Is The West Consistently Underestimating Russian Unity? – OpEd


Western journalists and officials have been struck by the unity Russians have displayed since the expanded invasion of Ukraine began and have sought to present that as a rallying around the flag that will inevitably weaken over time, according to speakers at a Moscow Institute of Social Research roundtable.

But in fact, participants said, Russian society has been far more unified far longer and the West has remained “frozen” in its assessments of the degree of atomization and disunion that outside observers assumed had continued since the 1990s (

Aleksandr Rudakov, a Russian political scientist, argued that “the collective West has remained ‘frozen in the 990s when it formed its assessments about the degree of unity of Russian society,” failing to recognize that “we long ago left the 1990s” when many Russians did live according to the principle of “each for himself.” 

“Today we see,” he continued, “that this trend is fading away and there is a growing demand for collective action. The population of the 1990s is receding into the past,” with ever more Russians repulsed by what had been the case earlier. The turning point, he added, came in 2014 “after the return of Crime and the beginning of Western economic aggression. 

Oleg Matveychev, a political scientist who is also a Duma deputy, said that “the West from the very beginning counted on the idea that a civil war was beginning in Russia. But this hasn’t happened.” The West thought it could promote such a development by sanctions but that tactic has failed as well.

“The third stage” of this strategy includes attempts to split our society with the help of terrorist actions” and the manipulation of the information space. That too has failed to have the impact in Russia because it was based on a complete misreading of what Russians today are in fact like.

And Viktor Poturemsky, a pollster at the Moscow Institute for Social Marketing, said that his group has found that more than half of Russians believe that their country is more united now than when the invasion of Ukraine began, that their basic values have not changed, and that 57 percent report widespread support for the war among their families and friends.

Just over one Russian in five – 22 percent – told his pollsters that practically everyone in their entourages supports the war, 35 percent say the majority do, and only 27 percent say that some do but some don’t, Poturemsky continued.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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