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Nothing like Ukrainian protests looms on Russia's horizon - experts

January 28, 2014, 15:32 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara

MOSCOW, January 28. /ITAR-TASS/. Protest activity in Russia has declined as compared to 2010-2011, show the latest polls conducted by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center (WCIOM), Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) and sociological service Levada-Center.

The three leading public opinion centers published their findings at a time when opposition protests in neighboring Ukraine have reached another high.

Sociologists are at one in their findings. The number of those willing to take part in political protests, according to Levada-Center, dropped by a half over two years to 9% against the previous 17%.

Most respondents do not believe another surge in protest activity is likely. Grumbling about the authorities has become a daily routine, and the share of people dissatisfied with bigwigs, according to the FOM, does not rise above 45%.

Slightly less than a quarter (23%) of WCIOM’s respondents believe street protests are fruitless, another 12% say protests are ungrounded, whereas 10% say stability reigns in the country, so protests will not find wide support. More than a third of the respondents (36%) are now indifferent to opposition rallies and protesters. Another 15% spoke in favor of protest rallies but added they are not ready to partake.

The national poll was conducted on January 18-19, 2014 among 1,600 residents of 130 localities in 42 Russian regions.

According to the head of the WCIOM, Valery Fyodorov, the interest in the protest movement ebbed as Russians grew disappointed with opposition politicians. “People are not ready to support these leaders and their mottos,” Fyodorov said.

However, he did not discount the possibility of rallies with social demands: “25% of respondents are sure the next flow of protests will be caused by decreasing living standards.”

“Politics as a reason to protest ranks fourth or fifth in polls. People more often talk about social and economic problems. These are, first of all, price growth, increasing utility payments, unemployment, and quite often economic insecurity,” believes doctor of sociology, FOM-Terry's project director Larisa Pautova.

Can we see a scenario realized in Ukraine repeat in Russia?

“Not in the near term, but it is not excluded in several years, when consequences of the current economic depression will become clear,” Director of Levada-Center Lev Gudkov told the Sovershenno Sekretno monthly.

“Social tension is escalating much more noticeably in the regions than in big cities. So far, this tension erupts occasionally - as labor disputes or ethnic clashes. So such tension does not threaten general destabilization so far,” the sociologist believes.

The director of the Institute of Political Studies, Civic Chamber member Sergey Markov believes the findings are objective and trustworthy. “These are very competent and professional pollsters, and there are no reasons to doubt their findings,” Markov told Itar-Tass.

However, the political scientist did not exclude “the overly liberal approach of the government’s economy-related ministers to social problems can provoke flare-ups”. In addition, the business elite push through anti-social laws to promote its interests.

“Executive failures may cause local outbursts, if some governor messes up with paying compensations or social benefits,” Markov believes.

Elections that tend to disappoint the defeated side can be another factor of instability, he added.

“But under no circumstances will protests in Russia reach the boiling point the way it happened in Ukraine, as the Russian authorities are supported by the majority,” Markov believes.

“What sociologists say about the people’s sentiment is only partially true. We need to study underlying processes in society,” Professor at Moscow State University’s Department of Political Science, Yelena Shestopal, told Itar-Tass.

Discontent may escalate, if the ruble collapses, the expert believes. She does not exclude that the negative example of Ukraine may provoke flare-ups among the opposition and nationalist youth.

“Society is a complex organism, and sociologists should not indulge in reassuring the powers that be that the coast is clear,” warned Shestopal.


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