Conservative Moscow and the revolt of the provinces: debunking the myths about Russian society.


The typical Moscovite?

This is a translation of an original article from the Russian site Tolkovatel- which is based on an overlooked study which debunks all the myths about Russia as a society and the political processes that very few commentators seem to know well. Basically, the action won’t be in Moscow where conservative bigots and an affluent self-satisfied pro-Putin ethos has settled to wipe out the protest movement of a year ago (a protest movement that was, in any case, rather individualistic in nature and symbolised in part by such figures as the socialite Ksenia Sobchak). The Russian provinces tell a very different story. There, the protest at first less significant has been gathering apace. The provinces also demonstrate a less bigoted and xenophobic ethos than the mass of Moscovites. Far less concerned with migration or ‘moral issues’ economic and social issues are at the fore of their thoughts. Yesterday’s local and regional elections have been misread completely by the Russian and foreign press. In this light the huge figures of non participation in elections- what Boris Kagarlitsky has called a ‘mass political strike’ (70% in Moscow but closer to 85% in the provinces) meant that the system has been given a huge vote of no-confidence but as yet no real alternative opposition force is present that speaks to the mass of the population.

Moscow: a city of solitary, affluent, conservative pro-Putin state employees.

A detailed report by the Kudrin Fund gives us a broad social and political picture of Russia in the summer of 2013. Moscow has become a Putin and ‘United Russia’ stronghold- the city consists of 50% government employees. For Russia as a whole the main problem is seen as poverty and pauperization while for Moscow declining morality is viewed as the main problem. The opposition once again does not wish to study this sociological research.

Here are some of the most basic theses of the report with some comments:

In Moscow the share of respondents with a high state of anxiety is equal to 84% (in Russia as a whole it is 65%). Moreover the share of people with a high level of aggression is only 10%.
Neurosis, inappropriate behaviour of inhabitants of the capital is especially visible on the internet- the net is a personal psychotherapist for Moscovites.
The influx of migrants is seen as a significant problem by 49% of Moscovites, 53% of Saint Petersburgers but only by 16% of the rest of the Russians.

For Moscow migrants are really seen as a problem but this problem seems to have no relevance for people in the rest of Russia. Today’s election campaign in which all teams have built their political programmes on the issue of the struggle against migration remains a local phenomenon.

The electoral ratings of Vladimir Putin in Moscow correspond to the average ratings throughout the country- 49%. The electoral rating of “United Russia” in Moscow is even higher than the average Russian ratings (correspondingly 46% and 44%).

Moscow is no longer the bulwark of the opposition but the centre of conformism and accommodation (the basis for this is the presence of the elevated, in comparison with the rest of Russia, ‘creative class’ and ‘intellectuals’ who previously set themselves up in opposition to those who lived beyond the Moscow circular roads. The statistics below only confirm this fact.

47% of Moscovites believe that the situation in the country will get worse if Vladimir Putin were to resign in the near
36% of Moscovites and only 20% of the inhabitants of Russia as a whole believe that Vladimir Putin should stay on for a fourth term.
One of the explanations for this is that the share of people employed in private enterprises is only 30% whereas public employees account for 50%. In the rest of Russia public employees account for only 40% of overall workers.

But even private enterprises in Moscow are to a significant degree llinked with the state sector (as suppliers of goods and services) and many of them should be seen as semi-state structures. Even a significant share of the “creative class” are semi-public employees (working for the State mass media, carrying out orders from public organisations and the so-called “Kapkov band” after the Moscow culture tsar.

The favoured regime for the Moscovite which they would chose to live under is that of a personal form of governance even under an oligarchy- this choice is more common for Moscovites than for Russian inhabitants as a whole.
Moscovites are more likely than inhabitants in Russia as a whole to choose any regime rather than a free democracy- (46% against 32%).

It is clear that even the protesting ‘creative class’ (not to mention other Moscovites) are the product of Putinism, or rather of Right-wing paternalism- the reumping of rents to this small circle from the rest of Russia. It is no wonder that in a crisis situation (the winter protests of 2011/12) this class preferred to have its fat bird in its hand.

