This article was originally published in English
But some findings undermine lines of thinking in the West.
New research has highlighted that Russians are increasingly feeling more stress and seeing a bleaker future in the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine, although some of the population appear to be holding firm.
The Open Minds Institute (OMI), a research center focused on disinformation and propaganda, found in a recent survey that around 80% of Russians were worried about their financial well-being.
This figure represents a notable increase of 30 points since the last time the question was asked in May.
In a statement sent to Euronews on Monday, OMI founder and CEO Sviatoslav Hnizdovskyistated that the increase “could indicate a trend in which the reality of refrigerators surpasses television propaganda, which could lead to greater discontent among the Russian population if it continues.”
“Handling an angry, hungry crowd could be more difficult than dealing with a small group of protesters who oppose the government’s actions on moral grounds,” he wrote, “just as it was in (the Russian Revolution of) 1917, when “The lack of bread and other food deficiencies, combined with failures at the front, played one of the critical roles in social unrest.”
Only half of those surveyed by the OMI “believe that the average citizen has all the means to lead a good life in Russia,” he added.
However, researchers at the institute – which works in collaboration with five universities in the US and the UK – observed that Russians’ views on their daily challenges and the future were influenced by their broader political beliefs.
The research divided the Russian population into four distinct groups based on their attitudes toward the status quo: hawks, loyalists, moderates and liberals.
Exactly 84% of those surveyed wanted to stay in Russia, but 53% of those called “Liberals” wanted to move abroad.
Just over three-quarters of this last group, opposed to the regime in power, were concerned about possible restrictions on leaving the country, he added.
“Pro-war Russians are largely satisfied with their lives despite existing problems,” the researchers reported.
However, “buds of anxiety” have begun to emerge among what they described as “loyalists,” meaning those who generally agree with the government’s goals but may question its means.
Media reports suggest that the number of Russians who have fled the country since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 could be in the hundreds of thousands, although precise figures are difficult to obtain.
Euronews spoke to Russian emigrants in Europe in June. An interviewee from St. Petersburg who had protested against the war in his country said that he had fled because of the strong repression.
The IMO study, which interviewed more than 1,000 people inside Russia, also produced some results that ran counter to the arguments of observers in the West.
The sanctions applied after Russia invaded Ukraine do not appear to have a significant impact, except for some problems downloading applications and making payments through Visa and MasterCard, Dr. Jade McGlynn, who works with the OMI, told Euronews in an email.
Despite the fall of the ruble, only 45% of respondents were concerned about the devaluation of their currency.
The effect of Western sanctions imposed on Russia is hotly debated. Its economy has shown some resilience and is expected to grow in 2023, unlike other large European economies, such as Germany.
Still, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell stated in August that sanctions needed time to take effect.
According to a Euronews report that same month, the West’s sanctions regime had many blind spots, loopholes and cracks that allowed Moscow to pocket billions.
Understanding the extent to which Russians actually support the war is difficult.
The Kremlin fiercely represses anti-war dissent.
Critics of the “special operation,” as it is known in the country, have been subjected to heavy fines, arrests, and outright violence; A Russian father was arrested for alleged anti-war drawings that his daughter made at school.
Elena Koneva, a researcher at the Russian opinion polling company ExtremeScan, cited polls in May that showed a 50-50 split between those who supported the war and those against it.
Other polls reveal that up to two-thirds of the population supports it.
On its website, the IMO notes that it is “aware of the possible limitations imposed by the current political regime in Russia and a tense social environment that may influence the accuracy and reliability of survey results.”
However, it claims the survey is a “reliable source of information” because participation was voluntary and conducted online, meaning respondents feel “more confident.”
In his written comment, OMI founder Hnizdovskyi stated that he also corroborates the surveys with a “comprehensive analysis of social media data,” including scrutiny of 900 Russian websites, forums and prominent social media platforms, in addition to the review of more than 140,000 comments.
According to the IMO, Russia spends billions a year on propaganda, greatly escalating the conflict by shaping the outlook of Russian society and even reaching audiences in other countries.
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