Sociologist Anton Grushetsky: With the beginning of the war, the Russians should have opened their eyes. But didn't open

Sociologist Anton Grushetsky: Russians should have opened their eyes when the war began. pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, whether the attitude of Ukrainians to power has changed - we talk about this and many other things with <em><strong>Deputy Director of the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology Anton Grushetsky.</strong></em></p>
<h2>They they don't want to hear and understand anything</h2>
<p><strong>– Anton, can opinion polls be trusted? And even more so Russian opinion polls, which demonstrate that Russians without exception support the war in Ukraine?</strong></p>
<p>– To trust or not is a philosophical question. It depends on how we perceive the sociological research itself. If this is a cross-section of the thoughts and views of the population, then to a certain extent, unfortunately, they must be trusted. In Russia, people were pumped up with propaganda for a long time and in a concentrated manner, which literally climbed out of all the cracks.</p>
<p>A small percentage of Russian citizens use the symbolically oppositional Russian media. The rest drew information from television, from state-owned or state-affiliated Internet publications, and were afraid to voice critical opinions aloud when communicating with each other. So a person gets the feeling that everyone around is opposed to Ukraine, which means that he, too. Therefore, in polls, Russians honestly say that they support Putin and this so-called “special operation.”</p>
<p><strong>– Can sociologists play along with the Kremlin?</strong></p>
<p>We would like to believe it, but in fact it is not. February 24 for me, as a sociologist, was the official watershed. If before this date the average Russian could appeal to the TV, heard, they say, such and such information, then the obvious facts of aggression should have opened their eyes. But they didn't open up.</p>
<p> Someone went out to protest, but these protests are of the level of a Ukrainian regional center, but certainly not of the level that would take place in any civilized country. </p>
<p>Yes, someone went out to protest, but these protests are of the level of the Ukrainian regional center, but definitely not of the level that would take place in any civilized country. Therefore, we can trust Russian surveys.</p>
<p>True, some sociologists argue that it is necessary to make an error for insincerity, but this error can be 10-15 percent. This does not change the essence. All the same, a “special operation”, and sociologists also use this terrible terminology, is supported by the overwhelming majority of the population.</p>
<p>It is clear that Ukraine needs to work with the public opinion of Russians, because any splits among them are in our favor. But the bright hopes that the Russians will come to their senses if they are told the truth will not come true. We noticed that at the end of last year, in our surveys, 40% of Ukrainians said they had relatives and friends in Russia, especially in the south and east. I have no doubt that after February 24, most of them communicated with their loved ones, but we know thousands of living stories when they don’t want to hear and understand anything on the other end of the wire.</p>
<h2>We still have 5-6% of Russian sympathizers </h2>
<p><strong>– According to polls by the Levada Center, the percentage of Russians who support the war in Ukraine is growing. In April it was 74% of respondents, in May – 77%. How can this be explained? Bloodlust?</strong></p>
<p>– It's hard to say for sure what caused this growth. There may have been increased media pressure on dissent. Respondents could give answers that they supported, but in fact they doubted.</p>
<p>We admit that in Russia up to 10% of people who understand the horror of the situation. If they used to take part in surveys, now they refuse.</p>
<p>We can have the same situation with people who continue to adhere to pro-Russian sentiments. They are now less willing to express them publicly.</p>
<p><strong>– According to your research, Russia's actions are supported by 2% of Ukrainians. But in fact, how many of these can there be?</strong></p>
<p><em><strong>– Firstly,</strong></em> you need to understand that there is an error of plus or minus 2% . <em><strong>Second</strong> </em>even those who were afraid to speak, this is a few percent. Shortly before the war, we conducted sentiment surveys. And after the beginning of the aggression, they asked the same people. So, among those who had a good attitude towards Russia, 80% began to perceive it as an enemy.</p>
<p> Ukraine needs to work with the public opinion of Russians, because any splits among them are in our favor. But the Russians will not come to their senses. </p>
