Russians Hopeful About 2024, But Not Counting
On Peace and Quiet
January 5, 2024
  • Denis Volkov

    Director of the Levada Center (Moscow)
Levada Center Director Denis Volkov explains why, according to surveys, 2023 was a noticeably better year for Russians than 2022. Still, that does not mean unanimous support for every government decision, be it a ban on abortion or another wave of mobilization.Meanwhile, the share of advocates for peace negotiations is constantly growing.
The original text in Russian was published in Forbes and is being republished here with their permission.
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:
“‘My son is at war, he sends money. Apparently, these are the people who can buy today what they could not afford yesterday.”
Vladimir Putin's annual call-in show, December 2023. Source: YouTube
As expected, the less well-off segments of the population are most susceptible to such government measures, with their outlook immediately improving following the decisions. In general, they are adapting to the situation with slightly greater ease – their demands are more modest, they respond more positively to government support measures and their way of life has changed little because of the sanctions, which largely hit the richer and more Westernized parts of major Russian cities. There too, however, positive assessments predominated throughout 2023. The most anxious rich and Westernized Russians from cities went abroad, while those who remained had enough resources to find their way in the new reality – parallel imports were able to support their usual level of consumption, with Chinese alternatives replacing sanctioned goods in some segments.

Note that the trend of swifter adaptation to the new economic reality amid the “special operation” and broad economic sanctions came on top of the longer and slower recovery from the Russian financial crisis of 2014–15, also largely driven by the initial Western sanctions against Russia.

This is evidenced by the long-term dynamics of the consumer sentiment index: the number of respondents who reported an improvement in their financial situation rose steadily from 4% at the beginning of 2016 to 24% at the end of 2023. Over the same period, the number of those who expect their situation to improve within a year also increased, from 6% to 31%.

In other words, life is slowly getting better. Whether this trend will continue in 2024 will largely depend on whether the Russian government continues its current policy of supporting disadvantaged segments of the population, or whether it will give in to the temptation to take a pause after the presidential elections.

Political support

The authorities are heading into the presidential elections in good shape. As expected, throughout 2023 there were high levels of support for key state institutions and the government. These sentiments were driven by last year’s consolidation of public opinion around the government and patriotic fervor against the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which the majority of the country’s population sees as forced on Russia by the West.

All this is very similar to the so-called “Crimea effect” – when widespread support for the regime was observed for several years after the first stage of the Russia-Ukraine conflict back in 2014. Now, as then, there is every reason to believe that the widespread support will last for several years.

In 2023, the prevailing political sympathies, by and large, could not be shaken by the Prigozhin rebellion, which was nevertheless noted by Russians as one of the main events of the year. Meanwhile, 5% of Russians were ready to name Prigozhin the person of the year.
Neither the recent bans, most of which were not noticed by the bulk of the population, nor the hardships of the special operation affected the political views of the majority in Russia.”
Collecting signatures to ban abortion. Yekaterinburg, 2017. Source: Wiki Commons
There is every reason to believe that this mobilization of public opinion will continue into 2024. The outcome of the upcoming presidential elections was predetermined at the end of February 2022 – just as the results of the 2016 parliamentary elections, which were easily won by the party of power, were foreordained by the euphoria around the incorporation of Crimea into Russia in the spring of 2014.

Thus, the number of Russians who want to see Putin back in the Kremlin for another term shot up from 42% in 2021 to 72% a year later, rising to 78% as of November 2023. Indeed, the number of people ready to vote for Putin, according to responses to an open-ended question without prompts, increased to 55% last year from 32% in December 2021; today, the figure is 58%. If there is only a limited number of names, like on the ballot, this will only mean an even higher percentage of votes for Putin.

However, the high levels of political support do not guarantee unanimous support for every decision of the authorities. Thus, the recent initiatives that would seriously limit women’s access to abortions have been met with rejection by public opinion.

Even Putin during his call-in show had to speak out against them. In discussions of these issues in focus groups, participants, primarily women and including supporters of the government, generally say that “a woman should decide herself” and that they do not want “state interference in their personal lives.” In other words, people are ready to support the government on many issues – but only as long as it does not diverge from their vital interests.


This is also true when it comes to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. We have pointed out that consistently high levels of support for the “special operation” are possible only on the condition that the majority of Russians are not required to actively take part in it and have the opportunity to live their private lives. Otherwise – as was the case during the partial mobilization – feelings of anxiety rise sharply, people start demanding that the conflict be wrapped up and approval ratings begin to decline.

Apparently in a nod to this, in 2023 the authorities sought to avoid unpopular decisions and took the path of recruiting volunteers for the conflict, thereby ensuring social stability. And during the New Year holiday, in most festively decorated Russian cities there is almost nothing that would remind people about what is going on in Ukraine.

In the autumn, it also became clear that the widespread concern at the beginning of the year about a Western-backed Ukrainian counteroffensive was not well-founded – in June, as many as 70% of respondents had reported that they were concerned.
Therefore, confidence that the conflict was going well for Russia began to grow late in the year.
A protest against banning abortion in St Petersburg. The big poster reads: "The state is in the womb/The nation must be in bloom" (rhymed in Russian). Source: VK
Still, concerns about shelling of the Russian border and attacks by Ukrainian drones have not gone away.

This seems to be why the first signs of fatigue from the long “special operation” became noticeable at the end of 2023. From May to November, the share of Russians in favor of peace talks increased from 45% to 57%. This was also indicated by the fact that 21% of Russians would have liked to ask Putin on his call-in show about when there would be peace – this was the most popular answer when respondents were asked what they would ask Putin if they had the opportunity.

Among the most discussed topics on social networks during the president’s press conference was whether there would be a second wave of mobilization. Still, despite all the fatigue, the majority of Russians believe that “the government knows best” when to end the “special operation” and are convinced that the “special operation” will last a long time. This means that in this regard the system’s robustness remains intact.

Looking forward

Regarding 2024, public opinion is ambivalent. Three-quarters are looking to the new year with hope. From discussions in focus groups, we know that people generally have purely human hopes: for loved ones to be healthy, for wages to be higher and for prices to rise more slowly (everyone has long accepted that they will not go down).

However, for the second year in a row, the main hopes and wishes for the new year increasingly include peace and calm life without wars (as well as without disasters, epidemics and economic crises).

Yet when it comes to themselves and their family, two thirds of Russians think that 2024 will be quiet for them. For the first time in 10 years, more than half (57%) are looking at their own future “with confidence.” It is hard to say what there is more of here: self-hypnosis and complacency or signs that people are gradually learning to navigate a situation that is hardly predictable.

In any case, with regard to the political and economic situation in the country more than half of Russians – 58-59% of respondents – have answered each year since 2014 that the coming year will be “stressful.” Even with all the adaptation to the new economic reality and all the support for the authorities, people are still sensitive to the ongoing tensions both inside and outside the country. The fact is no one expects peace and quiet.
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