Lev Gudkov: Navalny became a factor in the crystallization of public discontent

Top Navalny aide asked alleged British spy for millions in funding – FSB intelligence video claims

Director of the Levada Center – on the reasons for the growing popularity of the opposition politician and dissatisfaction with the authorities

According to a recent survey «Levada Center», the level of confidence in Alexei Navalny increased by 2 percentage points, to 5%. The study went up to the trial, where the opposition politician was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison.

At the same time, a survey about the attitude of the population towards Navalny against the background of his arrest after his return to the country, a video about «Putin’s palace» and mass actions in support of the politician revealed that about a third of Russians have positive feelings for him, and 19% of respondents approve of the activities of the head of the Anti-Corruption Fund.

According to media reports, the number of views of the film about «Putin’s possessions» on YouTube has exceeded one hundred million.

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The most popular Navalny, as before, among young people, especially in the age category from 18 to 24 years old, where 36% positively assess his activities. The worst thing about the oppositionist is the older generation and regular viewers of Russian federal TV channels..

Also, in the context of recent events, Navalny’s recognition has noticeably improved. Only 12% of respondents said that they had never heard of him; in September 2020, there were 18% of those (in 2013, 59% at all).

Russian service «Voices of America» asked to comment on the results of the director’s survey «Levada Center», Doctor of Philosophy Lev Gudkov.

Viktor Vladimirov: The ratings of approval of Navalny’s activities and his recognition have noticeably increased. What are the main reasons?

Lev Gudkov: A combination of reasons led to this: the poisoning of the politician, mass protests in his support and, of course, the film «Putin’s palace». Accordingly, Navalny became a factor in the crystallization of the accumulated discontent and irritation of citizens. Therefore, his support has grown. At the same time, there were no special changes in society. A negative attitude towards the regime has been formed and remains, in principle, at the same level. Change only happens among Putin’s supporters, who, after watching the film, begin to gradually move away from his support. Putin’s majority is eroding. And those who sympathized with Navalny or treated him with sympathy make up a completely stable environment..

VV: Your survey was conducted even before Navalny was sentenced and the next wave of repressions. These events are somehow refracted in the minds of Russians?

L.G .: I think it will show up, but not immediately. Arrest and conviction by themselves are unlikely to bring about dramatic changes in public opinion. At least in the very near future. Even Navalny’s poisoning did not cause mass indignation of citizens, did not stir them up. Unfortunately, we have formed a rather immoral society, accustomed to violence, which perceives arrests rather indifferently. Yes, this caused strong indignation among Navalny’s supporters and opposition-minded, caring people. But this stratum is quite stable in terms of numbers. But the dissatisfaction with the existing order, which was mainly provoked by the film, is much wider, and people went to rallies protesting against injustice, against arbitrariness, realizing that the current regime brings tougher repression, lack of freedom and a drop in income.

Lev Gudkov: Navalny became a factor in the crystallization of public discontent

V.V .: How massive were the last protest actions?

L.G .: Here, a sharp expansion of the geography of the protests is more important than the number of participants. According to various estimates, rallies in defense of Navalny took place in 90 – 110 cities. This is the merit of the Navalny team itself, which created strong points, headquarters throughout the country. – something that no other opposition force has done before. But the number of protesters has not been recorded. Up to 130 thousand people went to the actions in total, they expected more. In any case, these figures are incomparable with the number of views of the film. «Putin’s palace».

V.V .: And what is evidenced by the number of detainees?

L.G .: According to the latest data, there were over 11 thousand detainees in the country. This is a colossal figure. There was nothing like it before. This primarily affects the minds of young people who are in shock from what is happening. This is indeed «non-whipped generation», it did not know violence, and for it such atrocities and cruelty of the authorities are a novelty. This leads to a fairly rapid socialization of young people, which, again, is more typical for large cities and megalopolises. The province is still far from this, where protest moods are manifested rather weakly – mostly in the form of conversations.

V.V .: Is there any relationship between the rise in Navalny’s rating and the fall in Putin’s rating??

L.G .: If there is, then it is weak. Because the erosion of the core of Putin’s supporters has been going on for the third year now and regardless of Navalny’s speeches. This is driven by the entire context of what is happening: outrage at the pension reform, the decline in real incomes of the population and the lack of prospects. It’s just that Navalny’s actions, his videos and Navalny’s comments on them add even more clarity to the general diffuse discontent. All together gives rise to the growing distrust of people towards Putin, who has lost a significant part of his Teflon nature in the sense that they have now become much more responsible for the political and economic situation in the country.

Lev Gudkov: Navalny became a factor in the crystallization of public discontent

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