A Russian sociologist talks
- from a Polish newspaper "Gazeta Wyborcza" Dec. 29th, 2000 issue
"Russia is impossible to be govern"*. A talk with Yuri Levada, who's
a director of the Russian Research Center of Public Opinion.
Irena Lewandowska: Has the mood of the Russian society during this
Yuri Levada: Yes. In the place of mobilization; a process of being
accustom to ordinary life, disappointment, tiredness and in the end
... a hope showed up. A year ago, it seemed that a ghost of a new
aggressive consolidation of society inthe close proximity was
cruising, reminding us about our not so happy past. It hasn't came
to that, inspite of the high appraisal of president Putin and support
for him, against the logic, because his concrete work is evaluated
negatively by people. I've just got the results of a research from
the end of November - it appears in the opinion of respondents, that
this mister can boast himself only for the results of his foreign
policy ( 58% for, 29% against it). In all the other spheres, the
situation is just opposite. Establishing an order in the country -
38% thinks that he's achieved a success, 56% that he hasn't. Economy
and standard of living - 23% is happy, 71% isn't. Democracy and
citizen freedoms - 32% is satisfied today, 48% is worried. And
finally, the war in Chechnya - 30% considers that the victory is
near, 62% thinks otherwise.
Even worse, according to the people who were polled, are the
perspectives on solving the situation in Chechnya - 20 % thinks,
that's possible, 69% doesn't see any prospect for that. As it
appears, we have to render with the complete defeat here.Also, with
the fight that our authority is conducting against some gubernators
many people only see the increase of chaos. Regarding the attack on
media tycoons, especially on Vladimir Gusinsky, it can be seen that
people don't know what has been "played". They don't like the
oligarchs so much, that they can't see, what's the real reason for
this confrontation. The majority, at least till now, was assuming
that it's aboutmoney, some financial machinations and it's ready to
built gallows right now, not listening to any explanations.
Q: And what is really the matter?
- That's just a private, narrow-mindedly, dirty revenge. But, that's
not the point. Well, almost all the appraisals of the president's
work are negative and support for him is not going down.
Q: That's very strange?
- We 're living strangely on the whole. I was writing about an
agressive mobilization in my article a year ago.
Now, we're seeing the signs of demobilization. The first time, in
October of 2000, the number of advocates wanting negotiations with
the Chechens has passed the number of the war's advocates. In
November, that difference got even bigger. According to all the
indications, this war it's in a dead end street and even the most
stupidiest generals understand that. But, the authority isn't doing
is this matter anything. Why? Maybe it doesn't know what to do, maybe
isn't capable to take decisions or that's the most probable, the
president is afraid of his generals.
In the weekly, "Obshchaya Gazyeta" it was written recently, that
Putin said a few weeks ago (to be sure, in the very narrow circle):
"We're not interested in Chechnya's status, but what matters to us,
is not to be attacked from there." So, it was sufficient to kill
"only" 50 thousands people and suddenly such a thought has came to
somebody's mind. Of course, after this article was published, a huge
scandal exploded, but it doesn't really matter to the essence. It's
been clear, that the president already knows that the war can't be
won, and the majority of Russians don't want it either.
Q: The Russian's democrates didn't want it from the start. The first
war, which begun six years ago, nor the recent one.
- Well, demobilization of the society doesn't increase the support
for democrats, because their parties and alliances have demonstrated
the narrow-mindness and weakness and because of that, they've lost
the respect, probably for ever. But, demobilization doesn't mean a
return to the past, the memory about it hasn't been washed away, the
notions of the Left and the Right have lost most of their meaning
with us. The communists have lost their opposition and became
pro-government, so it's not known where is a boundary separating
them from other groups. Talking about this party's ideology, it has
been out of the question already a long time ago. Well, maybe except
of it's nationalism and Black Hundreds. This kind of luggage Russia
is taking into 21st century.
Q: And the "sly slave"*, who's pretending loyalty, affection and in
the meantime he's trying to cheat with all his efforts on his master,
and on the whole on anybody that could be cheated.
- O yes. This is our man - it can adapt to any situation. To any
regime, under tsardom, stalinism and during the German occupation.
And now - if it likes or not, if it has hope or not - it's getting
accustom to it. We have already approximately 65% people, who say
that they've accustom to it, even if they positively don't like what
Q: Is it going to be like that for ever?
- For now, nothing different can be seen. This is tied to attributes
of the masses and as well as with elites, that got scattered
themselves and have lost their face. After all, the masses think
with brains of elites. But,if those wise people are weak, worthless,
stupid then we have what we have.
Q: That's a terrible diagnosis, because it means that won't be better.
- I can't do anything about it. Maybe, something will improve when
the recent generation is gone. Unfortunately during the last year,
not a new, good ideas, nor sensible minds, nor rational forces have
As a consolation, I can say that in my opinion we won't have the
dictatorship in Russia. Not because we're so smart, but because of
our astronomical mess, that's always going to protect us. Specially,
you Poles, should understand this - the expression "Poland is
impossible to be govern "* originated in your country -isn't it?
Well, Russia somehow hold on to this.
Interview by Irena Lewandowska
* "Sly or cunning slave"- a terminology from Tatiana Zaslavskaya
(an Honorary Chairman of the Russian Sociologists Association) - a
Russian man, who supports the law and order, but itself surely
tries to pass or ommit that order.