<p>It can be assumed that 5-6% of Russian sympathizers remain in our country, but this is still an absolute minority. Therefore, when we see Russian propaganda stories, where 30-40 people rejoice at the “liberators” in the frame, we must understand that in percentage terms this is very small. As a result of Russia's actions, views have changed a lot.</p>
<p><p><strong>– If we imagine that the war is over and elections are approaching, this percentage of Russian sympathizers could somehow influence their outcome?</strong> </p>
<p>– From the point of view of sociologists, I can say that any pro-Russian attitude will play against every candidate or politician. Even after 2014, due to the occupation of Crimea and part of the Donbass, the segment of pro-Russian voters who could be targeted by the Opposition Platform for Life or “Shariy’s party” was conditionally 25-30%. It was already a minority, but now it is absolute.</p>
<p>According to my feelings, those politicians who used to be close to pro-Russian parties will now begin to play the “strong business executive” card. They can say: vote for us, we will rebuild everything. And they can even say that Russia is bad.</p>
<p>Let's remember two videos of Vladimir Saldo from Kherson. In one, he says in good Ukrainian that Ukraine should be a single state. And on the second – he takes a Russian passport. Here are a number of the same politicians who have not yet been opened, like Russian canned food, can go to the polls under the guise of fighters for economic recovery.</p>
<p> If there were elections, then any pro-Russian attitude would play against every candidate or politician. </p>
<p>The reincarnation of the “what's the difference” format can also happen. Now questions are being raised about how to rename the streets, what monuments to demolish. The problem of language policy has not been removed. It will seem to some that now is the time to assert the Ukrainian language more strongly. Others will say that this has lost its relevance, because at the front, Russian-speaking fighters fight just as effectively as Ukrainian-speaking ones. Some politicians can take advantage of this. They will no longer talk about Russian as a second state language, but will carefully use the trick “in our city …” or “it’s such a tradition” and so on.</p>
<h2>No one needs a split line</h2 >
<p><strong>– De-Russification has already begun. Should I force it?</strong></p>
<p>– This issue needs to be discussed, but in a civilized manner and in a slow format. In general, public opinion is on the side of the need to reduce the number of monuments and street names associated with Russia. But if you do it quickly, you can cause some kind of split in society.</p>
<p>Already now, some historians are paying attention to the fact that the names of streets are changed in a way that is not entirely clear. But if in Kyiv it goes well, then in Odessa or Kharkov, in spite of everything, it will be perceived worse.</p>
<p>Both the south and the east are clearly pro-Ukrainian. A Russian-speaking Ukrainian is also a patriot. And now we need to support those who think so. </p>
<p>Right now, in Mariupol, instead of clearing the rubble, the Russians are renaming the square and dismantling the stele. Also, a part of society, especially in the south and east, may accept renaming in our free territories. They say that the issue of providing the Armed Forces of Ukraine, supporting the front is acute, and there is neither time nor resources for anything else.</p>
<p><p>I repeat, both the south and the east are unambiguously pro-Ukrainian. A Russian-speaking Ukrainian is also a patriot. And now we need to support those who think so.</p>
<p><strong>– Russian speakers are sometimes accused of using the language of the enemy.</strong></p>
<p>– The pro-Ukrainian view of everything will expand evolutionarily , and the Ukrainian language will be strengthened both as a state and household language. But to expect from people who are 60-70 years old that they will dramatically change their point of view is an illusion. February 24 allowed many to see the light, but there is a certain line that needs to be handled very carefully.</p>
<p>Shoulder to shoulder, the inhabitants of the east, south, center, north are experiencing the same military days and nights and work together against the enemy. This should be supported, rather than trying to decide who is more or less correct.</p>
<p>I agree that even after decommunization, the cultural space remained curved towards Russia. We need to work with this, but not in such a way as to turn it into a line of split that no one needs now.</p>
<h2>Not in our generation</h2>
<p><strong>– Is it possible to imagine that someday relations between Ukrainians and Russians will return to normal? Not even politically, but simply between people.</strong></p>
<p>– Our generation will not forgive the Russians – today someone's children, husbands, parents are dying.</p>
