Number of Russians who think their country is ‘great’ just hit 15-year high


A participant in a rally in support of Crimea joining Russia, holds a Russian flag in Red Square in Moscow, Tuesday, March 18, 2014. With a sweep of his pen, President Vladimir Putin added Crimea to the map of Russia on Tuesday, describing the move as correcting past injustice and responding to what he called Western encroachment upon Russia’s vital interests. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Things haven’t been going so well for the average Russian lately. Last year, the economy only grew 1.3 percent — its poorest showing since the economic collapse. Thirty-five percent of the nation’s wealth is in the hands of just 110 people. And its current minimum wage comes out to just over $150 per month.

But Russians have never felt better about Russia.

According to fresh research out of the Russian Levada Center, a respected independent polling operation, the number of Russians who think their country is a “great power” just hit 63 percent — a 15-year high. In March of 1999, only 31 percent of Russians felt that way.

Levada Center also found that more Russians today view the United States negatively than at any time since April of 1990, when this kind of polling began. The research, which surveyed 1,603 people between March 7-10, said that 56 percent of Russians view the United States negatively, up from 44 percent in January.

Nearly a quarter-century ago, in 1990, that figure was only 7 percent.

Source: Levada Center. Graphic: Tobey - The Washington Post. Source: Levada Center. Graphic: Tobey – The Washington Post.

Tuesday’s findings come at a time when relations between the United States and Russia are at their most tense in a generation. Over the vehement objections of President Barack Obama and the European Union, President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty on Tuesday annexing the peninsula, which overwhelmingly voted this week to secede from Ukraine. “Crimea is our common legacy, Putin said. “It can only be Russia today.”

Putin’s popularity has also hit a three-year high. According to Levada, he’s currently in possession of a 72 percent approval rating.

Opinions about Russia’s political makeup are evenly distributed across the population. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they thought Russia is a developing democracy; 16 percent said Russia is spiraling into anarchy; and 15 percent said it’s becoming an authoritarian dictatorship.

The survey asked respondents how they thought Russia could improve. Forty percent answered that Russia would be better if power was concentrated in one branch of government, 49 percent said they wanted power distributed between branches of government and 11 percent replied it was “hard to reply.”

In 2003, Levada says, 77 percent of the country thought Russia’s relationship with the European Union ranged from normal to friendly. Today, however, only 32 percent feel that way — and 63 percent think relations range from cool to hostile.

The number of Russians who believe developed nations view Russia as an “enemy” has doubled over the last year — from 8 to 16 percent.

Terrence McCoy covers poverty, inequality and social justice. He also writes about solutions to social problems.
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