July 3, 2008 / 11:23 AM / 9 years ago

Russia's middle class fears "apocalypse": poll

<p>Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attends the United Russia party meeting in the Lesnye Dali resort, outside Moscow, June 29, 2008. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Alexei Nikolsky/Pool</p>

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Half of Russia’s emerging middle class do not believe in the stability delivered by former President Vladimir Putin, fear a crisis may loom and would like to emigrate, according to independent pollsters Levada.

“Those who should be grateful are not very grateful, but the situation is very fragile, very unstable and they fear it could end very soon and this is why they are thinking about leaving the country,” said analyst Denis Volkov of the Levada Centre on Thursday in a telephone interview.

Putin claimed his eight-year rule as president restored Russia’s fortunes in the world and liked to contrast its strong economic growth with the chaotic post-Soviet era of the 1990s when capitalism first reached modern Russia.

But the Kremlin has not convinced half of those polled in focus groups in 14 cities by Levada that there is true stability in Russia.

Among reasons cited is that the country is “very unstable” or the fear of an “apocalypse”.

“I think it is very much connected with the feeling the situation is not very stable because the main institutions do not work and this group also said courts and police do not work properly,” said Volkov.

“They can only solve problems through bribery.”

Half of the 1040 people queried, aged 24-39, said they had thought of emigrating and cited future security and better standards of living as their main reasons. The survey was carried out between April 24 and May 15.

Poor environmental conditions were cited by 73 percent of respondents, second only to instability as a factor for contemplating a new life abroad.

The poll specifically targeted Russia’s middle classes, only polling those in Moscow who earn more than 1500 euros ($2,368) per month or over 800 euros ($1,263) in most other cities.


“This group of successful people enjoys a better standard of living and can afford to go on holiday abroad one or more times a year, so they are successful people,” said Volkov, explaining how they differed from most of Russia’s 142 million population.

Almost two-thirds said they would like their children to study and work abroad. Although the proportion who wanted their children to stay abroad was lower, it still accounted for 35 percent of those questioned.

Many people feel that attitudes to business have improved, though 76 percent do not feel protected by police and security forces, who they say use power arbitrarily.

Three-fifths of those polled said they believed officials do not abide by the law - chiming with a pledge from newly installed President Dmitry Medvedev to tackle rampant corruption and its “legal nihilism”.

Levada also found that most people feel detached from the political system - with 83 percent saying they feel they cannot influence the political process in their country.

The electoral system delivered landslide victories for Putin’s United Russia party in parliamentary elections last December and for Medvedev in March’s presidential poll.

Western governments criticized both elections, saying the Kremlin had tilted the playing field so far in favor of Medvedev that opponents stood no chance. Russia rejected the criticism.

Reporting by Conor Sweeney

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