Staunton, July 13 – Falling incomes and a rising sense of unresolved problems between the government and the population is prompting Russians to be more open to change economically and politically than at any time since Vladimir Putin became president, according to new research by the Moscow Institute of Sociology.
In 1999, the researchers said, 69 percent of Russians said the country needed real economic and political change, while 31 percent of them said that stability was more important to them than anything that might be achieved at the risk of change, Olga Solovyeva reported in Nezavisimaya gazeta today (ng.ru/economics/2017-07-13/4_7028_people.html).
By 2003, those favoring change had fallen to 53 percent while those favoring stability had risen to 46. By 2007, these figures were 60 and 40 respectively; by 2012, they were 72 and 28; and by 2014, they were 70 and 30. But since that time, they have begun to convert and now while 56 percent favor stability, but 44 percent believe change is needed.
The trend is clear and the sociologists expect those who want change to outnumber those who are more concerned with stability in the coming months. The supporters of change are greatest among young people (55 percent), the less well off (50 percent), and those living in smaller cities (48 percent).
What is striking, Solovyeva reports, is that the sociologists found that “there are “comparatively few – less than a third – residents of megalopolises [like Moscow] who would like to see fundamental changes” at the possible expense of stability.
The sociologists were also struck by the large fraction of Russians who are “dissatisfied” with the powers that be. Thirty-six percent of the roughly 4000 people surveyed acknowledged the existence of “contradictions” between the powers and the people. And 45 percent see a growing threat of social tensions in the country.
Moreover, if one includes other contradictions, such as between bureaucreats and citizens, the rich and poor, and the oligarchs and the rest of society, the sociologists say, “almost 70 percent of Russians are focusing on societal contradictions.” And they note that all other social conflicts, including ethnic and religious, are viewed as less significant.