RUSSIA'S LEADING POLLING AGENCIES HAVE INDEPENDENTLY CONDUCTED SURVEYS ON THE SAME SUBJECT: HOW BIG BUSINESS IS VIEWED IN RUSSIA. MOST RESPONDENTS VIEW IT NEGATIVELY, WITH TYPICAL RUSSIAN INCONSISTENCY - BELIEVING THAT ATTACKS ON OLIGARCHS CAN DESTABILIZE THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN THE COUNTRY.
Russia's leading polling agencies have independently conducted surveys on the same subject: how are "the bourgeoisie" viewed in the new Russia? In light of incessant media debates on the subject of YUKOS, revising (or on the contrary, maintaining) privatization outcomes, and guessing why the president is keeping silent (or not saying much), this undertaking is more than urgent. Its results have turned out to be impressive. Seventy-four percent of Russian citizens assess oligarchs' (also known as "major capitalists") role in Russian history of the 1990s absolutely or partially negatively. And even more (77%) say the same about their role in Russia today. About the same number are sure privatization outcomes should be completely or partially revised. These are, for instance, the results of the ROMIR Monitoring agency. So what sort of a country is Russia after 15 years of the reported market reforms - a country of "minor capitalists" (if major ones are evil); a country of major altruists; or, like before 1917, of communal socialists with a property-leveling attitude?
And here is probably the biggest paradox of the answers: while at least half of citizens are convinced that big business has exerted and exerts a negative influence on the nation, its economy, and politics, about the same number are convinced: attacks on big business lead to a worse political situation in Russia (almost one-third) and our homeland's image abroad (more than one-third). And none of the pollsters put the question this way: "Are you prepared, for the sake of restoring social justice (i.e. revising privatization), to permit destabilization of the situation in Russia?" Better to say: "Will you, comrade, volunteer for a civil war?" It is good they didn't, however. For consistent logic is not worth searching for in the Russian public mind, as before...
The pollsters can be understood, since they highlight societal moods. But there is the question: do they always only mirror societal moods and never shape them by the very formulation of the question? If not, should they and do they have the right to do so? Here is, for example, a recent ROMIR poll about oligarchs and the need to review privatization. Formulated like this (ROMIR, quoted by the official website): "How do you assess the role of major capitalists ("oligarchs") in Russian history during the 1990s?" Doesn't this somehow prompt the post-Soviet individual, who has had it drummed into his head from his schooldays that capitalists are "the damn bourgeois", while oligarchs can be used to scare children over the last decade?
The Public Opinion Foundation provides a survey of its own, but it also has a tinge of "class hatred." "Some believe it's impossible to make a lot of money in Russia without breaking the law. Others believe that it is possible to make a lot of money in Russia without breaking the law. Which view do you support, the first or the second?" This is the wording used in a poll done on July 12. To be sure, there is no legal way to make a lot of money - 70% (!) of respondents happily agree. But what is "a lot of money"? For some it is $500 a month; for others it's $500 million. So why can't the poll ask people to define how much is "a lot"? Or specify the focus groups and cities: so $500 a month can't be earned legally either?
We Russians are inconsistent - primarily concerning ourselves. We borrow money from anyone who has it in order to pay the doctor, customs officer, or teacher; and thank our "saviors"; and right away, we are ready to vote in favor of jailing those bourgeois. We ask place "the good girl" (boy) into a good firm, well-paid job; and right away, we are ready to tear that company apart and return it to state ownership. But few take civil service for some reason. Or they take up positions that enable fast promotion to a "hi-bribe" post. To cut it even shorter, we want capitalist shops crammed with goods and socialist anything else.
We do not believe the state, trying to go round it by a curve, where and how possible; and right away, we are ready to trust back our entire life to it. One should be more honest. After all, history does not know examples when "take everything and share" led to mass prosperity and rapid growth of welfare within a country. Within a caste, clan, nomenclature - yes. We have seen this already (maybe, some one still remembers?) and we have not grown richer because of that. Or have you forgotten yourselves borrowing 3 rubles until payday and buying boots by coupons?
There should be fewer poor people, not fewer rich people. Big business isn't "clean and fluffy" in any country, especially not in Russia. But it has started to make an effort to do something not only for itself, but also for others. One very well-known and very wealthy entrepreneur recently said about another: "What can he leave behind him? Only his good name." They have started doing this; not all of them, and perhaps not the way we would prefer. After all, aren't we used to "taking everything and sharing"... But the movement should be from different sides: it is in the state's power to create conditions for those who do not place themselves among the rich or even simply normal.
(Translated by P. Pikhnovsky )