Category Archives: polls

EDITORIAL: Russia, Behind the Curtain

EDITORIAL

Russia, Behind the Curtain

Over the past year, the confidence of the Russian people in their government has plummeted. From a high of 56% in May 2010, the approval rate has fallen steadily until last month it dropped, stunningly, below a majority to 48%.

In July 2010, only 29% of Russians thought their government was moving in the “wrong direction.”  As of last month, that figure stands at 40% — a whopping increase of one-third in less than a year.  Back in July a majority of Russians thought the country was moving in the right direction; now, just 43% think so. Only 27% of Russians firmly believe the government will be able to change things for the better, while 37% are sure there is no chance that will happen.

Meanwhile, another poll revealed that 40% of Russians favor the installation of a constitutional monarch.

These are devastatingly bad poll results in a country where the state controls all major media outlets and public criticism of the regime is almost wholly absent. If the public had better information, the regime would no doubt be in single-digit approval.

In shockingly bizarre fashion, however, Russian approval of the country’s two leaders, Medvedev and Putin, is still stratospherically high.  Medvedev has 68% approval and Putin, who is in charge of the government, is even higher at 71%.  There is only one word for such results, and that word is:  irrational.  Or perhaps a better word would be:  psychotic.

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EDITORIAL: Putin’s Russia, Fading Fast

EDITORIAL

Putin’s Russia, Fading Fast

Public opinion polls show that only 13% of Russians (Russian-language link) believe that Dmitri Medvedev really holds presidential power in their country, even though he’s called “president.”   More than twice as many think Vladimir Putin holds this power exclusively, and a whopping 78% of Russians believe Putin holds at least a share of presidential power.  64% of Russians believe that Putin’s actions are completely independent of Medvedev, while half that number think Medvedev can act independently.

Despite the scorn heaped upon the street demonstrators by the Putin regime and the Russophile rabble, a whopping 85% of Russians (Russian-language link) believe the Kremlin should listen to what the protesters have to say, yet less than 30% think the Kremlin actually is listening.  If an election were held today, only 27% of Russians say they are ready to cast a vote for Putin, while a pathetic 20% are committed to voting for Medvedev.

These facts add up to just one conclusion: Russia is a dictatorship.

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READER POLL: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Most Hideous of them All?

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Some in the Russophile and Russian nationalist set like to try to claim that Russian women are more beautiful than those from other countries. After the jump, we offer a beauty pagent of the seven seeded Russian women at the French Open tennis tournament last week. By way of rebuttal, we ask you the reader to choose the ugliest — and we put it to you that it’s a really tough call, so think carefully before you vote.   Mind you, these are the official photographs of each player, taken from the official Roland Garros website this year. We haven’t selected them to make the contestants look bad.  If you’d like to attempt an argument in favor of the world-beating allure of any of these classic Russian beauties, the comments are open to your attempt.  If you think any other Russian female tennis player is even uglier and more worthy of the crown, let us know.

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LR Wants to Know

Defying the entire membership of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Russia has stood alone to eject OSCE observers from the disputed border between Ossetia and Georgia.  Not even Belarus and Kazakhstan would support Russia’s powerplay. And Russia has walked out of peace talks with Georgia.  Is this move a prelude to cover a second planned Russian invasion to depose Georgia’s democratically elected president? We’d like your view.

EDITORIAL: Russia is a Deeply Psychotic Country

EDITORIAL

Russia is a Deeply Psychotic Country

In a recent public opinion survey, only43% of Russian respondents said they thought the country was moving in the right direction, down from 59% a year ago.  That’s not surprising, of course, given that the ruble has lost one-third of its value, foreign exchange reserves are down by half the and stock market by three-quarters.

But what is surprising is that even though a clear majority of Russians believe the country is on the wrong path, 76% of them say “prime minister” Vladimir Putin is doing a good job, while 68% say “president” Dmitri Medvedev is doing fine.

There’s only one word for that contradiction, and that word is:  Psychotic.

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Ryzhkov on the Economic Crisis

Opposition leader Vladimir Ryzhkov holds forth in his latest Moscow Times column on the significance of the economic crisis for the Putin regime:

In 2009, as the frequency and intensity of protests across the country increase, the people will start demanding fundamental changes in the country’s political course and leadership.

Russians are increasingly worried about the economic crisis — and rightfully so. A Dec. 15 survey by the Levada Center found that 60 percent of adults feel uncertain about the future, and 88 percent consider the condition of the economy to be from “fair” to “very bad.” More than half of the respondents feel that the worst is yet to come. Almost 40 percent believe the crisis has already hit Russia, and another third believe it hasn’t hit yet, but will. Furthermore, 75 percent of respondents expect unemployment to increase in their regions, and a whopping one-fourth of the respondents reported that they either had been laid off, hit with pay cuts or experienced delays in getting paid on time.

The government’s attempts to play down the seriousness of the crisis are becoming increasingly difficult to pull off. There is simply too much bad economic news hitting Russia from all sides.

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La Russophobe Wants to Know

La Russophobe Wants to Know

Barack Obama has announced the intention to retain the Republican Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, in the new administration.  Gates has been tough on Russia and strongly advocated missile defense.  Leftist wackos, like William Greider of The Nation magazine, are peeved.  Is this a good sign that Obama will not betray democracy where Russia is concerned? We’d like your opinion.

