Large in the sense that, depending on where one draws the line, a majority of Russians strongly (73%) – or even very strongly (58%) – subscribe to a set of national-conservative attitudes, values and policy preferences; relatively coherent in the sense that all of these attitudes, values and policy preferences overlap and strongly correlate positively with one another; and politically salient in the sense that an index aggregating these factors has a very large independent predictive effect for voting behavior, with high approval of Putin.Who supports what state ideology?
The 79% of respondents who said that Russia needs a state ideology were able to select (or write in) up to two things that should form the basis (osnovnoi element
) of the state ideology. The distribution of responses is as follows:
Note that the percentages add up to over 100%, since all categories but the first two (no ideology; don’t know what ideology) can overlap with others. We then summed up the different answers into four broad ideological categories: (1) Western; (2) communist; (3) Russian-universal (“combination of universal human [obshechelovecheskii
] and traditional Russian [traditsionnye rossiiskie
] values”); and (4) a “national-conservative” group consisting of statism (gosudarstvennost’
), Eurasianism (“orientation toward both Europe and Asia;” “Orthodox Christianity and Islam”), “traditional Russian (rossiiskii
values,” Orthodoxy, and tsarism/monarchism.
The proportion of those rejecting the principle of a state ideology (14.2%) is close to the share of the population that is regularly identified by the Levada Center as the “anti-Putin” segment of Russian public opinion, at least as it existed before the war. Those wishing for a Western state ideology make up only a small number (5.4%), likely in part because most of those favoring a Western model of development are against the notion of a state ideology and therefore represented in the 14.2% of “rejectionists” mentioned above. Demographically, support for a Western state ideology is linked to higher education and seems to repel those in difficult material conditions – probably because they interpret a Western orientation as neoliberal shrinking of public services or because poorer Russians are more likely to depend on television as a major source of news, and therefore more likely to repeat anti-Western messaging.
The number of people calling for communism (8.5%) as a state ideology is lower than the electoral results of the Communist Party, confirming that the Party’s support is a way to criticize the incumbent United Russia and not a vote of conviction for Marxism-Leninism. And indeed, at the regional elections of September 2021, United Russia lost
parts of its mandates in 30 regions to the Communist Party. Demographically, support for a communist state ideology is negatively correlated with Russian ethnicity, which seems to confirm the existing literature on ethnic Russians seeing the Soviet Union as having favored minorities at the expense of ethnic Russians – a classic claim made by Russian nationalist figures since the 1960s.
A quarter of respondents did select (albeit mostly alongside national-conservatism) the idea of a “combination of universal human and traditional Russian values.” This is perhaps a universalistic inheritance from Soviet communism and/or the social democracy of the perestroika period; for years, it was also central to Putin’s own discourse before the shift toward the narrative of “Russia against the West.”
Still, those who selected one form of national-conservatism or another make up the majority. Demographically, that choice correlates with higher age, having children, living in the North Caucasus, and – negatively – with living in a city whose population is greater than one million.What does this national-conservatism mean in practice?