<p>In principle, of course, this is possible. There are such examples in history. In 1945, it also seemed that resuming relations with Germany and German culture was unrealistic. Moreover, in the 50s, pro-Nazi ideas remained among the Germans. But a generation passed, and in the 70s, criticism of the past and its rethinking appeared.</p>
<p> If the Russians rethink, understand their responsibility and repent, then after some period relations (with Ukrainians) will come to normalization on a human level. level. </p>
<p>So it is here: if the Russians rethink, understand their responsibility and repent, then after a certain period of time relations will come to normalization at the human level. But this period will be long, probably also a generation long. After all, today we see the total degradation of Russian society. And it is unrealistic to expect that at some point it will suddenly become clear.</p>
<p>Returning to the question of the realism of opinion polls in Russia, I note that sociology, like other social sciences, pursues the goal of forming critical thinking. In Russia, for the last 20-30 years, these sciences have been subordinated to the state. They did not develop critical thinking, but were broadcasters of the Kremlin propaganda. Just like teachers, so we see such children at the exit.</p>
<p><strong>– In the meantime, they are talking about the likelihood of riots in Russia against the current regime. What could be the catalyst?</strong></p>
<p>– I think worsening social conditions could be the catalyst, but this is unlikely. Even in the current situation in Russia, the population will not be brought to starvation. There will be no critical collapse.</p>
<p>The problem with sanctions against Russia is that they do not abruptly cut off the standard of living. For example, today you earn 1000 dollars, and tomorrow clap – and already 50 dollars. And if today is 1000, tomorrow – 908, then this is not felt.</p>
<p>In addition, there are no trusted opposition leaders in Russia. There is no access to objective channels of information. Perhaps, but this is worse for us, protests will arise against the backdrop of failures in Ukraine. If there is a figure who gets power and decides to withdraw troops and return the Crimea. Here, against the backdrop of imperial frenzy, the Russians may have protest activity.</p>
<h2>There will be a demographic blow, but not a critical one</h2>
<p><strong>– War raises the patriotic mood, but in fact it is destructive. Young men are killed in the war, young women go abroad, take away their children. Is there a danger that we will lose the color of the nation?</strong></p>
<p>– This is a very topical issue. They published information under what conditions Ukrainians would like their children and grandchildren to live in Ukraine. So, in the context of the continued military threat, about half of the respondents would like to live in Ukraine. But you can look at it like a glass half empty or half full.</p>
<p>Ukraine will receive a strong demographic blow. But not critical, not fatal. </p>
<p>Personally, I tend to be optimistic. Despite the dissatisfaction with the economic situation, until 2014, until 2022 and now, with the tragedy of the war, there is a large percentage of people who want to tie themselves to Ukraine.</p>
<p><p>Yes, Ukraine will receive a strong demographic blow. Of those who have gone abroad, up to 20% will decide to stay there. In fact, these are people who wanted to migrate before, just the war became a pushing factor.</p>
<p>The blow will be strong, but not critical, not fatal. A number of countries went through periods of mass emigration of the able-bodied population and recovered. In some cases, it even brings positive consequences.</p>
<p><strong>– What do you mean?</strong></p>
<p>– Less problems with jobs, less competition in the labor market, which means higher salaries. It was previously prophesied that Ukrainian IT specialists would go abroad en masse. Not really. Sociological studies show that it is possible to assess the well-being of a person in the direct sense – how much he earns. And you can in the relative – how you feel compared to other members of society. And just the relative state is more important for many. You can earn more in Europe, but you will be a medium-skilled specialist, and run your own business in Ukraine.</p>
<p>Several million people left Ukraine, but most remained. And we see how many people are ready to fight for Ukraine, to help the army. There is no need to go to extremes and say that a deserted territory awaits us.</p>
<h2>It all depends on how the elites behave</h2>
<p><strong>– To the question of territory. Will it turn out that the western regions, Kyiv, will be overpopulated as a result of internal displacements?</strong></p>
<p>– This is a matter of public policy. I don't think overpopulation will happen. But regional disproportions can arise when areas that have been occupied or destroyed have lost their able-bodied population. Their economic recovery and further development will be problematic.</p>
