russian historiography:
He who, bored, summons the Muses And the gentle Graces, their attendants, With poems and prose amuses Himself, strangers, and dependents, And laughs in all sincerity (Laughing is really not a sin!) At everything that makes him grin Will get along with the world in amity, And won’t cut short his days With sharp blades or poisons…
September 8, 2018
I don’t care what they call themselves or what names they are called — liberals, intellectuals, anarchists, communists, socialists, plain old good people — but given the utter silencing of the topic of Syria in the provisionally anti-Putin grassroots and political discourse in Russia, it is difficult to see these various democratic and progressive forces as a force per se, and even more so as a force for good and renewal. The full picture of what is happening nowadays includes the bombing of Idlib, and not only the beloved “social agenda” vis-a-vis the unpopular pension reform, if only because the regime has had to find the money for the bombs, missiles and planes in people’s pockets. But everyone keeps their lips sealed, not realizing that cowardice on this occasion is read as cowardice on all occasions among “the common folk” that they are perpetually trying to save.
September 8, 2017
“However, his new position as head of the local police will not bring the main character the peace for whose sake he pursued it. After the opening of an oil refinery, the city is plunged into the chaos of crime. Attempts to deal with the oil company lead to disastrous consequences for his entire family. The tragedy forces the hero to compromise his principles and set out on the path of revenge.”
September 8, 2016
From the annals of Russian pollocracy, which I’ve decided to redub poleaxeocracy.
File this one under “aiding and comforting the enemy.”
Stalin was “quite popular,” too. God only knows how that ended up.
In any case, “being popular” and “good governance” are two entirely different things.
It’s strange how much capital of all kinds has been spent over the past 17 years to convince the Russian people and everyone else this isn’t the case.
So if US researchers really were wasting their time trying to figure out whether Putin is “in fact popular,” this only goes to show . . .
What? That either the researchers have fallen for this stupidity or they think Russians are degenerate morons.
There are no circumstances under which you can objectively determine whether Putin is “in fact popular,” because the question itself is irrelevant.
It’s like asking people whether they think Michael Corleone is “really handsome.”
Michael Corleone’s job is not “being handsome.” It’s running the Corleone mob.
Greg Yudin September 8, 2016 A wonderful story. I have just been sent confirmation of my text yesterday about the Levada Center of a sort that I couldn’t have hoped for.
If you remember, the Justice Ministry has been hassling the Levada Center over a study conducted jointly with the University of Wisconsin, and Wisconsin is somehow supported by the Pentagon, and from this it follows that Pentagon money directly lands in the pocket of the Levadovites, who in return report secrets about Russian public opinion. We won’t bother discussing this paranoia, so let’s move on.
The joint project with Wisconsin most likely refers to the research that Scott Gelbach from Wisconsin did with the Levada Center’s involvement. A colleague sent me an article on this research that has just been published. Actually, the goal of Gelbach, Timothy Frye from Columbia University and their team was to find out “Is Putin’s popularity real?” (as their article is entitled). They needed the Levada Center as a partner for conducting an “experiment” as part of a public opinion poll. In this experiment, they wanted to rule out the “fear factor” on the part of the respondents. (I’ll be writing a separate post about the “experiment.”) As a result of the experiment, it transpired that “Putin is in fact quite popular.” Moreover, they claim that, in reality, Putin’s ratings, per their experiment, may even be somewhat underestimated due to “artificial deflation.”
Once again, read these lines: the authorities want to shut down the Levada Center because of a study that claims that Putin is “in fact” even more popular than people think!
And not just claims, but informs the whole world about it in perfect English. I wonder if the Anti-Maidan movement knows about this?
September 8, 2016
“So begins a yearlong series of plays chronicling Russian leaders.”
Enough already. I’d like to hear a play or program about the history of Portugal or Mali or Ecuador or Malaysia.
BBC Radio 4 and all the other high-tone media outlets in the so-called western world have so-called Russian history and culture coming out of their ears and noses.
This only works to the advantage of the Putinists, because, almost without exception, these various “serious” entertainments and furrowed-brow documentaries and exposés simply reinforce the tired home truths (i.e., lies) about Russia’s history and present that the regime itself is fond of shoving down everyone’s throats. Not to mention the fact that getting so much attention satisfies the vanity of the Russian powers that be.
But really, there is a big, big world out there we’d like to hear about more often. A world without Putin and “Russia.”
September 8, 2015
Over-the-top late-Soviet “ritual” lacquered panels, commissioned by the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism in Leningrad in the early nineteen-eighties, and brilliantly and flawlessly executed by a group of six “retooled” icon painters from the village of Mstyora, near Suzdal, a place famed for its distinctive school of icon and lacquered box painting.
Although the panels were officially commissioned, they have not been exhibited until now, apparently. Head to the revamped Museum of the History of Religion (nowadays, sans the atheism) in downtown Petersburg to check them out.