EDITORIAL: Listening to Russia

EDITORIAL

Listening to Russia

According to the Levada Centre, 90% of Russians are either not following the legal proceedings involving oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky or have never heard of him.  Only 6% of October respondents were following the case, while 4% were unwilling to answer.  Only 1% of respondents said they respected Khodorkovsky, while nearly 75% had no opinion about him or refused to say what they thought.  As for Khodorkovsky attorney Svetlana Bakhmina, when asked

Do you think it right that, having served 4 of her 6½-year sentence, Yukos lawyer Svetlana Bakhmina, who declined to give evidence against Mikhail Khodorkovsky and who is now pregnant, should not be released on parole?

only 29% said that it was not right, 16% said it was right and the lion’s share of respondents, 48%, had no idea our would not respond.  Clearly, the Kremlin’s monopoly on television and widely-circulating newspapers allows it to totally dominate the public consciousness on such issues.  How would these answers have been any different in Soviet times, under conditions of totalitarian dictatorship? We doubt there would be much difference at all.

There are glimmers of hope, however, which serve to illustrate why the Kremlin remains so aggressively determined to wipe out the last vestiges of civil society in Russia.  In October polling, the Levada Center found that “normally sky-high confidence in the [Putin] government had gone down from 66% to 59% since September, and Medvedev’s popularity was down from 83% to 76%. ”   If that’s what the Kremlin itself is prepared to admit, do you dare to imagine what the real numbers might be? Putin’s rating fell from a truly breathtaking 88% in September to 83% in October.  It had climbed to 88% from 83% in August, as Putin provoked war in Georgia and saw the stock market collapse around him.  However when asked to name a half-dozen politicians they most trusted, only 56% of respondents named Putin in October, down from 62% in September.  Only 47% named Medvedev, who has never had a majority of respondents expressing trust in him at any point this year.  14% disapproved of Putin, 18% of Medvedev.

When asked the critical question of whether the country was on the “right path” or the “wrong path,” 54% said it was going in the right direction, 27% the wrong direction, and 19% could not answer.  Obviously, the fact that 46% of Russians either think the country is going in the wrong direction or can’t say that it isn’t must give Putin some sleepless nights.

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LR Wants to Know

WordPress has added a feature that allows us to carry out reader polls. We are beta testing it.

Listening to Russia: Who Really Rules?

The Levada public opinion firm has been running a survey (link in Russian, staff translation, corrections welcome)since december of last year asking Russians who has the “real” power in their country.

The options given: (a) Medvedev; (b) Putin; (c) They share it equally; (d) I have no idea.

In the July poll, only 9% of respondents answered that Medvedev had the real power, down from a high of 22% in April. 36% of respondents answered that Putin has the real power, up from a low of 21% in March. Medvedev’s share of the vote has never exceeded Putin’s at any time while the survey has been running. 47% of respondents said that the two are sharing power as co-presidents, matching the highest prior total, from March. 8% of respondents could not answer, half of the high of 16% from February.

So currently 83% of Russians believe that Vladimir Putin, Russia’s “prime minister,” is at least co-president.

A second question was asked as a follow-up: Is Medvedev merely carrying out Putin’s policies, or is he developing his own?

The options given: (a) He’s following Putin measure for measure; (b) He generally does what Putin would do; (c) He is partically charting a new course; (d) He is entirely his own man; (e) I have no idea.

In the July survey, 31% of Russians said Medvedev was copying Putin jot for jot, the highest share for that answer since December (when it was 40%). 51% said he was generally a mirror of Putin, 3% below the high for that answer which was recorded in April. Only 13% of respondents said that Medvedev was wholly or partially his own man.

Thus, 82% of Russians feel that Dimitry Medvedev, the “president” of Russia, is more or less the “prime minster’s” cyborg.

If You Ask G-8 Residents, Russia is Really Rotten

The BBC reports more evidence that Russia must be evicted from the G-8. When surveyed, residents of the G-8 nations believed Putin had done more harm than good to democracy, human rights and quality of life in Russia, and had been more detrimental than helpful to world peace and energy security. In a truly shocking result, the poll found that while only 26% of G-8 residents thought Putin had a positive impact on democracy and human rights, a whopping 64% of Russians thought so (interestingly, though, even Russians admitted this was Putin’s weaknest characteristic). The poll also shows how poorly the Western press have been educating their populations about the horror of what is going on in Russia, since there were large numbers who could not answer and since 26% is still a frighteningly large number to think Putin’s draconian crackdown on civil rights has been positive.

Most people in the G-7 leading industrialised countries have a negative view of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, a BBC poll suggests. Of 16,000 people questioned, 56% said he had had a harmful impact on democracy and human rights in Russia and on peace and security in the world. But in the remainder of the 30 countries covered by the poll, opinions of Mr Putin were more favourable. And in Russia itself, he was given overwhelmingly positive ratings.

The survey was carried out by polling organisations Globescan and The Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA). There is little doubt that, in his eight years as Russian President, Vladimir Putin has had a considerable impact on the world stage, and inside Russia. How positively or negatively his legacy is viewed, though, depends on where you are in the world, according to the BBC World Service poll. But a key imponderable in viewing these results is also the extent to which one is indeed talking about a “legacy”. Mr Putin is stepping down as president shortly. Just how much influence he will continue to wield, and in what precise capacity, remains a matter of great speculation.

Against the background of general unease among Western governments over the direction that Moscow has been taking recently under Mr Putin, the poll suggests that 56% of people in the world’s seven leading industrialised countries think he has had a negative impact on democracy and human rights in Russia. Nearly half – 47% – also think his impact on international peace and security has been negative. Among the six western European countries polled, opinion was on the negative side generally. What is more, this poll did not include former Warsaw Pact countries in central and eastern Europe, where the attitudes of people towards Moscow are likely to be negative. Yet, despite a recent series of major diplomatic rows between Moscow and London, 45% of Britons polled had a positive view of Russia’s world role.

