Sociologist Leo Gudkov explains, why economic crisis does not harm the surprising rating of Putin
Leo Gudkov leads “Levada- center” – by most respectable organization, which investigates public opinion in Russia, measuring the mood of inhabitants, beginning from 1987 the year. On the influence of its propaganda in Moscow questioned the colleague „Re:Baltica” Russian journalist Leonid Ragozin.
In very short time – from the middle 2012 of the year until March 2013 of year – was achieved completely colossal propagandistic effect. How this did succeed?
To this several conditions contributed. First – this is the information isolation: were closed, extruded, forbidden all alternative information sources: sites, the cable televisions. For major portion of the population by only information channel, the interpretation of all events was Russian federal television. It completely under the control of the administration of Vladimir Putin (President of the Russian Federation).
The second moment – is expanded actually very strong and very effective according to its structure propagandistic campaign. Of its purpose, is at first glance – this the discredit of Ukrainian motion to the side of integration into the European Union, reforms in the Ukraine, the creation of the lawful, honest, state without corruption, correspondingly, located under the control society. If this was successful version, thus the strongest threat for the stability of Putin regime would be created. Because preceding several years were characterized by a drop in the popularity of Putin, by sharp reduction in the confidence to it, by increase in the dissatisfaction and even unwillingness to vote for it on the following presidential elections. People of tiredness from such authoritarian regime.
The middle class, which felt the lack of promise of its further existence under the conditions of the amplifying repressive authoritarian regime, especially got tired. Therefore, discrediting Ukrainian motion, Euromaidan first of all, in reality propaganda beat on the Russian opposition, on the liberal, democratic values, which justified people, which emerge on the mass protest actions.
What was message for the Russian audience in connection with the Ukraine?
That that all these motions, for example, of Euromaidan, are incited by the West, and they are directed against Russia for the purpose to weaken, to humble Russia, to tear away the Ukraine from Russia and to thus weaken Russian state herself.
In the second place, these are very characteristic for the present government of Russia paranoia of colored revolutions, fear before the threat of instability. This against the background prolonged mass protests in Russia. Accordingly, attachment to the public opinion of idea, that the West renders strong pressure in Russia that this is the new phase of the Cold War and the traditional anti-Russian policy, directed toward weakening of Russia precisely when Russia is strengthened, it arises from the elbows, it acquires weight.
Specifically, strengthening Russia caused the strongest reaction from the side of the West. Since this the very traditional myths of the Russian consciousness, which go still from the Soviet time or even are still deeper, from the 19th century, they easily started. Propaganda gave very intelligible and familiar dies.
Still one crucial point, propaganda laid under the motives of the action of the West (mythological, naturally, West) those intentions of Russian policy, which were also very well known to the Russian average man.
So that it easily learned in them the familiar motives: expansion, total control, some geopolitical priorities. All these myths were actualized precisely, beginning approximately from the middle of January 2014 of year, already after collision on Euromaidan.
But this preceded, of course, the prolonged, amplifying anti-Western rhetoric, which became noticeable with the arrival of Putin. And it is not simple arrival, but the change of the composition of the highest leadership in Russia, when at the authority arrived, on the whole, the former colleagues of the KGB with appropriate mentality and with the extremely expressed antidemocratic, anti-Western mentality. Therefore gradually these themes were introduced into the public opinion, but principally this became mainstream of Russian domestic policy, beginning somewhere from the Munich speech of Putin, i.e., from 2007 the year.
You say that fell the popularity of Putin. We saw marshy, and the opinion polls, your including showed a drop in the popularity of Putin. But a completely colossal increase in its popularity suddenly occurred. In than magic?
Magic in the fact that in the Russian society were accumulated the enormous frustration, stress, diffuse irritation. Society was unhappy, in spite of an increase in the incomes and raising the standard of living. Were accumulated very strong of inferiority complex. They were different in different groups. Middle class, first of all the population of large cities, spoke in favor of conducting of reforms. This is mainly the independence of judicial system, because private property cannot be guaranteed without this, it cannot be investments.
Furthermore, the small and mid-sized business the strongest means they suffered from state raider. Large business is affiliation with the authority; therefore this not is so meant. For the bulk of the growing Russian enterprise this threat is very real; therefore in the first place of the reform of judicial system. Further the responsibility of authority before the society, correspondingly, the problem of honest selections, regular rotation of authority, which, naturally, for that group, which is alien to the authority, is mortally dangerous.
And finally the third moment – these are those slogans, with which came out marshy or protest motions wider, and that the very large part of the population supported, approximately 40-45% – these are the freedom of press – is that which exactly was liquidated during Putin’s lifetime. This is is one type of dissatisfaction and claims to the authority. Another, much that more extended – this is nostalgia over the Soviet times and over state pattern of depressive and poor province, which extremely painfully receives all reforms and arrival of the market economy. It requires the return of government control, government subsidy, support of state unitary enterprises, strengthening of social policy, i.e., support to poor, to an increase in the social expenditures and so forth. Exactly these people in the province understand, that market reforms make absolutely senseless the remainders of the old Soviet economy – no one the unnecessary defense industry, heavy industry, backward technologies.
It understands the population of small cities, mono-cities, that for them the market economy and the arrival of new authority or new policy bears the strongest threat. Therefore conservative province spoke against modernization, changes, against the rapprochement with Europe, and this was the social base of putinizma. And here dissatisfaction bore completely different nature – dissatisfaction with the absence of return to the previous times. Therefore strong dissatisfaction rose inside Russia. Plus still, that there was very important this growing social envy and resentment, connected sharply strengthened by social differentiation. Because there are colossal contradictions between the most profitable groups and the poor population.
Simply if on the average in Europe the divergence between 10% profitable and poorest part of the population composes approximately 7-8 once, then even according to official data in Russia this 16-17 of times. The independent economists indicate that the income difference is much more.
The respectively social envy of these stagnant layers of the population of provincial to the successful business, to the new models of consumption, also played its role. Therefore of inferiority complex, irritation by the going social processes were very strong. The loss of status of the Great Power here played the role of the factor, which amplifies stress. Because in the Soviet time even poverty and chronic scarcity of products, goods, entire what you want, it was compensated by a feeling of belonging with the Great Power, which, in the opinion the enormous majority of population, Russia lost after USSR crash. And only at some moments of the show of force, aggression, in particular, during the war with Georgia or already after the annexation of the Crimea – this was compensated again by the sensation of the restoration of status of the Great Power. _ “us respect, because fear,” – this is what be the basis.
Since the propaganda tied idea about the fact that the West carries out hostile policy, here such demonstrative of the nonobservance of the standards of international law and opposition to the West, no reaction to the criticism of the West, were received as show of force and as the form of national self assertion, that also produced the effect of euphoria, which continued some time to that moment, when began to act the sanctions and the reciprocal sanctions, when prices of the oil in autumn suddenly fell and ruble lost approximately 30% its cost. Such panicky moods began, that the crisis broke out also in Russia, and against this there is no rescuing whatever.
Euphoria did end, in spite of as before the very high ratings of Putin itself?
Yes. Euphoria, it is possible to say, it ended, although the support is held at the same high level.
How this to explain?
The mechanism of compensation, symbolic self assertion acts. But mood and economic expectations are very alarming and are very pessimistic, are unstable. This is the rare situation, which we observe – the divergence between the economic estimations and the support to authority. Actually, which did occur? Occurred the division of that part of the dissatisfied, which were connected with the middle class, with the urban class. Because province (approximately two thirds of population) and thus supported Putin – this was their base. But those, who insisted on the reforms, during the acceleration, the modernization, on the rapprochement with the West, those exactly were cleft. Part from them passed to the number of supporters of Putin, and the second, very small part, it remained in the camp of critics and opponents of regime. But these are 10-12% maximum – is this steady group and it practically does not change.
Many in the West are not understood, why this propaganda does work? When some frankly untruthful things tell people, for example, about the crucified boy in Slavyansk. Why people, which do, it would seem, have an immunity against the propaganda after 70 the years of communism, do buy obvious lie?
Propaganda raised very important and sensitive themes for the Russian national consciousness. It declared the Ukrainian democratic movement by Fascist, Nazi, ultra-nationalistic and so forth. After saying that this Fascist motion, it addressed in the language World War II, and this principally. This is one of the supporting moments of national identity, base for the self-esteem. “Russians – this is that people, which conquered fascists and with the fascists it cannot be dialogue. There cannot be neither sympathies nor acknowledgements.” Therefore the first, that made the propaganda – this it tore any understanding, sympathy, readiness to understand that which occurs in the Ukraine.
The second very crucial point is – this approval of Putin, which protects its Russians in the Ukraine. Furthermore, propaganda declared, that in the Ukraine occurred the coup d’etat, that arrived the Nazis, Ukrainian fascists and this creates threat for the life and safety, even for genocide of Russians in the Ukraine, as asserted Russian of policy and journalists. The position of Putin here in accordance with all laws that whether of the Mafia, the whether state paternalism, which protects its, obtains complete approval. This precisely that that the enormous mass of the population awaits: protection, concern, the guarantee of safety, stability of life. This was plotted in those expectations, in those standards, idea about the authorities, which, on the whole, are very traditional for the Russian consciousness.
