In contrast to the growing international concern over Russia, public support within the country for Russia’s current course is stronger than at any time since the fall of the USSR and views of the US have reached new lows, according to opinion polls taken since the war in the Caucasus.
The Russian public, which overwhelmingly supported the war, has become a bastion of support for hardline policies and may become an obstacle to the few political figures trying to reconnect with the west and maintain economic and political integration, the polls suggest.
Some 59 per cent believe their country’s foreign policy is “effective” and 82 per cent believe Russia should try to be the most powerful country in the world, according to recent polls from the Public Opinion Foundation, a Moscow polling body. A majority now do not consider confrontation with the west to be a threat to internal stability, according to Valery Fedorov, director of Vtsiom, another agency. He said this view resembled the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, where “war is peace”.
This confidence seems to be connected to a new-found patriotism, long absent during the post-communist transition era of the 1990s. Some 60 per cent now believe their country is a superpower, while 26 per cent do not, an almost perfect inversion from 1996, when 21 per cent believed Russia to be a superpower against 68 per cent not, according to the foundation. Opinion of the west has fallen to its lowest point in years following the August conflict, but it is nuanced.
The Levada Center, another polling agency, found that 67 per cent of Russians polled in mid-September have a “bad opinion” of America, compared with 23 per cent good. Meanwhile, 45 per cent of Russians have a good opinion of Europe, compared with 39 per cent bad.
The prototypical Europhile is an 18- to 24-year-old female Muscovite with higher education and property. The prototypical “America-hater” in Russia is male, attended technical school, is over 55 and lives in a small town.