In terms of the more broadly positive reactions overall among the 30 countries except Russia that were surveyed, this may be driven in part by a continuing view in many regions of the world that Russia represents a potential counterweight to the United States, The US is still widely seen as the dominant superpower, but whose foreign policy under the Bush administration has been especially controversial. So, beyond the major industrialised countries and the West, there may be less unease about – and perhaps even a welcoming of – a newly-assertive Russia.

The counterweight argument may be reflected in the very different results emerging in this survey from the Middle East – 78% of Egyptians view Russian influence as positive, only 29% of Israelis do. Egypt, of course, has a long history of close ties to Russia, even though the current Egyptian government is close to Washington. Strikingly, in terms of Russia’s and Mr Putin’s world roles, the Chinese are very positive. That may be because the Chinese feel a common bond with the Russians as part of a camp that seeks to check US influence, and reassert a multi-polar world. Still, the scale of some of the results is surprising – 69% of the Chinese surveyed see Russia playing a positive international role. Beijing has certainly developed a relationship with Moscow, but only up to a point, and the two are themselves still potential rivals.

Significantly, Russians in this survey give Mr Putin high approval ratings on all the issues raised – including democracy, human rights, and quality of life in the country, as well as on the international stage. And, for Mr Putin himself, these may be the most telling results.

The Sunday Survey: Americans Much More Peaceful than Russians

Back in November, we reported on poll data showing that, contrary to the absurd propaganda spewed by the Kremlin, Americans are significantly less warlike than Russians.

Now, here’s more proof from the same polling agency, World Public Opinion:

The first chart shows that the percentage of American who favor a treaty prohibiting attacks on satellites is far higher (20%) than the percentage of Russians who favor such a treaty:

The second chart shows that the percentage of Americans who support self-restraint in placing weapons in space is also much higher (16%) than the percentage of Russians who favor such restraint.

Another interesting feature of these polls is that while 99% of Americans who were asked the question were able to to answer, only 76% of Russians could give an opinion to the first question and only 88% could respond to the second (those unable to respond being reflected by a large white gap in the bar graph for Russia).

The Sunday Survey: New Sidebar Poll

We’ve retired our first sidebar poll, which asked readers: “Who is most responsible for the rise of dictatorship in Russia?” With nearly 2,000 votes recorded, the answer “the people of Russia” was the runaway winner, with 30% of the total (nearly 600 votes). And today we begin a new poll, asking whether, in light of this answer, the people of Russia are worthing fighting for. Is there hope that, if they throw of the shackles of Vladimir Putin, they will finally begin to behave in a responsible manner? Or, if they are lucky enough to get free of his malignant clutches, as they escaped the Tsar and the Bolsheviks, will they simply embrace a horrific new form of reprehensible, abusive regime? We’ve said many times on this blog that the people of Russia have repeatedly destroyed those who fought to save them, and repeatedly made heroes out of those who sought to destroy them. Is this behavior inevitable? We’d genuinely like to know what you think. By “your life” we don’t necessarily mean your personal life, but the life of a Russian patriot who wants to bring democracy and benign government to her (or his) country. Say, if you were Anna Politkovskaya. Or Oleg Kozlovsky. Or Garry Kasparov.

Are the people of Russia worth risking your life for?
YesFighting for, not Risking LifeNo, they don’t want to improveNo, they are dangerous
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Who is to Blame

We’ve been running a poll for some time now asking readers who is most to blame for the rise of dictatorship in Russia. Nearly 1,400 votes have now been cast in the poll, so it’s appropriate to take a look at some preliminary results. 20 different possible causes were offered to choose from in the poll; here they are ranked according to which the readers think is most likely (the choice is followed by the percentage selecting it and then the total number of votes received):

(1) The People of Russia 32% (446)

(2) The KGB 14% (199)

(3) Western Governments 7% (97)

(4) Russian “Oligarchs” 6% (80)

(5) Communism 4% (62)

(6) Fate 4% (53)

(7) TIE: Boris Yeltsin 3% (46)The USA 3% (46)

(9) Capitalism 3% (44)

(10) NATO 3% (36)

(11) Western Apologists for Russia 3% (36)

(12) TIE: Western Critics of Russia 2% (34)Bad Luck 2% (34)

(14) Western Media 2% (33)

(15) George Bush Jr. 2% (31)

(16) Bill Clinton 2% (30)

(17) The USSR 2% (27)

(18) Russian Media 2% (26)

(19) George Bush Sr. 2% (22)

(20) Mikhail Gorbachev 1% (13)

The Most Trusted Politicians in Russia

The All-Russian Center for the Survey of Public Opinion is carrying out an ongoing survey (information in Russian) of which politicians Russians voters trust most. In each survey, a total of 1,600 respondents across Russia are each asked to name half a dozen politicos who can be trusted, and a ranking results. Here’s the most recent tally, with the designee’s name followed by the percent of respondents who named her/him (interestingly, although voters profess to trust Putin, they don’t trust the people he’s appointed to run his government; horrifyingly, not one single opposition political leader is named):

1. Vladimir Putin (56%)

2. TIE: Dmitry Medvedev & Sergei Ivanov (19%)

4. Sergei Shoigu (12%)

5. Vladimir Zhirinovsky (9%)

6. TIE: Gennady Zyuganov & Mikhail Fradkov (5%)

8. TIE: Yuri Luzhkov, Boris Gryzlov, Aman Tulyeev, Valentina Matvienko (4%)

12. Sergei Mironov (3%)

Though virtually nobody finds Yuri Luzhkov trustworthy (card-carrying Communist Zyuganov is more trusted), he’s elected by a landslide to run Russia’s most important city over and over and over again. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a card-carrying maniac, is the fifth most-trusted man in Russia (and holds a powerful position in the Russian legislature).

Barely more than half the Russian people trust Vladimir Putin, but over three quarters approve of what he is doing as president and he’s been elected twice by landslide margins.

And so it goes in Russia.

Who do Russians Need?

Russian uber-blogger Anton Nossik recently directed his readers to an online poll aimed at the Russian blogosphere on another blog, supposedly operated by a Russian doing dissertation research at Cambridge, and asked his readers to participate. Here it is (staff translation, our professional translators cannot be blamed). Here it is as of last Saturday:

Which strategic partner is essential to Russian interests at the current time?

#1 — The European Union — 377 (41.2%)

#2 — The People’s Republic of China — 265 (29.0%)

#3 — The United States of America 150 (16.4%)

#4 — None 122 (13.3%)

One can conclude from this poll what should already have been obvious, that the Kremlin is directly flouting the will of the Russian people by antagonizing Europe with its relentless barrage of human rights abuses and support to European enemies like Iran. At the same time, it’s pretty telling that Russians prefer to make an alliance with communist China, by a margin of nearly two-to-one, over an alliance with the United States, and that they are essentially polarized between alliance with the East versus alliance with the West. Only a truly benighted people could possibly think that China, which is gobbling up Russian territory in the Far East as fast as it can swallow and which is populated by a different race held in contempt by the vast majority of Russians, could possibly make a more useful ally for Russia than the U.S. (to say nothing of ignoring the fact that the U.S. is a far more powerful and dangerous enemy). Do Russians really think the Chinese are unaware of Russian racism? Yet, more Russians prefer an alliance with the U.S. than with nobody, which may be some limited grounds for optimism. Of course, since the vast majority of Russians have no access to the blogosphere, a poll of this kind is basically meaningless except as a measure of the intelligentsia.

Who Lost Russia?

Below, Washington Post columnist Fred Hiatt asks who is responsible for the rise of the Neo-Soviet Union. But first, what about you, dear reader? Who do you think is most responsible for this catastrophe? Vote now:

Who is most responsible for the rise of dictatorship in Russia?
The People of RussiaThe KGBWestern GovernmentsWestern MediaRussian MediaRussian “Oligarchs”Boris YeltsinBill ClintonGeorge Bush Sr.George Bush Jr.NATOCommunismThe USSRThe USAMikhail GorbachevWestern Critics of RussiaWestern Apologists for RussiaCapitalismBad LuckFate
 
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Who lost Russia? As the world’s biggest country backslides ever more quickly into authoritarianism, the answer you hear increasingly is: the United States.

Curiously, you hear it both from Russians, who simultaneously deny that anything bad has happened and blame America for it; and from Americans, who assume that a few tweaks of policy could have made everything come out differently in Moscow.

One version blames America for backing Boris Yeltsin, who presided imperfectly over Russian democracy in the 1990s and so, the story goes, soured Russians on the very idea of freedom. Another blames America for allowing former Soviet satellites to join NATO, hurting Russians’ feelings and promoting a nationalist backlash.

As readings of history, these theories mix elements of truth with great dollops of illogic. It’s true that Russians endured trying times after communism crumbled. Prices rose, promised pensions vanished and unsavory characters became millionaires.

But the same was true in Estonia, Ukraine, Poland and many other countries. Democratization wasn’t pretty anywhere. The question is why those countries managed to weather the transition and come through, with varying degrees of success, to the other side, while Russia was left looking for scapegoats.

As to NATO: On the one hand, you have, say, Estonia, a democracy of 1.3 million people, freely joining in 2004 an alliance of like-minded democracies. On the other hand, you have Vladimir Putin abolishing local and provincial elections, muzzling the press and imprisoning his political enemies. If you fail to see the connection, it’s because there is none.

A Russia developing in a healthy way would be happy to see its smaller neighbors democratize, improve ties with the West and prosper, all of which could redound to Russia’s benefit. Russia’s leaders know perfectly well that there is no military threat from Estonia and never will be. But because they continue to define greatness in terms of state ownership and control, they prefer an impoverished and dependent Belarus to a thriving and autonomous Poland.

So what can explain Russia’s de-democratization? Russians often blame their own “serf” mentality, a cultural tradition arising from centuries of autocracy that left them supposedly unsuited for self-rule. A more refined version points out that communism lasted a generation longer in Russia than in Central Europe, which at least emerged with faint memories of between-war civil society.

Then there is Russia’s misfortune to be rich in oil, gas, diamonds and other resources. Latvia and Slovenia understood that they needed predictable laws and respect for private property to attract foreign investment; Russia knew the oil multinationals would come fawning even to a regime that expropriated when convenient. Estonia viewed government’s role as enabling its citizens to create wealth; Russians used government to grab the wealth that nature had provided.

Being at the center of an empire might also be a misfortune. Other countries could blame Russia for their lost decades; Russia, having no one to blame, couldn’t face its history. And since even the diminished, post-Soviet Russia contained nations of non-Russians, from Chechnya in the south to Tatarstan in the middle to Sakha in Siberia, the new Russia could not build itself on ethnic Russian nationalism and had trouble finding any other source of national identity.

All of these factors may play some role. But Michael McFaul, an expert on democratization at Stanford University and the Hoover Institution, cautions that “the structural explanations — culture, history of communism, oil and gas — can be easily overplayed, while the actual decisions and mistakes of individual leaders can be forgotten or excused.”

That’s true of U.S. mistakes, too. The United States doesn’t determine Russia’s fate, but it has influence at the edges. It could speak straightforwardly with Russia’s leaders and search for areas of common interest, while defending the rights of Russia’s neighbors to chart their own course and of Russia’s citizens to live in freedom.

Instead, U.S. officials too often treat Russia like a touchy adolescent that shouldn’t be provoked. Last week Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, complained that for the fourth year in a row the administration has proposed “devastating cutbacks” in programs to assist democratic and civil society groups in Russia.

That’s something for which the United States should be blamed. Or, as Lantos said: “At a time when supporters of democratic reform, the rule of law, and human rights are being assassinated or carted off to the gulags of Siberia, we should not be starving these groups of vital support.”

Exploding the Myth that Russia is not Dangerous To Europe

Writing in the Moscow Times Maria Ordzhonikidze (pictured), senior secretary of the EU-Russia Centre, and Lev Gudkov, director of the Levada Center, exposes Vladimir Putin as a blatant liar when he claims that Russians have friendly attitudes towards Europeans and are therefore not dangerous. This is a clarion warning call, heed it or take the consequences, Europeans.

The majority of Russians don’t think of themselves as European but as representatives of a different civilization. Many are actually afraid of Europe and don’t share what are generally considered to be European values, and this is leading to a sense of alienation from Europe. These were the results of an opinion poll from December by the Levada Center and commissioned by the EU-Russia Centre.

A full 71 percent of those surveyed didn’t think of themselves as Europeans, and almost half (45 percent) consider Europe to be a potential threat (compared with 37 percent who did not see such a threat and 18 percent who were unable to answer). Of those who thought of the European Union as a threat, 39 percent identified the danger they believe it poses to Russian economic and industrial independence, 24 percent cited the danger associated with the imposition of a foreign culture, 24 feared the threat it posed to Russian political independence and, closing out the list, 13 percent identified the EU as a military threat.

This sense of alienation is also evident with regard to what are broadly considered European values: democracy, civil rights and market capitalism. Only 16 percent of those surveyed identified the “Western model” of democracy as the ideal (this same figure was 25 percent in 1996) and 35 percent said that they “prefer the Soviet system before the 1990s.” Another 30 percent of those surveyed said that Western democracy “wasn’t a fit for Russia” and 12 percent said it has had a “devastating effect on Russia.”

Negative concepts like chaos, demagoguery and pointless chattering were most often associated with democracy by people from the lowest income groups (19 percent, or more than three times higher than the number for high-income respondents), among those with lower levels of education (23 percent, but just 4 percent among students and 9 percent among those with university educations), and more often in rural areas (15 percent, compared with 4 percent in Moscow). Positive associations were most often registered by the young, entrepreneurs, civil servants and members of law enforcement agencies. Perhaps most striking, 65 percent of those surveyed were unable to provide an answer as to what they understood “liberal democracy” to mean.

An understanding of a separation of powers was practically absent among those surveyed. Asked whether the activities of the judiciary and legislative branches should be under the control of the executive branch, an absolute majority of those surveyed answered that the judiciary (56 percent) and legislative (54 percent) branches should be at least to some extent.

Asked to label a group of concepts generally associated with democratic values as either positive or negative, just 33 percent chose the word “freedom” as positive, while 44 percent said they were positively predisposed to the idea of “private property” and 49 percent to that of “defending human rights.” A large number of respondents chose capitalism (40 percent) and privatization (36 percent) as having a negative association. It is interesting that the processes of privatization and accumulation of large personal fortunes continue to become less legitimate in the public consciousness. At the beginning of the 1990s, about one quarter of those surveyed believed it was possible to earn a million rubles honestly. By 2006, this number had fallen to just 13 percent.

The distribution of the answers in the survey bore little dependency to the place where they lived, so regional identification appeared to have no bearing on attitudes related to Europe. Seventy-five percent of trespondents consider Russia to be a Eurasian state with its own particular path of development and its own values. Just 10 percent said that Russia is part of the West and should look for closer ties with the EU countries and the United States.

How can we reconcile these numbers with the rhetoric of those in power toward their Western partners about the concept of pan-European partnership or who, like President Vladimir Putin, call Russia “a historically and culturally … integral part of Europe.”

LR: Obviously, we can’t. We can only gird our loins.

It seems that in the 21st century, just as in the 18th, Russia’s ruling elites are far more Europeanized than the population as a whole. Peter the Great’s order that the boyars shave their beards and don European clothing; the never ending arguments between Westernizers and Slavophiles; the Decembrist movement; the planting of Marxist economic theories in Russian soil; and finally the capitalist modernization of the rotting Soviet economy — each of these initiatives from the top has been met with, if not passive resistance from the masses, then at least increasing ambivalence.

This is reflected in the fact that 94 percent of those surveyed said they “don’t have any influence on the current situation” in the country or that their influence was “relatively small” or even “too small’ (13 percent and 18 percent, respectively). Those who said that they exercised a “deciding” or ” significant” influence on the path of their lives and the country numbered just over 2 percent.

