May 22, 2022

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Index – Abroad – In fact, more and more people support war in Russia, but the situation may change

The All-Russian Public Opinion Center (VCIOM) in the state has been conducting routine inspections in support of the Russian invasion since February 25, the day after the outbreak of war. On this basis, as the war progressed, not only did the subsidy not decrease, but increased considerably. The day after the war, 25 percent of the population was against “special military action” and 65 percent were in favor. The rate of support rose week by week until it reached 76 percent during the last measurement on March 30 and the rate of opposition fell to 15 percent.

Integration effect

Understanding the sentiments of the Russian people in this situation may be very important, since the first days of the war, many politicians and experts believed that the leadership of the Russian people could change the leadership that started the war.

Despite the economic damage to Russia, the high number of military casualties and complete international isolation, the change of Russian leadership by revolution (at least in the future) is unbelievable, behind Russian President Vladimir Putin with the majority of the people and the political elite.

One explanation for this phenomenon is the unifying effect, which the Anglo-Saxon political science calls the “rally around the flag.” What this means is that in an emergency, during a crisis or as a result of an external threat, the people of the country stand behind the head of state, regardless of how he or she felt in the past.

This is also very clear from the popular symbols of the Russian leadership: by the Lovada Center From the measurements taken At the end of 2021, Vladimir Putin’s popularity was 63 percent, but by March 2022, his popularity had risen sharply by twenty percentage points to 83 percent. The unifying effect can be seen in other members and organizations of the Russian leadership: the popularity of Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mistin has increased from 54 percent to 71 percent by the end of the year, and the Russian government’s from 49 percent to 70 percent. Percent. Meanwhile, the rate of those who negatively evaluate the United States and the European Union has doubled to 72 percent and 67 percent, respectively, in just a few months.

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Integration of the Russian elite

Under the weight of the war and international sanctions, the other expert expects the change to start with the Russian elite, which means that Putin may be forced to leave by his own people. In the month and a half since the war, we have seen that there is no reality behind these expectations, and even more so that Putin is still more closely behind the Russian political elite. The war and the Western sanctions imposed in response by the Russian president – at least in the short term – are essentially the result of Putin’s decades – long efforts to achieve: the integration of the elite.

The situation is simple: as long as you have the opportunity and money to be a Russian citizen and patriot in an environment, but in the meantime you buy a villa on the Adriatic beach and take your children to school in London. Your faith will always be in question.

In the current situation, the Russian elite has no Plan B. They are not allowed to travel due to Western sanctions, their foreign assets and real estate are lost, and sanctions are unlikely to be lifted if the war ends. So in the next 10-15 years, they have no choice but to go to Russia, the only possible political option.

Their children will now go to Russian schools and skip skiing in France and the Italian Riviera. In such a situation, on the one hand, political risks are increased by quantitative orders because one’s loyalty is questionable, losing not only their wealth, but also their social status and existence. On the other hand, as the war was planned in the Kremlin, they may feel that they had hurt the West, but the whip eventually slapped them.

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The effect of the campaign

In addition to the factors that unite the majority of society and the political elite, propaganda also plays a very important role. The Russian people are being pushed into an information bubble: social media and independent media are banned in the country, and war can only be reported on the basis of official state resources, otherwise it could face up to 15 years in prison.

Thus, all information reaches the people through the prism of the story of the Russian state: in this distorted world, there is no official war, instead a “special military operation” takes place in Ukraine; Russian soldiers do not injure civilians and do not shoot at military targets exclusively; Moreover, if the killings of civilians and the buildings destroyed in the dust were brought to the attention of the press, according to official descriptions, these were the reasons for committing these crimes against innocent Russian soldiers by the Ukrainians.

In this context, it is questionable whether Russian citizens are really in favor of a ‘special military operation’ because they have a completely different content than those who know what is currently happening in Ukraine. However, the Russians fully believe what they see on TV. For example, the aforementioned VCIOM polling company conducted a survey on April 8 in the context of the information.

At the same time, studies do not say that other information has not reached the Russian people: 61 percent say they “saw information about Russia in a negative light”, but 41 percent consider it a lie.

Short-term effects

No matter how big and exciting the role of the integration effect is now, it has been proven that this phenomenon only works for a limited time. The sense of risk cannot be maintained and economic problems may come to the fore. The impact of the outflow of foreign capital and companies will not always be immediate, some stocks still have stocks, and shortages may be felt after several months. Static information noise now has truly tremendous power.

Russian state channels currently have no entertainment programs, and all television programs contain current political and news sections.

After a while, static information noise becomes tired and annoying. The Russian leadership is also aware of this, so they are competing against time: they must show good results soon, otherwise public sentiment may eventually turn against them as a result of the continuing military losses and deteriorating economic situation. And in an uncertain political situation, the political elite can behave in a very unexpected way.

(Cover image: Passers-by in the Red Square in Moscow near the Kremlin on April 6, 2022. Photo: MTI / EPA / Maxim Sipenkov)