The Kremlin is making a lot of efforts to keep the mood in society stable, because it understands very well that this conflict is a great stress for society, both economically and emotionally, and that more and more people are being drawn into it, and there are victims.What can break this state of stable fatigue in Russian society?
We see that two thirds of Russians are concerned about a [Ukrainian] counteroffensive, another three quarters about the supply of Western weapons. But so far, all this has not seriously affected the broad mood. As for consumer confidence, the growth of anxiety about this came to a halt in our latest survey, though it did not drop either. At the beginning of last year, there was great enthusiasm in society related to consolidation around the regime, the flag, and it continues to have an effect. At the end of the year, economic factors began to take effect, as payments were made to mobilized men and their families.
Fewer people say the economic situation within their families is getting worse. And this seems to me to be one of the main drivers of moderately positive sentiment, which the Ukraine events have little effect on.
At the same time, there is a strong desire for peace talks. I repeat, not concessions to Ukraine, but a desire that all this would just end, people would stop dying, the authorities would stop calling up fellow citizens, relatives and friends. And this fatigue, I repeat, continues to build.In February, you said that Russian society could have enough endurance for months or even a couple of years. Do you feel the same way now?
So far there have been no big changes. They can occur, as I have already said, due to the economic situation, the situation at the front, a second wave of mobilization. For now, the baseline scenario is still valid.But besides the war itself, the deaths of soldiers, the deaths of civilians in Russia, more and more war-related horror is happening in Russia itself. Wagner prisoners who were freed from prison to fight in Ukraine are killingpeople on roads at night. Svetlana Petriychuk and Yevgeniya Berkovich, a playwright and director, have beenimprisoned for a play that had been running for three years in theaters. Why does this news not change people’s attitude toward the regime?
As for the play, consider that these repressions are committed against the active part of society, those who protest. Here, it seems, the government simply seeks to shut up any dissenters. Severe pressure on journalists, on the creative milieu does not concern ordinary Russians – they are not interested. Many do not know about it and do not want to know.
Thus, I would separate the well-being of active, dissenting, opposition-minded people from ordinary people.
As for acts of cruelty committed by people who have come back from the war, so far these are isolated cases, and overallthere was plenty of cruelty in Russia without them.
Looking forward, the increase in the level of violence and crime will affect public sentiment, but most people have simply not yet come back. Journalists are beginning to sound the alarm, but ordinary people have not yet felt this.The Kremlin seems to be trying to connect in the public’s mind the liberal, dissenting milieu with terrorists. We see this in the new criminal cases against Navalny, who is being blamed for the murder of Z-propagandist Vladlen Tatarsky. Will the Kremlin be able to make the public believe that connection?
So far, society does not really believe it. Last year, we asked the question who the foreign agents and national traitors that Putin references are, and in the first place it was the oligarchs, Biden and well-known people who had fled. Soon, we will publish the results of a survey about Tatarsky, and there 1% or 2% connect his murder with the opposition.
A few years ago, we asked about the explosions at Domodedovo Airport, and this time in the survey about Tatarsky we simply repeated the questions with a slight modification: did you hear who was behind it? And Russians mostly answered that the Ukrainian special services did it, and people have not picked up the version that the Russian opposition wasinvolved. Society as a whole is rather passive, which is both good and bad at the same time. On the one hand, there is no great desire to participate in politics, because there is no faith that anything can be done. On the other hand, they also do not particularly believe in all these conspiracies and traitors, though the topic is constantly being discussed.
There is much more anger and resentment among Russians toward the West and their own government, channeled toward regional officials, so far not the central [government].