This book, based on a survey by the Sociology Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences completed in April 2011, provides, in the opinion of this reviewer, one of the most comprehensive accounts so far published of Russian opinion during the twenty years since the fall of communism. Based on a carefully weighted sample of respondents, it makes full allowance for the great variations of opinions according to age, income group and place of residence. It also allows for changes in opinion by drawing on surveys of earlier years.
The finished product provides a wealth of information on subjects ranging from leisure to moral attitudes. The book sees little conclusive evidence of xenophobic attitudes towards the outside world, and suggests that ethnic hatred within Russia is a reflection of stress rather than racism. One salient finding is that very few Russians support the idea of the ‘minimum state’ or unregulated free market. Most Russians believe in some kind of a mixed economy in which the state nevertheless plays a key role.
The idea of democracy, according to this book, is regarded with ‘benevolent scepticism’; that is, support in principle coupled with considerable doubts whether it would work in present-day Russia. Given the impossibility of voting the present government out of office, Russians are increasingly resorting to other means of protest, including street demonstrations. The level of discontent is illustrated by the fact that only 10 per cent in the survey said they were better off as a result of the post-communist reforms, while 25 per cent said they were worse off. Nevertheless, the majority of Russians have no wish for yet another upheaval and this may explain the continued public acceptance of President Putin's rule.