<p>We have undergone decentralization with the formation of communities. One of the criteria for this reform was the demographic situation, because the community is people, and it must renew itself. If residents of predominantly retirement age remain, there will be nowhere to take money.</p>
<p>Therefore, some regions will need support, but it seems to me that our Western partners also understand this and will give the right advice.</p>
<p><strong >– Did the war strengthen people's trust in the authorities? If so, what can change after the war?</strong></p>
<p>– At present, and this is good for Ukraine, trust in the central authorities has increased dramatically. Trust in the President, in the Cabinet. Today, more than ever, the majority of Ukrainians trust the Verkhovna Rada. But this is largely due to wartime. Changes can happen after the war.</p>
<p>At present, and this is good for Ukraine, confidence in the central authorities has increased dramatically. But after the war, things can change. </p>
<p>Against the background of the deteriorating socio-economic situation, voices may be raised that the government is working inefficiently, probably they are stealing money. Much depends on how the Ukrainian elites behave. If they demonstrate unity in rebuilding the country, then trust can be maintained. If the cacophony of criticism of the government that Ukrainians heard from various opposition political groups returns, trust will fall.</p>
<p>Consolidation of Ukrainians regarding the government and priorities will continue if mutual devouring does not begin between political groups. And if some of the opposition want to get their electoral points, or vice versa, the authorities will decide that the time has come to slam the opposition once and for all, and this will provoke critical sentiments among the population. Including regarding corruption.</p>
<h2>We need to speculate less</h2>
<p><strong>Corruption is our everything. They are already predicting that if the West gives money to restore the destruction, they will be plundered.</strong></p>
<p>– In this regard, the Ukrainians are a little outplaying themselves. The issue of corruption is not as terrible as they say about it, including during opinion polls. And now the Europeans are using our narratives against us. Like, how can we take such a country into the European Union if it is so corrupt?!</p>
<p>Objectively, there are countries in the European Union where the situation is at least no better than ours. But the population talks less about it, and politicians speculate less on it.</p>
<p>Much depends on the consciousness of the citizens themselves. We have a lot of experience in volunteering to help the army, and we need to further transform it at the level of our communities. Because with decentralization, the responsibility of the inhabitants of the communities increases. They should not sit and wait for something. You need to be active, take the initiative in your own hands. This will be the foundation for the restoration and further development of Ukraine.</p>
<p><strong>– Have you studied the current electoral moods? Will they mean something for future elections or not?</strong></p>
<p>– We do not have open public data, and they are out of time. If the elections were held now, Zelensky would be the undisputed favorite with a victory in the first round. Because he looks good in his place, because he communicates with the people, because he stayed in Kyiv. This tightens his part as well.</p>
<p>But still in Ukraine there is a big demand for conditionally new faces. Plus, now, just like in 2014, the military, members of the volunteer movement, play an important role. 97% of people trust the army. The big question is what will be the configuration of the elections and under what slogans they will be held.</p>
<p>The parties that exist will be strongly reformatted according to the situation. The now banned parties, as I have already said, can come out under the slogans of “the revival of Ukraine” and also occupy their segment.</p>
<p>It should also be taken into account that after the victory there will be many critical voices directed at the government. The question is already being raised why Chongar was demined, why Kherson was surrendered. They are not put too sharply, but after the war they can be updated.</p>
<p>At present, there is high support for the authorities, and this is good. The main thing is that the authorities do not abuse this to persecute opponents, but use it to mobilize society.</p>
<p>If there were any disagreements in 2014, one could say that the Donbass partially gravitates towards Russia, but now the entire Ukrainian society supports European integration, and this strengthens the position of our authorities in negotiations on membership in the European Union. </p>
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