In Moscow a free democracy is chosen by a far smaller share of those questioned than in Russia as a whole (36% against 44%)
The maximum demand for a free democracy is to be found in Saint Petersburg (69%)
The position for “free elections” in both Moscow and Russia as a whole is significantly less popular (13% and 10% respectively).
The share of supporters of democracy in Uzbekistan is one and a half times higher than it is in Russia. The supporters of democracy in Tadzhikistan is two times higher than it is in Russia.

Not only Moscow but Russia as a whole doesn’t recognise the significance of democracy. And even time hasn’t healled Russians- they are as before adherents of authoritarianism (even if a just authoritarianism – a kind of Left paternalism).
64% of Russians are unhappy with their salary, as compared with only 37% of Moscovites.

In first place for the most important issues in Russia the problem of poverty and the pauperisation of the population has come out on top. In comparison with an analogous period of last year the decrease of incomes in Kostroma Region is of the order of 5.6% and in the Altai Republic it has reached 8.6%.

The dissident opposition has intentionally refused to take into account the demands of the rest of Russia. On the agenda of the “creative class” and the “young politicians” there are no words about social justice, or overcoming poverty. Their position ensures that they will remain stuck in a Liberal ghetto with about 5-10% of supporters (in Russia as a whole).

The main issue which interests Moscovites are the crisis of morality, culture and behaviour (45% in Moscow and 28% on average in Russia as a whole).

Interestingly, the most bigoted laws of Putin’s third presidency (the ‘Dima Yakovlev’ law prohibiting adoptions by US families, the struggle against homosexuality and blasphemy, the laws against defaming public officials, the laws prohibiting swear language in the mass media etc) were directed to satisfy the demands of the heart of Russia but those of the Moscovites- as the most conservative sector of Russians.

There is a distinct erosion of the traditional institution of the family. The share of unmarried people consists of 50% in Moscow and an average of 26% throughout Russia.

Moscow is a city of extreme individualism. Here there are very few horizontal relationships, or sense of responsibililty to one’s neighbours- this simplified the regime’s struggle with the opposition demonstrators who rarely believed in anyone but themselves. The tactics of power were simple: divide the opposition into small groups, control them and get them to fight amongst each other. This resulted in a self-perpetuating frustration for these individualistic Moscovites.

In answer to the question how is the patriotism of Putin expressed Moscovites would more often answer than Russians as a whole that this is shown through the development of democracy (33% and 11%).
The readiness to protest against dishonest elections: as a whole in Russia 43% (against 15% in Moscow and 10% in Saint Petersburg)

The leadership in protests belongs not to Moscow but to other regional centres where the problems of poverty have come to the fore.
Already in 2011 the most active protests were carried out not in Moscow but in Novgorod- 367 protestors per 100,000. Next came Pskov which also showed a very high result – 296 people per hundred thousand ie 20% higher than in Moscow. In terms of regions- the most protests were demonstrated in Western Siberia. Tomsk, Omsk, Barnaul, Novosibisrk, Gorno Altaisk showed results of 300 people or slightly lower.

But as was said above the protestors in Moscow didn’t ‘give a flying fuck’ about regional questions since throughout the country the protests were developing in a more regular manner. A year later it has become clear that in Moscow even this opposition has been lost.

The leader of the ‘non-systemic’ opposition Navalny intends to use as his economic consultant the neoliberal Guriev. A clearly losing strategy. The great majority of Russians – 90% dream of a strong and social state in the economic sphere welcoming private property only in the spheres of agriculture and mass media.

The statistics of the Sociological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences show that the majority of people see their present lives as being far worse than in the last years of stagnation (mid 1980s). Even in the sphere of alimentation. As a whole from the ‘reforms’ 10% of Russians have benefited, 26% of Russians have lost out and the life of the remaining majority hasn’t really changed.

About afoniya

I am a translator, language teacher, independent film scholar who is interested in many aspects of culture. I have my own blog on Russian and Soviet cinema at and I have also written for journals such as Film Philosophy and Bright Lights as well as Ribbed magazine. Outside of film my interest runs to language, politics, literature and my world is centred around the Meditteranean, Russia, Southern Ukraine as well as the UK.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s