Staunton,November 6 – A new survey by the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academyof Sciences says that Russians still want their country to be a great power butthat only on condition that it is concerned about the well-being of its owncitizens, a major shift in priorities from 2014 when state power far outrankedeverything else.
Kommersant journalist Viktor Khamrayevreports on the shifts the institute’s scholars have found in Russian attitudes overthe last four years, changes that are at odds with Vladimir Putin’s expressed preferencesand that help to explain both voting patterns and protests in recent months (kommersant.ru/doc/3792003).
“Justice, greatpower status and democracy are the preferences Russians have expressed to the scientificresearch center of the Institute of Sociology,” Khamrayev says.In October 2014, only “justice and greatpower status were important for Russians.”And then, Russians viewed the Crimea’s annexation as “the restoration ofjustice at the level of foreign policy.”
Four years ago, two Russians out ofthree said that “’Russia must be a great power with strong armed forces.’ Nowonly 49 percent say that while 51 pe3rcent are convinced that ‘Russia must in thefirst instance be concerned about the well-being of its own citizens and itspower status and military might are secondary.’”
Khamrayev notes that today “in theopinion of the majority, the status of ‘a great power’ depends not as much onforeign as on domestic policy,” which must ensure a developed economy and ahigh level of social well-being, according to Vladimir Petukhov, one of the sociologistswho led the study.
Foreign policy issues remainimportant “for a minority.” Thirteen percent say that “Russia must ‘become aworld center of influence,’” eight percent say it must be a bridge betweenEurope and Asia, and seven percent say it should seek control over the territoryof the former Soviet Union.
Over the last four years, theinstitute found, Russians have shifted in their ideas about what the future ofRussia should look like. Social justice remains central: it in fact rose from47 percent to 59 percent.” This isn’t about social levelling, Petukhov says,but about equality of opportunity and before the law.
Russians have also increased thevalue they put on democracy. In 2014, only 27 percent said that was a priority.Now, 37 percent do.