#10 - JRL 7006
December 24, 2002
EXPECTATIONS OVERTHROWN IN THE PAST
What is the secret of people's endless love for President Putin?
Author: Mikhail Kalishevsky
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
PRESIDENT PUTIN REALLY THE INCARNATION OF PEOPLE'S EXPECTATIONS TURNED TO THE PAST, TO STAGNATION. THIS IS THE SECRET OF THE PEOPLE'S ENDLESS LOVE FOR PUTIN. HOWEVER, THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS THAT THE RULING OLIGARCHIC BUREAUCRACY IS SUCCESSFULLY USING THIS NOSTALGIA IN ORDER TO DISGUISE THEIR UNWILLINGNESS TO SHARE THE MONOPOLY FOR POWER AND THE PROPERTIES FOR WHICH LIBERAL REFORMS ARE DISASTROUS. HOWEVER, THIS STABILITY IS ILLUSORY: IT IS WELL KNOWN WHAT THE MOST STABLE PERIOD OF THE SOVIET HISTORY ENDED IN.
At the end of November, sociological polls registered a phenomenal rise of Vladimir Putin's popularity rating up to 85%, with only 15% of the population disapproving of his activities. At the same time, the majority of respondents realize that the present president has not had any significant achievements. In particular, 62% of respondents are negative about Putin's activities for raising the economy and increasing the prosperity of the nation; 73% of respondents are negative about liquidation of the Chechen guerrillas; and 47% of respondents think that the president has rather failed than succeeded with putting the country in order.
According to sociologists, the reason for such an unprecedented high popularity rating is that Putin is still the "expectation president" for many Russians that is why the real results of his activities have not affected his popularity rating as yet. It seems there has been enough time to estimate the situation in the country a year before the end of Putin's presidency and to see whether there are grounds for optimistic expectations.
Apparently, the matter is not the optimism of Russians, which is concentrated on the personality of the president. There can be no optimism when whole cities have been frozen through for several winters in a row, when salaries are not being paid again, there is no end to the officials' arbitrariness and bribe-taking, and the Chechen war has started expanding beyond the Chechen boundaries and even struck the Russian capital. According to the same sociological polls, Russians have not become more optimistic; nonetheless, the people's love for president has not grown weaker either.
Undoubtedly, the traditional "patience" of Soviet-Russian people which grounds on their social passivity, paternalistic mentality, and the belief in a "good czar", plays a significant role here. However, the relatively recent events of the late 1980s and early 1990s prove that Russians are not always passive and sometimes they require all immediately. One way or another, but people's love for Gorbachev and later Yeltsin had never been so strong and long as people's love for Putin.
However, there is time for everything. Famous sociologist Yuri Levada wrote in his recent article titled "Homo Nostalgic: reality and issues" about the changes in the nature of people's expectations. For instance, during the most difficult changes of 1992 the people mostly hoped for "tomorrow" and did not yearn about "yesterday". However, since late 1993 - early 1994 positive estimations and stereotypes of the "stagnation" period have prevailed. According to polls, the number of those who say that "things should have stayed as they were before 1985" is steadily growing - from 45% of respondents in 1995 to 54% of respondents in 2001. This trend is characteristic for all age groups, even for those who was a child in 1985.
Undoubtedly, the tiredness form the upheavals, the broken expectations of a fast and easy transition to capitalism, and the social passivity and paternalistic mentality have played their role here. The "stagnation" mostly associates with maximal stability and "assurance of tomorrow", which are absolutely pragmatic things necessary for a "normal life". Simultaneously, Levada notes, "yearnings for the better past are repeatedly combined with today's practical interests: the majority of respondents are willing to live "not worse" or "better" than their surrounding, some are oriented on western standards." Moreover, the estimation of the situation in the country is always higher than the estimation of the respondents' own situations and the majority of them realize the impossibility to return to the past.
The ruling circles have skillfully used this contrary, irrationally overthrown to the past yearning for "stability" and "assurance of tomorrow" when promoting unknown Vladimir Putin. Hence, the current president is really the incarnation of people's expectations. However, these expectations are turned to the past, to stagnation. This is the secret of the people's endless love for Putin which cannot be affected by any disasters that have happened under his presidency.
However, the most important thing is that the ruling oligarchic bureaucracy is successfully using the nostalgia in order to preserve the nomenclature capitalism system. In fact, it is an intention use Soviet and imperial symbols in order to disguise their unwillingness to share the monopoly for power and the properties for which liberal reforms are disastrous. The result is the new edition of stagnation. Neither distancing tycoons from the power nor strengthening of the power hierarchy have changed anything in the country. The most resent example is selling Slavneft which exactly resembles privatization of the Svyazinvest company.
However, this stability is illusory: it is well known what the most stable period of the Soviet history ended in.
(Translated by Arina Yevtikhova )