To begin with, recall that despite the shocks from the “special operation,” Western sanctions and partial mobilization, Russians did not see 2022 as the hardestyear. The pandemic-tarred 2020 and financial-crisis-marked 1998 were deemed much harder in their time.
Two-thirds of respondents say that 2023 was “average”on the whole, while another 20% called it “good.” In addition, two thirds consider it rather successful – the highest figure since 2000. As our respondents explained, they had time to relax, some came into money, some found a new job and even took up personal development. Still, Russians again said that the year turned out harderfor the country than for themselves personally. Meanwhile, whereas in 2022, 2020 and 2014 the difference between the assessments of the situation in the country and in the private sphere exceeded 20 percentage points, it halved in 2023. All this points to a rapid return to average pre-Covid assessments and people’s adaptation to what is going on.
In the eyes of Russians, the main events of the year were rising prices, Vladimir Putin’s announcement of another presidential run, the “special operation,” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the school shooting in Bryansk, Putin’s annual call-in show, the earthquake in Turkey, rising salaries and pensions, the march on Moscow by Wagner and the subsequent death of Yevgeny Prigozhin.Economic trends of 2023
In 2023, the trend of a perceived weakening of the acuteness of most social problems continued
. Nevertheless, at the end of the year we saw a surge in anxiety about inflation, the main symbol of which was the rise in prices for eggs
and, to a lesser extent, for bananas
, the most popular fruit in the Russian grocery basket – this was repeatedly mentioned in focus groups. Overall, however, people have rather adapted to rising prices; inflation is perceived as a chronic problem that can be tolerated as long as it is not in the double digits.
Throughout 2023, there was a steady trend of improving economic assessments, as recorded by indexes of consumer and social sentiment. This trend began to emerge in the summer of 2022 as the March inflation shock wore off: in the year and a half since then, the number of people reporting a worsening of their economic situation decreased from 41% to 24%. Over the same period, the share of those who expect their situation to worsen in the future halved from 28% to 14%. Back in 2016-21, these trends had already beennoticeable, but they evolved at a much slower pace.
Moreover, over the past 1.5-2.0 years in Russia there has been a noticeable increase in the share of people who, intheir own estimation, can afford to buy relatively expensive things, such as a TV or refrigerator. Whereasin 2020-21 the average annual figure was about 24%, in 2022 it rose to 27% and then 29% in 2023. Meanwhile, the size of the well-off segment of the population did not change significantly.
The expedited indexation [adjusting for inflation] of wages and pensions played a role in this – this was repeatedly mentioned by respondents in answers to open questions and during focus-group discussions. For the second year in a row, “rising wages and pensions” wasamong the top 10 main events of the year. In addition, the positive assessments of the economic situation were likely supported by payments for fighting in the “special operation,” as they are several times higher than the monthly income of most Russians. To quote one of our respondents who was asked what exactly has improved in her life recently: