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Most Russians increasingly optimistic about what war in Ukraine says about Russia’s future, Levinson says

Putin approval rating by Russians from 8-1999 through 7-2022 per Levada Center
Credit: Chart by Euromaidan Press using Levada-Center data

A new Levada Center survey shows that the percentage of Russians who think the country is on the right track has risen since the start of Putin’s war in Ukraine (from 50% to 68%), while the share who think otherwise has fallen from (39% to 22%), Aleksey Levinson, the center’s head of sociocultural research says.

Related: For Russians, their war in Ukraine is still ‘a TV war’ not directly involving them, Fedorov says

This pattern should not have come as a surprise, he says, and does not reflect the success of regime propaganda. Instead, it is because most Russians see the war as establishing or at least confirming the place of Russia in the world that they would like to see, one in which the rest of the world fears Russia and thus respects it.

“According to the polls,” Levinson says, “respondents feel pride that on February 24, Russia challenged its main adversary” – the US, NATO and the West – and “are proud because in their eyes this means that Russia is once again behaving like a great power,” a country “that can flout international law with impunity” just as the US has.

The current conflict, Russians feel, “is not about defeating America and then conquering or destroying it. Rather, they believe it has a different goal, one in which America needs to feel and acknowledge that Russia is its equal, not only in military strength but most important equal in status as a major world power.”

The sociologist says that in their mind, the US response confirms their hopes and expectations. The Americans have “picked up the gauntlet but are behaving with restraint because they fear Russia and Putin and, in this way, views Russians as equals.” Russian military success is less significant here than the American response.

Related: All surveys since start of Ukrainian war show Putin’s standing among Russians up, ‘Nezavisimaya Gazeta’ reports

How long such attitudes will last is unclear, especially if Russia faces significant defeats; “but for now, Russians are collectively experiencing a feeling of satisfaction that the world has been put into the order they have long wanted. Given euphoria about that, no one is thinking about how the country or his family will survive … People are happy and positive.”

But such attitudes may last far longer than many think. “Let us not forget that a similar perception has ensured an approval rating of at least 60 percent for Putin’s actions as president for more than two decades” because over two decades, he has discovered how to effectively engage with the mass consciousness of Russians” far more successfully than anyone else.

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