The third moment – this that that propaganda she said: “you want changes – you will look, which occurs in the Ukraine: Civil War, ruin, the loss of people, fratricidal conflicts. You this want?” The enormous masses of people strongly are traumatized by deep crisis and transformation processes of the 90’s. They have panic fear the repetition of this chaos of the 90’s. Therefore even doubting, without approving, it is joined to this.
About the myths, the boy of that crucified or still some atrocities, for the enormous number of population cannot be verified this. Two thirds populations live in the small cities and in the mudflow. For them television or some local newspaper – this is only information channel. They cannot verify this information. These people can with the distrust it relates to the conversations about the fact that the inflation is low, when they this see, each time buying products. But that that occur such atrocities, that “Kiev chastisers”, as propaganda is expressed, these or other crimes are arranged, verify this they cannot. All the more, again I speak, very skillful propaganda in this sense of politcal technology, it is television and woman journalist. This was made sufficiently professionally and skillfully, forcing fear, forcing a feeling of injustice, villainy. It raised in people the appropriate emotions and the strongest hostility to the Ukrainians.
It seems many in the West that this is simple recovery to the dull Soviet propaganda. You did see Soviet propaganda – how you they did compare that, etc?
This differently. First, in the Soviet time television did not play this role. The there capillary control, characteristic for the totalitarian regimes, was built differently. Television had the smaller scope of population, approximately 40%. Now all, that occurs, including the behavior of the highest persons, first persons of Russian state, all is built according to the principle of priest- culture – this such show. And entire genre structure, and pictures are extremely technologically effective, are entertainment, are visually very convincing. While in the Soviet time propaganda rested in essence on the strongest social control in terms of the place of work, studies, the place of residence, through the party organizations and through the press. This was completely different. Not such convincing, not such visual and in accordance with by smaller effect. Plus, of course, dramatization of image is another valid.
Why World War II thus did prove useful as the rod of new ideology now, when does occur interaction with the generation, not referring straight to World War II, in which did war even not parents, but grand-dads, grandmothers?
Generally speaking, in the Russian mass consciousness there is a sensation of defeat and historical crash, that the USSR was pulled down in view of internal reasons, not only external, that entire Soviet history, especially sharply this it survived at the moment of reconstruction in 88-91 the years, it was the chain of crimes, misery, that nothing bright there was nothing. These are the sensation of defeat, by the incapacity to be the same as the normal countries in the West as in Europe. It was extremely internally unhealthy. Victory in the war compensated this feeling. If this was investigated: “We conquered not simply Nazi Germany, we conquered one of the developed countries of the West, after becoming after war of one of two strongest super-powers.” This is very the important feeling, which compensate force all deficiencies in daily existence: poverty, scarcity, lack of promise and so forth. This is central base for the national pride. Therefore any step in the policy always appeals to this central event of the 20th century. Putin management, ideologists from the very beginning made a rate on traditionalism and winning of the cult of victory, myth about the war, after making by his basis of Putin legitimacy. Not modernization, not contemporary development, but support to its own heroic past, national values.
But I want to say that the new ideological motive recently appeared and it becomes all more distinct – this the idea of the divided nation – the completely Nazi motive of Russian peace. “We protect our, wherever they were not.” Thus, in the first place, it is asserted very conservative, traditionalist ideas and myths about the organic unity of authority and people, the unity on the origin, on the faith in the unity of origin, if you want, on the blood. From other side, same this mythology or ideology removes all questions about the structure of society, about the institutes, which it is necessary to reform and to change, about the responsibility of authority and so forth. I.e., it removes entire problems of democracy, of rule-of-law state, all that which disturbs the most moved parts of the Russian population.
On what stage we are located with “the ideology of the divided people”: 1920 years in Germany either Hungary or this already stage after 1933 year in Germany, when we must conquer these territories?
I nevertheless did not begin to draw straight parallels. That it is possible to say accurately, this, of course, the functional role of such ideas. Certainly, it is possible to indicate that we deal concerning the certain relapse of totalitarianism. This not complete return to the Soviet past it is not possible to carry out straight parallels with Nazi Germany, but something in this actually more similar exists. I would say that a feeling of defeat thus is removed through the appeal to the traditional myths, mobilization of population, that strengthens national solidarity. But if you then already insist on these parallels, then I would say that this is nearer to Germany.
Already to the late?
To the late, yes.
