In the first nine months of 2022, Russians’ spending on antidepressants
increased 70% versus the same period in 2021, while sedative purchases were up 56%.
This data coincides with a registered sharp increase in anxiety, especially after the launch of the partial mobilization, which turned the life of every male in Russia into a lottery. For example, according to the Public Opinion Foundation
, immediately after the mobilization was announced, the share of people experiencing anxiety jumped from 35% to 69%, while a month later – despite the formal end to the hunt for potential servicemen – anxiety levels remain at a very high 63% as of October 23.
Still, despite this permanently nervous state, which is confirmed by Levada Center data
, as usual most of society is adapting to the latest shock, one that was just as unprecedented as that of February 24. After a slight dip as the mobilization got underway, Putin's approval ratings have inched up
and stabilized. The pattern that we saw during the pandemic and to a lesser extent during the beginning of the pension reform resurfaced: following an initial shock, adaptation begins, and then sentiment levels out altogether and Putin’s approval ratings start to rise again. Only now this process of dip and rebound has taken much less time.
Russians, you might say, exhaled and in anticipation of new adventures and surprises from the authorities, plunged into practical solutions: some are dodging the draft and aren’t planning to come back, while others are running to the store to look for uniforms for their mobilized son, husband or even father.
Instead of protest – adaptation. Instead of indignation, displays of well-known submission: the road to Golgotha is seen as an involuntary civic duty. Fatalism and cynicism replace comprehension and understanding of what is happening. Just like in the hooligan, semi-underworld song from deep Soviet times:
They called me to the draft board,
They gave me a rusty machine gun,
One hundred grams of cold vodka
And a big piece of herring –
Now go fight Fritz! What is new in public opinion
Nevertheless, anxiety persists – and that is something new for the sentiment of the majority on which Putin relies. Built up frustration, along with constant negative expectations (65% of Levada Center respondents in October believed
that a general mobilization was possible) and the need to constantly adapt to new, absolutely extraordinary circumstances, is reflected in fatigue from the protracted war, which had been designed to be a triumphal procession. If not like the taking of Crimea, then at least like the Georgian campaign in 2008. The share of people in favor of peace talks jumped
from 44% in August to 57% in October. And all because the broad masses hardly want to die for Putin, a prospect that grew more and more likely following September 21. People want to remain both patriots and alive.
A significant part of the population has a feeling, to use the term of the sociologist Lev Gudkov, of collectively being taken hostage
. You fall into a trap, but you don’t fall alone. And like in escaping from freedom, as in joining the masses to support the dictator, the herd mentality is triggered – everyone is going to fight, and me too.
This is more painful than the formulation in effect until September: "everyone supports the war on TV, and me too."