Photos by Comrade Koganzon. Translated, where necessary, by the Russian Reader
According to a poll by the Superjob.ru job board published Friday, 18% of men and 17% of women surveyed named President Vladimir Putin as Russia’s most handsome man.
The 68-year-old bachelor is the only individual to receive double digits in the open-ended questionnaire. Nineteen percent of men named themselves as Russia’s most handsome man, while 18% of women said there are no handsome men in Russia.
“Russians still call Vladimir Putin the most attractive famous man in the country,” Superjob.ru declared, despite the 1% dip in his rating from last year.
“Neither actors nor athletes or other politicians can compete with him today,” it said.
Indeed, the commando-in-chief maintained a comfortable lead on his closest competitors actors Dmitry Nagiyev, Danila Kozlovsky and Konstantin Khabensky, whose handsomeness was identified by a mere 2-3% of respondents.
Superjob.ru said it carried out the in-person survey among 1,000 men and 1,000 women in more than 300 Russian cities between March 22-April 1.
The results were published days after lawmakers passed legislation allowing Putin to remain president until 2036, when Russians’ biggest crush turns 83.
Over the years and until quite recently, Vladimir Putin has consistently denied that he would amend the Russian Constitution so that he could remain in the president’s office longer than prescribed by law. But that’s exactly what he did in 2020, and now he’s signed into “law” his coup d’état. Video by Current Time TV. Thanks to @sibirskykot for the heads-up. || TRR
Putin Signs Law Paving Way to Rule Until 2036 Moscow Times
April 5, 2021
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed legislation formally granting him the right to stay in power until 2036.
Putin’s second consecutive and fourth overall presidential term ends in 2024, the year when Russia’s previous Constitution would have required him to step down.
But an overhauled Constitution that Russians approved in a nationwide vote last year allows Putin to run for two more six-year presidential terms. If elected both times, he would remain president until 2036, surpassing Josef Stalin as the longest-serving leader of Russia since Peter the Great.
The 68-year-old signed a law Monday that resets his number of terms served, allowing him to extend his 20-year rule until he turns 83.
Former President Dmitry Medvedev, who served in 2008-2012 when Putin was constitutionally mandated to step down after his first two consecutive terms, is also granted the right to run two more times. Putin served as prime minister during Medvedev’s presidency.
Critics slammed last summer’s vote on the sweeping constitutional reforms — which contained populist economic measures and enshrined conservative values in Russia’s basic law — as a pretext to allow Putin to become “president for life.”
Putin has previously said he hasn’t yet decided whether to run for president again, saying 2024 is still far off.
The emphasis, above, is mine. Image courtesy of Frieze. || TRR
P.S. “Protesters in Myanmar took to handing out Easter eggs painted with protest messages at renewed marches in Yangon, the main city, and elsewhere around the country. They oppose the military government that seized power in February. Police shot and killed two men in the capital, Naypyitaw; over 500 people have died since the coup.” (The Economist Espresso, 5 April 2021)
“L. and I got our second covid shot today. There are no queues here. The majority of the population, as you know, is afraid and has no plans to be vaccinated, and no public awareness campaign is underway. L. telephoned the clinic, and they signed us up for the next day!”
Meanwhile, according to the Moscow Times, the pollocracy rolls on, scientifically confirming all our worse fears about the deplorable Russisch hoi polloi (some of which may be true if only in the sense that “independent polling” in Russia is meant to reinforce the authoritarian “mindset” it pretends to unmask by asking “ordinary people” whether they’ve stopped beating their wife):
Nearly two out of three Russians believe the conspiracy theory that the coronavirus is a bioweapon created by humans, a survey by the independent Levada Center polling agency said Monday.
According to Levada’s results, 64% of Russian respondents said Covid-19 was artificially created as a new form of biological weapon. That compares with 23% who said the virus emerged naturally and 13% who couldn’t answer.
Vaccine hesitancy is also on the rise, with 62% of respondents saying they don’t want to get Russia’s Sputnik V jab compared with 30% who do. Younger Russians were more skeptical of the domestically manufactured vaccine than their older counterparts by a 74-to-56 margin.
Among the most cited reasons for declining interest in Sputnik V are fears of side effects, incomplete clinical trials and the sense that “there’s no point” in a vaccine, Levada said.
Still, four out of five Russians said they or someone they know had already gotten sick with Covid-19, while 28% said they have not come across anyone who got sick.
Levada conducted the survey among 1,601 respondents from 50 regions between Feb. 18-24.