I.e., it would be correct to speak, that the Russian society, pro-putin majority, now is completed imperialistic ideas, they do actually want the expansion of the country?
No, this do not exist. I.e., imperial myth is present, but it not expansionism, but this is the myth of the militarist heroic past: the cult of force, the cult of large power, enormous territory and the sensation of the natural resources, which is located in the possession of state. But this does not indicate actually expansionism. _ because Russian society nevertheless very tired society and fear strong shaking. In contrast to actually the Nazism or the early forms of totalitarianism, here there are no plans for this expansion. There are the very important themes, which are supported by authority, this is the theme of the retention of stability. I.e., actually regime is most of all interested in the self-preservation, in the guarantee of support and possibility to be preserved as it is longer as possible in authority without the change.
At least in the propaganda evidently of the fact that there was even in the Soviet time – this the export of Communist ideology, the expansion of the zone of socialism, Brezhnev’s doctrine and so forth. Here this do not exist. Be present the idea of protection from the inevitability of changes, the attempt to freeze this country from the revolutions, the changes. To respectively ensure as it is longer as possible retention in the authority of these people. This is rather the tactics of mafia clans, than Communist ideology.
What percentage of population does consider that not only “the Crimea is our”, but also “Riga our and Belorussian our”?
These are different things. From the very beginning the collapse of the USSR they considered that “the Crimea our” and it must be returned – this approximately 82-84% of the population. And this number did not change for entire elongation, including year after the annexation of the Crimea. But there is no desire to join the Baltic States or Belorussia. How much we did not check, here there is no tendency whatever toward the annexation. On the contrary, there is offense, there is resentment with respect to envy, if you want, with respect to the Baltic countries, which were turned by back to Russia and entered the European Union. “They became the normal countries,” – as in Russia they are expressed. This did not succeed for Russia. There is this complex of offense, but the desire by force to somehow join them, to return them to the composition of Russia – this do not exist.
Your last study about The Malaysian aircraft. We as before see, how large a quantity of people considers that Russia is in no way participating to the catastrophe. From other side, I so understand, that grows the number of those being doubting the non participation of Russia in the wreck of the aircraft?
Approximately nothing it changed in the year. In comparison with the measurements last summer and with July measurements of this year. Majorities, hearth 90%, consider that the responsibility lies on the Ukrainian servicemen, who brought down this aircraft, a little greater it was year ago. The portion of those laying fault in the USA now was reduced. But apropos the responsibilities of Russia or separatists (respectively the connection of Russia with the separatists, which it ensured with their weapon) – here almost nothing changes. These are the result is very of the powerfully working propaganda, which convinces of people, that gives maps, position, the trajectory of the launch of rocket and the rest, the complete negation to any information, that is dispersed with the Russian version.
So that in the Russians it would arise realistic idea about surrounding their peace, about its role in this peace, I assume, if this occurs, then they can themselves feel by very guilty in many things. This effect is psychologically accessible? It is possible without the fact that did survive Germany in 1944-1945 the years to reach this sensation of repentance, very real understanding, that Russia did make with other countries?
No, I think that this is impossible, since the destruction of morals is extremely deep. All the experience of adaptation to the repressive state or the survival in the Soviet time or at present, is connected precisely with the failure of the responsibility, with the experience of ambiguity, slyness. The first position, which in Russia occupies the usual person: “I here not moreover. This someone is guilty, but I no.” Therefore under no circumstances people are not ready to pick up responsibility or to perceive fault. Act the monstrous mechanisms of unloading, transfer of responsibility to someone.
Partly the strongest anti-Ukrainian moods are connected precisely with the distorted guilt complex, the transfer of fault to someone other with the explicit unclean conscience. Here there is no doubt whatever. I think that without the special measures or the prolonged policy, cannot be forced to the acknowledgement of its own responsibility, fault here.
I think that also in Germany this was very complex without the military government, occupational administration would be impossible conducting law court and respectively coercion to the acknowledgement of lawful responsibility, i.e., the acknowledgement of the very fact of crime and only then moral feeling of guilt or amoral of accomplishment. I do not see in the present Russian reality of that group or that institute, which could conduct this work.
The first, that could change, this, of course, destruction of the monopoly of authority to the information space, at least the appearance of the independent points of sight, independent channels, which could show another picture, differently interpret events. But even in this case, I think that very process of realizing the responsibility for the annexation of the Crimea, for the war against the Ukraine, would be very long and were necessary special measures. Very prolonged process in order to change this understanding. The degree of public cynicism and amoralizma is so great which chances now, me seems, no for this change in the public consciousness.
Used translator: http://www.worldlingo.com/