Russian Apathy

The record-low turnout in Sunday’s parliamentary election came after a publicity stunt pulled by Alexei Navalny just days before the election. Navalny posted a video [with English subtitles] on his blog showing a palatial estate regularly used by Russia’s Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, that is reportedly worth upwards of $500M.

But the self-proclaimed anti-corruption activists like Alexei Navalny and others are only confirming what people already know. Russians regularly come into contact with corruption in their daily lives. It is normal for them. They expect it. What they do not anticipate is that it will change.

The head of the polling agency Levada Centre, Lev Gudkov, had this to say:

More than 80% of participants of various surveys are aware of the corruption in the government, but they believe that it is impossible to change anything….

“Everybody knows that everyone steals and that this is part of our reality.” he said, adding that some people openly say that if they were in the position of local officials, they would behave the same way.

“Honesty arises not because of an awareness of the inevitability of punishment, but out of a sense of dignity. And if you have been humiliated all your life, there arises the direct opposite thing – to act out of spite and behave in a way that benefits me. This reciprocal selfishness blocks matters of morality and honesty. This is important from the point of view of the sociology of communication.”

“The current government is perceived as corrupt, dishonest, arrogant. These are characteristics which are written by people in the opinion polls. But they voted for the government because they don’t know any different.” he concluded.

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