Levada Center Admits Error While Kremlin Continues to Hide Its Own

December 18, 2016
Lev Gudkov, head of Levada Center. Photo by James Hill/New York Times

‘Buryats are Accused of Separatism but the Main Separatists Now are Ethnic Russians’

Staunton, VA, December 16, 2016 – Having overlearned the results of the demise of the USSR in 1991, many in Moscow and the West constantly look for signs of separatism among non-Russian nations within the borders of the Russian Federation. They exist, but as the AfterEmpire portal notes, “the main separatists” are ethnic Russians.

They draw that conclusion on the basis of their own research and on the recognition of some in Moscow of that reality. In particular, they cite the argument of Aleksey Verkhoyantsev that “the absence of a supra-national idea is making the situation in the country extremely vulnerable” given that Siberians and others “willingly believe” Moscow is stealing what belongs to them

This problem, Verkhoyantsev says, “exists even in those regions where ethnic Russians form the majority” and that means that “the problem of separatism in Russia in the immediate future will bear not so much an ethnic as a social character,” with regions being played against the capital just as at the end of Soviet times. 

AfterEmpire published another article this past week that provides additional support for this conclusion. Yaroslav Zolotaryev traces the history of the “Siberian language” project, something those Moscow views as ethnic Russians but who see themselves as Siberians been promoting since 2005. 

Inspired by Ukraine’s “orange revolution,” he and others sharing his views sought to promote a distinctly Siberian language, alphabet and culture in opposition to the Moscow-centric ones the powers that be have sought to impose country-wide. Not surprisingly, the Russian authorities fought back, shutting down websites and bringing criminal charges against some Siberian activists. 

These repressive actions by the Russian authorities have slowed the rise of this movement, Zolotaryev acknowledges; but they have not suppressed interest in the idea of a distinctive Siberian identity and in promoting the cultural and linguistic bases for its separate existence.

Analogous phenomena of varying degrees of intensity exist in Novgorod, the Russian northwest, and even in regions around Moscow itself as the Russian government’s reaction shows. And both they and the Kremlin’s moves against them deserve more attention than they typically receive. AfterEmpire is thus performing a real service by its reporting.

Growing Gap between What Elite Claims and What People See Points to Explosion Ahead, Kalmyk Commentator Says

Staunton, VA, December 18, 2016 –  The Russian people and the Russian powers that be have just passed through completely different 2016s, with the one increasingly impoverished and suffering and the other ever more wealthy and celebratory, cannot continue indefinitely without producing an explosion, Kalmyk commentator Badma Byurchiyev comments.

“I don’t know whom state leaders are thinking about when they assure us that ‘we are developing’” and make other remarks of that kind, he says. But they should know what has happened before “when the governing class … ceases to be political because it ceases to fulfill its functions”. 

As Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in his The Ancien Regime and Revolution, feudalism collapsed when the gap between the rulers became so wide and so obvious that those below were increasingly isolated and offended by what their rulers said that was clearly not true. “What happened then is well known,” Byurichev says. 

Many may be tempted to recall that another ’17 is rapidly approaching. “But,” he says, he doesn’t believe in the magical properties of numbers and dates.” On the other hand, “I know that in real space even parallel lines intersect and this means that sooner or later the world of fakes and simulacra … must return to the hard earth.” “And the cheaper will be our holiday table,” the Kavkazskaya politika commentator says, “the closer will be this clash.”

Byurichev draws this conclusion on the basis of a comparison between the recent upbeat speeches by Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev and the facts on the ground in his home republic, all of which suggest that the reality of people’s lives there is very different and much worse than the version of reality provided by the two Russian leaders. 

Indeed, he says, the gap between the two is now so great that it can be seen by everyone in Kalmykia. The wonder is that apparently it can’t be seen or at least admitted in Moscow.

Levada Center Admits Error While Kremlin Continues to Hide Its Own

Staunton, VA, December 18, 2016 –  A few days after releasing figures showing Vladimir Putin’s standing had declined by 29 percent, the Levada Center has admitted that it made a mistake and that support for the Kremlin leader has declined by only 14 percent, an acknowledgement that many Russian outlets are jumping on to discredit the independent pollster and show their loyalty.

But on the same day the center admitted this, the very different behavior of the Kremlin was thrown into high relief when a report surfaced about a Russian soldier’s death in Syria a year ago and that Moscow soon took down to try to continue to hide that tragedy.

In his statement December 17, Levada Center director Lev Gudkov said that the new figures he was releasing to correct those released earlier do not significantly change “the interpretation of the main trends” about attitudes toward Vladimir Putin as both the old and the new confirm “a growing polarization of assessments” about him. 

The corrected figures, he continued, only show that this process has not yet become as significant as the data released earlier had suggested. But “because these data address extremely ‘sensitive aspects’ of the theme of relation to the powers-that-be and the ‘national leader,’ we consider it necessary not simply to correct the distortions but to explain them.” 

The mistake happened, Gudkov continued, because his polling agency like others changes the order in which the choices for answering a question are listed lest the order itself have an impact on the answers. (Those polled often choose the first one; but in this case, that did not happen.)

Such things happen when one is dealing with “an enormous mass of statistical data,” but they are not as some critics have suggested an effort by the Levada Center to promote one view or another. Gudkov assumed “all responsibility for the error” and thanked those who had pointed it out. 

But “to the extent the December 13 release had called forth a certain resonance and commentaries in solid publications,” he concluded, “we apologize for the blunder and will try in the future to more strictly control our press releases. 

In sharp contrast to this professional approach, the Kremlin and its allied media and polling agencies routinely distort the truth and do not ever acknowledge they have done so – unless they are forced by events, by the difficulties of maintaining lies given the multitude of outlets, or driven by a change in Kremlin policy on this or that particular issue. 

An example of this is the way in which the Kremlin had denied the presence of its soldiers and sought to hide combat losses even when it has admitted they are there. Thus, for more than a year, officials hid the death in combat in Syria of a soldier from Kabardino-Balkaria only to have his demise confirmed when other officials awarded him a medal for his service. 

But then, in the traditions of Kremlin media policy under Putin, the authorities took down the report of his award from the Internet, although in the age of Screenshot and caching, that seldom works; and a copy of the report about Eduard Sokurov’s award can be found .