Completing this depressing picture, Masha Gessen finally admits to what I’ve long thought was the reason that she and lots of other “liberal” Russians had nothing to say about the Yuri Dmitriev case and other sketchy frame-ups of Russia’s undesirables (e.g., the Network Case defendants and the Jehovah’s Witnesses) perpetrated by the country’s insecurity services: because when the Kremlin and its info cronies target “heinous” political prisoners and dissidents, it works. Proper people like Gessen don’t want to have anything to do with their solidarity campaigns. To wit:
The Russian regime has used both its vast media infrastructure and its judicial system to vilify its opponents. An army of Kremlin trolls appears to be working to keep Navalny’s old xenophobic statements in circulation, and on occasion it seems to have manufactured new ones (I am not repeating the fake here). Perhaps the most egregious example of smearing a political opponent is the case of the memory activist Yuri Dmitriev, who has been convicted of sexually abusing his adopted daughter. There is little doubt that the persecution of Dmitriev is political, but the charge is so heinous that I, for one, have refrained from writing about the case. Amnesty hasn’t named Dmitriev a prisoner of conscience, either. As the Kremlin continues to crack down on the opposition, I would expect many more opposition activists to be revealed to be indefensible, as though only morally impeccable people had the right to be free of political persecution.
“Our motto: The constitution is forever, while the president and government [should serve] only 1 (one) term.” Photo by Maksim Klyagin for RFE/RL
Nine Activists Detained in Petersburg at Picket Against Amendments to Constitution
Maksim Klyagin Radio Svoboda
February 1, 2020
Our correspondent reports that several activists picketing against proposed amendments to the Russian Constitution have been detained on Senate Square in Petersburg.
Several people were detained without explanation. Police pointed at them, after which they were escorted to paddy wagons, one of which has left the scene.
According to OVD Info, the detainees include Vadim Kazak, Yevgeny Musin, and Marina Ken. Kazak was put in a paddy wagon for refusing to sign a warning about [violating] the rules for holding a public event. He has been taken to Police Precinct No. 77. Musin was detained for holding up a placard that read, “Say no to Putin’s amendments to the Constitution!”
Riot police detain picketer on Senate Square in Petersburg. Photo by Maksim Klyagin for RFE/RL
Our correspondent reports that police have also detained activist Alexander Tonkonogov, who was holding a handmade placard on an A4-sized sheet of paper. Yegor Stroyev has also been escorted to a paddy wagon.
One of the picketers, Vladimir Shipitsyn, was detained brutally by police.
“They’re carrying him by the arms and legs, they can’t lift him up. He hit his hand on the ground. They’ve put him on a bench,” our correspondent reported. An ambulance has been called for Shipitsyn, but it has not yet arrived. He has been loaded into a paddy wagon.
Riot police drag protester Vladimir Shipitsyn by the arms. Photo by Maksim Klyagin for RFE/RL
A total of eight activists were detained. The police stopped arresting people, and the riot squad soon left the scene. The picketers were standing in groups but had no placards.
Update, 3:39 p.m.MBKh Media has reported that activist Andrei Makashov was later detained on Nevsky Prospect. Although he had no placard, he had been among the picketers on Senate Square.
What Happened at the Rally Before the Arrests Began
Indefinite Protest, the movement which organized the rally, had labeled it a “people’s gathering” in defense of constitutional government. People took turns holding up placards and picketing. Around fifty people took part in the event. There were arrests at a similar picket on January 26.
“Even in a concentration camp, you can’t go too far. People rebelled in Stalin’s camps. But we’re not in a concentration camp, and you can’t do like things like that [with the Constitution]. I don’t think we’re active enough, because all those scoundrels and crook have a stranglehold over the country,” said Asan Mumji, one of the picketers.
“We have lived for a very long time in a country not governed by laws. First, there were the monarchs, then some bandits and general secretaries. The first attempt to make Russia a law-based country was in March 2017, when people wanted to create the Constituent Assembly. The second attempt was in the early nineties when the current Constitution was adopted. This doesn’t mean that I fully approve of it, but it works—it protects human rights and ensures the rule of law. It is completely wrong to destroy it, especially given the fact that we have had one man in power for twenty years. The state is not someone’s personal property, it belongs to everyone. It’s the managers who should be changed: they should not be allowed to get comfortable in their posts,” noted picketer Vladimir Shipitsyn.
One of the activists argued that there should be solid grounds for every amendment.
“But there have not been good arguments for any of them: they’re like surprise gifts. The only thing Putin cited was the growing public demand for radical reform. But, in fact, this was nothing other than demagoguery,” she said.
Vladimir Putin announced plans to amend the Russian Constitution during his address to the Federal Assembly on January 15. The president proposed giving the Russian Constitution precedence over international law and enshrining the status and role of the State Council, which Putin has revived. The opposition fears that Putin wants the constitution amended in this way so that when his current term as president runs out in 2024, he can head the State Council and thus remain in power.
Putin has appointed a working group of seventy-five people to draft amendments to the constitution. The group has already proposed one hundred changes to the country’s basic law. A law bill on amending the constitution was unanimously approved by the Russian State Duma in its first reading. The second reading has been scheduled for February 11, but it could be postponed to a later date.
According to a poll conducted by the Levada Center, forty-seven percent of Russians believe that the constitution is being amended to advance Putin’s interests by expanding his powers and allowing him to remain in power beyond 2024.