Why Russians Back Putin on Ukraine

Roundup: Historians' Take
tags: Russia, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin

Boris Kolonitskii is first vice-rector and professor of history at the European University at St. Petersburg. He is the coauthor of Interpreting the Russian Revolution: The Language and Symbols of 1917, among other books.

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — President Vladimir Putin is often and accurately depicted as the only decision maker when it comes to Russia’s policy on Ukraine. However, it is important not to underestimate the strength of his domestic mandate. Recent polls show he enjoys the support of some 68 percent of Russian citizens, and I can personally attest to the fact that many intelligent critics of Putin support his Ukrainian policy — a point often overlooked by Western media. Why do many educated Russians think this way?...

...The very term “revolution” has come to carry negative connotations for Russians. The Russian religious philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev and the writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, both of whom held a negative vision of any revolution, are often quoted in official speeches. This politics of memory resonates with today’s Russians — “stability” has become a core political value.

Nobody in Russia supports Yanukovych. But the immediate collapse of his deal with the opposition and European foreign ministers under the pressure of the revolutionary street provoked strong reservations even among Russians who are not supporters of Putin. Public opinion polls in Russia found that feelings of indignation among Russians viewing the images of burning barricades in Kiev grew from 13 percent in mid-December to 36 percent in mid-February. That same month, sociologists recorded a new emotion expressed by some 15 percent of respondents: fear. These emotions are undoubtedly a factor behind Putin’s actions....

Read entire article at New York Times

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