Directly related to this is a very low sense of responsibility among respondents for what happens in the country. This is the case for the overwhelming majority of respondents (82 percent: 39 percent feeling “little” or “very little” responsibility and 43 percent said they felt no responsibility at all). Russians appear to have reconciled themselves to the idea that all significant decisions in the country are made independently of their opinion. The result is growing political apathy, as 17 percent of those surveyed said they would not vote in State Duma elections this December, 11 percent that they had yet to decide whether to vote and 23 percent said they were undecided for whom they would vote.

The worsening of Russian attitudes toward Europe and its basic values is an alarming indicator, revealing the insufficient (if not completely absent) effort on the part of the elites looking for Russian integration into a European system of values. The absence of a sense of responsibility among Russians for what is happening in the country, the average person’s willingness to accept at face value the explanation of decisions as necessary by those on television, and attitudes of suspicion toward ideas like the separation of powers bear witness to the widening gulf in values between Russia and Europe.

This political passivity on the part of the public provides ruling elites with significant freedom to carry through a more Westernized policy line than the majority of Russians actually support. At the same time, the public’s strong refusal to accept European values limits the government ability to follow a pro-Western foreign policy line, just as it acts as a brake on the introduction of further reforms to strengthen the market economy and further the democratization process. This split has been one of the main determinants of Russia’s foreign and domestic policy course over the last seven years.

All aboard the Happy Bus: Vote for "President" of Russia

The Wall Street Journal identifies six candidates for the post of “President” of Russia in 2008. Who do you think is the best alternative from their slate? Vote below:

Who should succeed Vladmir Putin as “President” of Russia in 2008?
Dmitry Medvedev
Sergei Ivanov
Mikhail Fradkov
Vladimir Yakunin
Mikhail Kasyanov
Garry Kasparov
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While considering how to mark your ballot, consider this from the Washington Post on how the Kremlin is seizing control of even the most seemingly mundane aspects of the mass media to manipulate the public for its own crass purposes:

Every Sunday morning, two favorites of President Vladimir Putin play prominent supporting roles on a television game show called “Happy Bus.” In sunny clips spliced into the show’s airtime, Dmitri Medvedev and Sergei Ivanov hand out awards and urge young people in general to live healthy lives. Ostensibly, the two men have perfectly straightforward reasons for appearing on the show: Each week, one team of contestants is sponsored by Gazprom, the state-controlled energy giant chaired by Medvedev. The opposing team is sponsored by the New Generation Foundation, headed by Ivanov, who is also defense minister.

But “Happy Bus” is widely viewed here as proof of the Kremlin’s ability to commandeer the airwaves — even the most trifling show — to aid Putin in anointing a successor. By most accounts, the president has narrowed his choice to Medvedev or Ivanov, and over the last year each man’s image, particularly Medvedev’s, has been rigorously burnished. “Happy Bus” debuted in May on NTV, a network owned by a Gazprom subsidiary.

With the centralization of power in the Kremlin, Russian politics has become ever more tightly scripted, and genuine electoral competition has withered. Whoever turns out to be Putin’s nominee will dominate television and almost certainly ride unimpeded through the presidential elections in early 2008, analysts said. “Putin, Medvedev and Ivanov are the three main heroes, the three main characters on the news,” said Anna Kachkayeva, a professor of broadcast journalism at Moscow State University. “It’s a command from the administration.” Producers at Russian television stations, including the makers of “Happy Bus,” declined to discuss coverage of Ivanov and Medvedev.

In presidential politics, Russia has an electoral college of one — Putin. When Vladimir Ustinov, the former prosecutor general and a perceived favorite of the security services, started making some very president-in-waiting noises last year, Putin fired him. He was rehired as justice minister, a much less influential position. Putin himself denies he is the decider. “There will be no successors. There will be candidates for the post of president of Russia,” he said Thursday at his annual news conference, which this year ran to three hours and 30 minutes and was attended by about 1,200 journalists. “I reserve the right to express my preference. But I will only do it once the election campaign begins.”

Since the reelection of Boris Yeltsin in 1996, when a group of media tycoons threw the full weight of their television stations behind his faltering candidacy and demonized his Communist opponent, tight management of broadcast journalism has been a critical instrument in Russian presidential elections, including Putin’s two campaigns. But unlike in 1996, when the power of television was wielded by wealthy businessmen, today those media assets are controlled by the state or companies loyal to the Kremlin.

Ivanov, 54, has long been well known both at home and abroad as minister of defense. Medvedev, 41, was an obscure figure until 15 months ago. In November 2005, Medvedev and Ivanov were simultaneously made first deputy prime ministers, in addition to their other titles. Since then, Medvedev’s public image, down to his haircut (shorter and more stylish), weight (he’s clearly lost a few pounds) and choice of clothes (more casual), has been carefully refashioned. The makeover has become the talk of the town. The wooden, cautious and loyal official of a year ago has become a self-confident and assertive politician tinged with some very Putinesque characteristics — in particular, his occasionally brusque scoldings, sometimes directed at other ministers, delivered with the colloquial phrases and tightly coiled physicality that many Russians love in their president.

Speaking in November about improving health care and access to drugs, Medvedev said: “There are swindlers who manufacture pharmaceuticals. Then there are other swindlers who sell those pharmaceuticals, and there are still other swindlers who act as intermediaries using state funds. The situation in the pharmaceutical industry is disgusting.”

