It is around this patriotism that we define ourselves: “we are for Russia against Ukraine and the West,” “we are for the army,” “we are for unity.” These imperatives are shared by the absolute majority.
Have there been more refusals to answer sociologists’ questions since February 24?
Some colleagues record [an increase in the number of refusals], others do not, and still others, on the contrary, record an increase in sincerity and readiness to cooperate. In February-March , we did not feel that there were more refusals. On the contrary, we sensed more readiness to talk to us, primarily on the part of such an interesting group as men. Before this, for various reasons, men were less willing to talk to us, but then suddenly bam – they opened up!
Did the picture change after the mobilization? Social Research Foundation President Vladimir Zvonovsky, at the same meeting of the VTsIOM expert council, said that the number of refusals to participate in sociological surveys after the mobilization had gone up, while the level of cooperation “went down a notch.”
For VTsIOM it did not. The only exceptions were those who “ran away.” But, frankly, it’s hard to reach them by phone.
What moods are prevailing in society today? What is there more of: anxiety and apathy or optimism?
Anxiety is something that we see in our database and have seen for about five years now. Since mid-2018, the country has been in a difficult socio-psychological state. First, it was the pension reform, then the pandemic, now the SVO. All this is very hard [on people]. Deviant behavior is up, childbearing is down. People have to work harder to maintain control over their lives. It’s very exhausting. There are more risks and threats, and people feel it. Every day can bring surprises: a drone attack on the Kremlin, a strike on the Crimean Bridge, mobilization, Prigozhin’s rebellion...
At the same time, adaptation processes are taking place. “Metropolitan Russia” has withdrawn into itself: there is my life, and then there is something [going on] far away – there, on the battlefields. “Warring Russia,” on the contrary, is mobilized and following the principle of “everything for the front, everything for victory.” These people are not necessarily fighting; they might be family members of military personnel or volunteers. They might make up a relatively small part of society, but this part is very active and passionate. The mood in general is a motley mixture, where there is anxiety, combined with the desire to normalize life in different ways, the desire to win as quickly as possible and the desire to step back from big events and go into private life.
How many people in Russia, as you say, have withdrawn into themselves?
I think about 20 million – the so-called “metropolitan Russia.” It is people who benefited from the previous, satiated way of life, who were first frustrated by the pandemic because it hit them harder than the poorer strata. Now some of them have left, while most are, so to speak, petty bourgeois, the metropolitan middle class in Moscow, St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg... They try to pretend that nothing has changed, they are not particularly interested in what is happening in the combat zone, unless it directly concerns their own safety.
How is non-metropolitan Russia responding to the threats?
There are border regions. Some people left, the rest are on guard and have incorporated the heightened risk into their daily routine. They have much higher motivation to see the SVO through successfully. And if we take the Trans-Urals (Zauralye), Siberia, the Far East, a big part of Central Russia, they have the same problems: prices, medicines, work, etc. There are, of course, people looking for new opportunities for themselves. Some are finding them.
How has Russians’ financial behavior changed – have they started spending more or saving for a rainy day?
At first, everyone was rushing to spend money due to the jump in inflation and the risk that foreign brands would leave, and many goods would simply not be available. But this impulse was short-lived. It was followed by an impulse to save: clouds are gathering, it will be tougher in the future, so we should not spend, but save. Around the end of last year and the beginning of this year, a third phase began: everyone more or less calmed down and began to spend again. Fortunately, loans are being issued at low rates.