*"Poland is impossible to be govern" or "Poland stands on anarchy"
is an idiomatic expression, I believe it was created after the
infamous "liberum veto" of the 17th and 18th century's Poland.
"l. v." - meant the legal right of each member of the Polish
Parliament (Sejm) to defeat by his vote alone any measure under
consideration or to dissolve the Sejm and nullify all the acts
passed during its session. Every bill introduced into the Sejm had
to be passed unanimously. Liberum veto was used extensively,
paralizing the government and leaving Poland vulnerable to the
influence of foreign powers, which habitually bribed delegates to
the Sejm. M.L.
A similar article-interview with Yuri Levada, by the same Polish
journalist "Power - the most beautifull
word in the world" - a strong leader is more important than law,
Western democracy that aren't to be reconciled with the Russian
mentality - was published in December of 1999. I've translated only
a few fragments of it to compare it with with the interview of 2000
I was moved by words of some Japanese:" In your country the war is
going on, and all the people behave as nothing is going on. That
would be absolutely impossible among us. How is that possible among
We've been researching the Soviet and post-Soviet man for 10 years.
First we wanted to see, how it changes.Then we've been observing
with worry how it resists to changes. We've seen it in three stages:
- an enthusiastic mobilization ( 70% citizens thought that situation
in the country is changing for better),- disappointment and
adaptation (the society divides itself, demobilization and
deideologization begin, many different elites are being created,
pres. Boris Yeltsin, who was supported enthusiastically en masse in
the past stage, barely gets elected into his second term) - and now
the third stage: - an agressive mobilization.
A state of agressive mobilization that's a new quality. Unparallel
situation: the agression with an asthenic syndrome (a weakness of an
We are asking: what does worry you? In the first place - inflation,
the second - unemployment, the third - corruption. The war in
Chechnya is in the seventh place - as the most important event it's
considered by 7% of the polled people. That's exactly the asthenic
syndrome - to know and not to know, to hear and not to hear.
To a question what did the Yeltsin's rule bring, it was answered:
"nothing good" - 40%, "nothing bad" - less than 2%. As a negative,
it was mentioned the first ( and actually which one for sure? the
sixth, the seventh?) Chechen war.
When the Yeltsin's impeachment was discussed, a half of the polled
was for granting independence to Chechnya, and 76% considered that
Yeltsin should be put on a trial - specifically for this war (still
today the majority considers it as a war crime, it calls it the
second Afghan war). The disintegration of the Soviet Union takes
only the sixth place on the list of grudges against Yeltsin.
Mobilization - that's a high level of unanimity. We're asking: to
attack or to talk with Chechens? Proportion: 70 to 27. What about
if the Army is going to take losses ( to ask about casualties among
Chechens and the civilian population, that's not our habit between
us). The number of advocates for the war goes down by about 15%, and
by the same increases the number of advocates for the negotiations.
The only thing that influences the level of aggression - the own
casualties. The differences between followers of particular parties
are minor: for the war in Chechnya 80% followers of the "Bear" block
- supporting Putin, 60% "Yabloko's" of Grigory Yavlinski, 65% of
the Union Right Wing Forces and 60% of Luzhkov's "Fatherland".
All are standing in the one row - to support Putin, to clap Putin;
also the elites are standing in the same line, in the hope to tear
off a bit of power and privileges. And that means the first
democratic elite has been finished, used up. And the responsibility
of the elites is tremendous - twice in this century the regime had
been overthrown, not because the nation couldn't bear that anymore,
but because the elites succumbed to a decaying process.
Do people believe what they see on TV about our losses in Chechnya?
28% believes in it, 67% don't.
We're asking how to name it, what's going on in Chechnya and suggest
a few variants of answers. The majority choses what they hear on TV:
"anti-terrorist operation". The wording: " pacification of the
rebellious province" hasn't found many followers. So, we don't
believe the TV totally, but we don't have any other language( than
the TV's one) to describe the events.
We're asking: would you go to fight in Chechnya? Yes - 18%, no - 67%.
An authority that's also a nation.
Constantly, we oppose the authority against the nation, but the
authority that's also the nation. All agree that "the authority
corrupts", but those who are agreeing with the statement" each
nation has an authority that it deserves itself" are only a few.
What do people expect from Putin regarding Chechnya - a victory in
the war or a peace agreement? Peace is wanted by the same 24% that
doesn't show the aggression when answering other questions. These
determine the real opposition against the rule of strong hand.
That's not to many, but also not that little - the bolsheviks had
about the same amount of followers in the end of 1917. But, when
I'm talking about them, these are not like the bolsheviks - they
are not organized, scattered among different parties, levels, groups.
We somehow don't see a sensible, organized elite.
These are the feelings brought up by some information about the war
in Chechnya ( from Nov.- Dec. 99): satisfaction - 21-24%, shame -
7-9%, anxiety - 57-59%. The advocates of solving the conflict
peacefully are not even trying to unite themselves. An anti-war
movement hasn't been established here, and it would't have to be
that strong as in the US during the Vietnam war or as in France
during the war in Algeria ( we can talk about the direct analogy
here - there in the end, it had came to armistice and separation
of the rebellious province). There's even the lack of a weak
opposition here, contrary to the first Chechen war.
A consolation can be found, that it took France more than 100 years
of dirty and bloody revolution to establish the real democracy there.
We're at the start of that route, so from the history's viewpoint
everything looks normally, everything goes as is needed. We're
living here and on what's going on right now we have to measure it
with our own weight and our own life.