Medvedev, who is married and has one child, is a lawyer by training and first worked with Putin in the city administration of St. Petersburg in the 1990s. Putin brought him to the Kremlin, where he became chief of staff in the presidential administration. He is regarded as a relatively liberal counterweight to the staffers around Putin who served in the security services. Medvedev has no background in the KGB or its successor agencies.

He never publicly criticizes Putin, however. And he defends Gazprom, where the Kremlin placed him in charge in 2002, from charges that it is secretive, bloated and inefficient, and is used by the state as a political weapon to punish neighboring countries. On television recently, he called Gazprom a “crucial Russian company” and noted that its capitalization has jumped from $10 billion to $225 billion under state control.

Increasingly, Medvedev speaks of his modest background. “Just like everyone else, I lived in the kinds of apartments that used to be given to Soviet citizens, first a communal one and later a cramped apartment in St. Petersburg,” he said in a television interview in November. “And like everyone else, I went, and still go, to a polyclinic,” the state-run outpatient facilities that many Russians avoid. For all the campaign-style insights he offers into his background, Medvedev remains studiously ambiguous about his ambitions. “I find it distressing that I have been made a participant in some sort of race,” he said. Nonetheless, he is now the second-most-popular politician in Russia after Putin, according to opinion polls and analysts. In a poll conducted in November by the independent Levada Center, 38 percent of respondents said they would vote for Medvedev for president, making him the leading candidate. Ivanov trailed with 23 percent. Little more than a year ago, Medvedev’s rating was barely above zero.

While image-building is not unique to Russia, and Medvedev’s new position in government ensured he would get more news coverage, the almost universally friendly treatment he has received on Russian television has been striking. Among 2,064 news stories on Medvedev in 2006, there was not a single negative report on the news broadcasts of six television channels, including the three major national stations, according to a survey by Medialogia, an analytical group in Moscow. There were 17 negative reports on Ivanov, most of them centered on a brutal hazing incident in the military to which he was slow to respond, according to Medialogia.

Other potential candidates are not treated so kindly. In the same period, there was not a single positive report on Mikhail Kasyanov, a former prime minister and Putin critic who has said he may seek the presidency. Of the 40 stories in which Kasyanov was the main subject, 60 percent were negative and the balance neutral, according to Medialogia statistics. The Kremlin declined a request to allow a Washington Post reporter to accompany Medvedev on a typical daily event; he is normally covered by a small pool of reporters.

Last week was typical. Three of the national channels, ORT, RTR and NTV, ran expansive reports Wednesday night on a meeting chaired by Medvedev in which he talked about raising the birthrate and other projects. Medvedev held up a certificate that will guarantee cash payments to women who have a second child, and his remarks were spliced with images of cooing babies in maternity wards.

No critic of the management of the so-called National Projects was quoted on any of those news reports. The Kremlin declined a request to allow a Washington Post reporter to accompany Medvedev on a typical daily event; he is normally covered by a small pool of reporters.

“The National Projects are an imitation of activity,” Ivan Melnikov, deputy chairman of the Communist Party, said in parliament last month. “Upbeat TV pictures that we see practically every day have nothing to do with the real state of things.”

“He is being built up, and he is changing himself,” said Igor Bunin, head of the Center for Political Technologies in Moscow, referring to Medvedev. “The first task was to get people to recognize him. . . . The next task was to associate him with most pleasant things from the state. He cuts all the ribbons now. “At the beginning, he was soft, like a teddy bear, but now he seems much stronger. Like Putin, he can summon up some thunder and lightning when he criticizes incompetent officials.” Bunin added, “There may be no final decision, but he is candidate number one, with Ivanov in reserve.”

The Russian People Speak on Litvinenko

According to a Levada Center poll published on December 15th, three weeks after he perished, here’s what the Russian people think about the Litvinenko killing:

39% have no idea who Litvinenko is or can’ t say who might be responsible

35% say he was killed by his own business partners, including Boris Berezovsky

10% say he was killed by the KGB (and other Russian secret services)

9% say he killed himself, on purpose or by accident

8% say he was killed by the CIA (and other Western secret services)

The upshot? An overwhelming majority of Russians (over 80%) either know little/nothing about the killing or think Litvinenko himself was to blame for it. Less than a fifth of Russians think forces outside Litvinenko’s circle killed him, and half of those believe it was Western forces who were responsible. Less than one in ten Russians polled believed that the Kremlin itself was responsible for killing one of its most vocal critics.

Some people would go soft on the Russians at this point, and argue that they can’t be expected to have a clue when virtually all of their media is controlled by the Kremlin. Under those circumstances, perhaps it’s even impressive than as many as one in ten can recognize the possiblity that the Kremlin might have killed a Kremlin enemy.

But not La Russophobe. How did the Kremlin get control of the Russian media establishment? Because the Russian people sat idly by and allowed it to happen. Again.

The consequences of this are extremely dire: The Kremlin will believe it can pull the wool over they eyes of the people of Russia, and it will go on trying. It’s policies will undermine Russia’s foundation, and ultimately the ediface will collapse. What we are seeing now is exactly the sort of widespread public ignorance and apathy that allowed the USSR to pursue crazed policies that ultimately destroyed it. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on ME!.

Shame on the people of Russia. SHAME ON YOU!

