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Dissatisfied Nation: Opinion Polls Show That Ever More Russians Are Dissatisfied with the Government

Only five percent of Russians do not have any complaints to make about the government, a recent poll conducted by the Levada Center found. Twelve years ago this figure was five times higher. Those who are critical blame authorities for price rises, a drop in real incomes and an inability to guarantee employment and social protection. The proportion of respondents who believe that top officials are corrupt and acting in their own self-interest has increased from three to 25 percent since 1999.

In contrast, Russians are not as concerned about high levels of crime and terrorist attacks. More respondents fear the government acting in the interests of big business than terrorist attacks, and even the Moscow metro bombing in March of 2010 and the explosion at Domodedovo Airport in January of 2011 have become accepted as horrible reality. Attitudes toward crime and terrorism were largely the same 12 years ago, when such research was first conducted.

Problems in the North Caucasus have become less important to respondents, who put this in last place on the list of complaints for the authorities. The majority, however, are generally dissatisfied, with 63 percent agreeing that they are not happy with what is happening in Russia today. Two thirds of respondents said they are not satisfied with the government's economic policy, and half are not satisfied with the political course the country is taking.

"The most positive attitudes toward the government's economic and political policies were recorded among certain groups: young people aged up to 25; respondents with a high level of disposable income; residents of Moscow and the villages; and people with secondary-level education. The most dissatisfied groups were people aged 40 to 54; people who can only afford to buy food and clothes; people who live in small towns and those who have university degrees," said Oleg Savelyev, a spokesperson for the Levada Center. "In my opinion, dissatisfaction with economic policy is more noticeable than disappointment in politics because people associate economic policies with their own financial circumstances, whereas politics seems more abstract to them. People get most of their information about it from television, which is full of propaganda," Savelyev added.

International research shows similar findings. According to the 2011 Trust Barometer report, produced by Edelman, a global PR and research agency, only 39 percent of well-educated and highly-paid Russians trust the government. "Trust in the government remains low after declining in the last year," said Ekaterina Kvasova, the director for Russia at Edelman.
In comparison, the situation in other BRIC countries is the opposite. In China and Brazil, the level of trust in the government is growing every year. Eighty-eight percent of well-educated and highly-paid Chinese citizens and 85 percent of Brazilians said that they trust the government. Russians distrust business and the media more than other nationalities as well, according to the report.

And they seem to have good reason to do so. Activists from the "Odnodolshiki" movement are planning to hold a protest on September 10 on Red Square, opposite the Kremlin. This social movement was formed by people who signed co-investment agreements on to-be-built multiple-unit housing. They invested money in their future flats, but received nothing when more than 1,000 developers went bankrupt. "We have calculated that more than 78,000 people in the Moscow Region and about 120,000 people across Russia were conned by fraudulent developers. Defrauded investors lost about $7 billion, but the authorities are only promising to solve this problem," said Igor Gulyev, one of the movement's coordinators.

In August new amendments to the law "On Bankruptcy of Real Estate Developers" came into force. These stipulate that defrauded investors have to create housing cooperatives and finish incomplete construction themselves and at their own expense. "It may lead to a rebellion. Firstly, people have already paid for their flats. How can they find the money to pay for them a second time? Moreover, they don't have any special skills to manage the process of building. We are not the opposition. We don't have any political goals. We just want to get our flats," Gulyev said. "There are no governmental working groups that are really doing anything to solve our problem. There are no documents or resolutions regarding us. We are only hearing empty promises, some of us for ten years or more."

People who don't have money to invest in risky construction schemes also have serious complaints about the government. "Prices for food and utilities are growing every year, but salaries remain the same. While in Moscow and other big cities there are some opportunities to work and earn, in the regions there are very few good jobs. But elderly and vulnerable people are unprotected everywhere," said muscovite Elena Klimenkova, who works at a state oncology hospitals. "In my experience, cancer patients only receive free medication after a long delay. Retired patients whose pension is 6,000 to 9,000 rubles (about $200 to $300) simply cannot afford to buy drugs, which cost 10,000 rubles ($333). In some cases they die during the waiting period. You have to be young, strong and rich to survive in modern Russia."

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