Research Professor of the HSE Natalia Tikhonov has presented her research at the annual conference of the analytical center of Yuri Levada “Events and trends 2015 in public opinion” on Thursday. The report was devoted to the impact of the crisis on the socio-economic situation of the Russian population.
Affected by the downturn
To the greatest extent the economic crisis affected two categories of Russians, said Tikhonov: this is the most educated, and prosperous population of Moscow and St. Petersburg, as well as residents of small villages and settlements.
His influence on these two categories was different, the study’s author says. In the first and second capitals of the 28% of the population work part-time for extra work for the sake of gain to earnings. Many suffered from the disappearance of the additional sources of income and the forced abandonment of traditional lifestyles — overseas travel, good food. The middle class still thinks it’s something to allow, but does not demonstrate any career achievements or the acquisition of real estate, the report says.
In the villages the situation is different, says Tikhonov. There people are suffering from mass layoffs, unpaid wages, exploitation of labour by employers, the share of unemployed for the year 2015 in the villages has doubled. The average workweek for the year in rural areas increased by four hours, but it did not bring additional income. People increase the workload on pain of dismissal, and unlike the inhabitants of large cities they have nowhere to go, said Tikhonov.
Prosperous the population, the revenues of which constitute not less than two living wages, is only 25% in the country. Among the poor Russians 12% very abruptly slid into extreme poverty, have lost their jobs and social status.
The threat of protests
A marked drop in their standard of living does not cause a sharp protest against the authorities due to several factors, said Tikhonov. First, the Russians believe that the current economic situation depends on external factors, and the power is “always bad”.
Secondly, a high level of life and active participation in social processes not included in the basic value orientations of the majority of Russians, noted author of the study.
Around 40% of Russians the main thing in life are good friends, happy family, having a separate apartment and the opportunity to “honestly live your life”. Such goals in life, as an opportunity “to become rich” and “to influence what happens in society”, respectively only 2% and 5% of respondents.
The Russians believe that “you can still wait” until the crisis forces them to “narrowing down” in consumption, but does not change their way of life.
This explains the paradox that the crisis has hit the residents of little Russia, and discontent above all in Moscow: these categories of the population — residents of large cities and the population of villages and farms have different value orientations.
But a year and a half can dramatically drop the rating of trust to the authorities, and the latent discontent of the Russians his position will grow, which could lead to a wave of protest action, said Tikhonov.
When the population strengthens the feeling that you can’t live, even the most seemingly insignificant occasion can cause violent reaction. It was in 2011, when there were mass protests against electoral fraud, cited the report’s author: “it would Seem that someone before that worried about the election?” General psychological state of the population was such that one could expect protests, the question was, what was the occasion, she said. If now the protests are intermittent, then after a year they can go wave.
The situation is complicated by the fact that since 2011 the Russian society is in a phase of bifurcation, when it is impossible to predict what will happen, said Tikhonov. “Who could have expected of Crimea, Ukraine, Syria, refusal from indexation of pensions to pensioners?” — she reminds. According to the author of the report, in this situation it is difficult to predict what the authorities will decide on in a crisis situation. Unpopular moves can be superimposed on severe psychological condition.
Because now comes the preparation of the elections of the state Duma, then presidential elections in 2018, the government will make every attempt to suppress the protest mood, predicts the author of the study.