P.S.: It’s worth noting that the author of one crazed Russophile blog cited the foregoing poll as a supposed refutation of the Empire of Lies story by ABC News that LR published on January 12. This maniac, whose blog is not even worth linking to or mentioning by name, quoted the ABC story stating “while the world buzzes with disbelief and fascination over the poisoning and death of a Russian ex-spy, the story has captured scant attention in Russia” and then cited the poll, claiming it proved the author was a “liar.” In other words, he claimed the poll showed Russians were deeply interested in and informed about the crisis. Can you imagine that? One is hard-pressed to decide whether this idiot didn’t even read his own link, or whether he read it and couldn’t understand what it said, or whether he knew perfectly well it didn’t support his claim and simply lied, hoping nobody would check. It actually proves, conclusively, that ABC was bang on the money. It shows that two out of five Russians have never even heard of Litvinenko, and that two of the remaining three have swallowed the Kremlin’s propaganda that he was responsible for his own demise. The publisher also claimed that there had been “hundreds” of stories about Litvinenko published in the Russian media, including state-owned newspapers. And guess what? He didn’t post a link to one single such story. What probably happened is that he read in a state-owned paper that there were such stories, and believed it.

LR had a similar experience with a crazed Russophile a few months ago; she wrote that Russia hates families, and a Russophile reader gave her a link to divorce statistics which she said showed high rates of divorce in countries outside Russia, proving they too hated families (as if this somehow made Russia OK). But Russia was #2 on the list of highest divorce rates, behind only Belarus!

This is the sad state of affairs in Russia today. With “friends” like these, Russia needs no enemies. Russian people are becoming utterly blinded by domestic propaganda, as out of touch with the world as they ever were in Soviet times, and it’s all being accomplished without even the need of resorting to Stalin’s terror tactics. The window of dissent and opposition is wide open now, there have been only a few token killings, but nobody is crawling through it. Russians are allowing themselves to be led right back into the Soviet meatgrinder only a decade after they dismantled it and extracted the bones of millions.

Vote for Russia’s "Person of the Year"

Time Magazine yearly announces its “Person of the Year” so La Russophobe thought it might be a good idea to initiate this tradition for Russia. Who do you think was the most important force in Russian current events in the year 2006? Remember, this is not an award for doing good things, Hitler got Time’s award one year, it’s about who influenced Russia the most, for good or ill, during the past year. Feel free to use the comments section to write in a candidate if your favorite is not represented, but also try choosing among those listed.

Who is Russia’s “Person of the Year”?
Vladimir PutinAnna PolitkovskayaAlexander LitvinenkoGeorge BushGarry KasparovBoris BerezovskySlavic RacistsThe Oil IndustryMikhail KhodorkovskyRoman AbramovichThe Chechen RebelsAlexander LukashenkoMikhail SaakashviliVictor YushchenkoThe CommunistsThe Staff of Novaya GazetaThe Western MediaThe Russia MediaThe Officers of the KGB/FSBThe Russian People
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Vote for Russia’s "Person of the Year"

Time Magazine yearly announces its “Person of the Year” so La Russophobe thought it might be a good idea to initiate this tradition for Russia. Who do you think was the most important force in Russian current events in the year 2006? Remember, this is not an award for doing good things, Hitler got Time’s award one year, it’s about who influenced Russia the most, for good or ill, during the past year. Feel free to use the comments section to write in a candidate if your favorite is not represented, but also try choosing among those listed.

Who is Russia’s “Person of the Year”?
Vladimir PutinAnna PolitkovskayaAlexander LitvinenkoGeorge BushGarry KasparovBoris BerezovskySlavic RacistsThe Oil IndustryMikhail KhodorkovskyRoman AbramovichThe Chechen RebelsAlexander LukashenkoMikhail SaakashviliVictor YushchenkoThe CommunistsThe Staff of Novaya GazetaThe Western MediaThe Russia MediaThe Officers of the KGB/FSBThe Russian People
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Vote for Russia’s "Person of the Year"

Time Magazine yearly announces its “Person of the Year” so La Russophobe thought it might be a good idea to initiate this tradition for Russia. Who do you think was the most important force in Russian current events in the year 2006? Remember, this is not an award for doing good things, Hitler got Time’s award one year, it’s about who influenced Russia the most, for good or ill, during the past year. Feel free to use the comments section to write in a candidate if your favorite is not represented, but also try choosing among those listed.

Who is Russia’s “Person of the Year”?
Vladimir PutinAnna PolitkovskayaAlexander LitvinenkoGeorge BushGarry KasparovBoris BerezovskySlavic RacistsThe Oil IndustryMikhail KhodorkovskyRoman AbramovichThe Chechen RebelsAlexander LukashenkoMikhail SaakashviliVictor YushchenkoThe CommunistsThe Staff of Novaya GazetaThe Western MediaThe Russia MediaThe Officers of the KGB/FSBThe Russian People
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Vote for Russia’s "Person of the Year"

Time Magazine yearly announces its “Person of the Year” so La Russophobe thought it might be a good idea to initiate this tradition for Russia. Who do you think was the most important force in Russian current events in the year 2006? Remember, this is not an award for doing good things, Hitler got Time’s award one year, it’s about who influenced Russia the most, for good or ill, during the past year. Feel free to use the comments section to write in a candidate if your favorite is not represented, but also try choosing among those listed.

Who is Russia’s “Person of the Year”?
Vladimir PutinAnna PolitkovskayaAlexander LitvinenkoGeorge BushGarry KasparovBoris BerezovskySlavic RacistsThe Oil IndustryMikhail KhodorkovskyRoman AbramovichThe Chechen RebelsAlexander LukashenkoMikhail SaakashviliVictor YushchenkoThe CommunistsThe Staff of Novaya GazetaThe Western MediaThe Russia MediaThe Officers of the KGB/FSBThe Russian People
Free polls from Pollhost.com