Photo: Russian soldiers head towards a train station in Volgograd Oblast
By José Carlos Palma *
Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, and the leadership of President Vladimir Putin, have faced relatively limited opposition from the Russian populace. Despite international concerns and the conflict’s longevity, a recent study by Russian sociologist Lev Gudkov, head of the independent Leveda Center, provides insights into the factors contributing to this lack of widespread anti-war sentiment.
Stifled Dissent: Strict Censorship and State Propaganda
One of the key reasons for the lack of opposition to the Ukraine war in Russia is the presence of strict censorship and pervasive state propaganda. Gudkov notes that the majority of Russians are deprived of independent news sources due to censorship, with state-sponsored propaganda shaping their views. As a result, few individuals turn to online platforms for information. Although a small percentage has managed to circumvent censorship and access news online, the increase in this group remains limited.
The Silence on Casualties: Information Control and Public Perception
An additional factor contributing to the persistent support for the war is the government’s prohibition on publishing any information regarding Russian military losses. Gudkov highlights that even the release of death toll figures is strictly forbidden, preventing any potential shift in public opinion. Although independent sources, like the BBC’s Russian-language service, have attempted to document casualties, they have faced backlash from Russian authorities. Only twice has the Russian government provided casualty figures, both times receiving skepticism regarding their accuracy. Gudkov suggests that this information blackout plays a role in maintaining support for the war.
Economic Dynamics: Higher Wages, Inflation, and Public Concerns
Surprisingly, the economic impact of the war has not necessarily led to anti-war sentiment. While initial forecasts predicted detrimental consequences for Russia’s economy, oil price increases during the conflict generated more revenue for the state and certain segments of the population. Sectors essential for war efforts have seen doubled wages, and compensation for wounded soldiers and the families of the deceased has significantly increased. These payments have reached unprecedented levels, especially in rural areas of Russia.
Nonetheless, Russia is grappling with high inflation, largely due to the mounting costs of the war. Recent surveys show that rising prices, particularly for food and medicine, are major concerns for Russians. In contrast, most citizens fail to see a direct link between military spending and its impact on their daily lives. A mere 10-12% of those surveyed were aware of this connection, primarily civil servants and members of the middle class.
Despite the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the international pressure it generates, the limited opposition within Russia can be attributed to a combination of factors. Strict censorship and state propaganda have stifled dissent by depriving citizens of independent news sources. The prohibition on reporting casualties and an information blackout further contribute to maintaining support for the war. Surprisingly, economic factors, including higher wages in certain sectors and increased compensation for soldiers and their families, have not led to anti-war sentiments. High inflation and concerns about rising prices for essentials seem to overshadow the perceived impact of military spending on daily life. While growing concerns about the political situation exist among some, loyalty to the regime remains a prevailing sentiment in Russia. Understanding these dynamics is essential for comprehending the complexity of public opinion in the context of the Ukraine war.
* Expert in international relations, such as foreign policy, international trade, domestic security, international security, developing nations, domestic security, intelligence, IT Consultant, world history, political consultant, and military analysis.