What do Russians think about the war?

For weeks now, even independent surveys in Russia have put the approval rate for Putin's policies at a more or less constant level of around 82 percent. However, in view of all the propaganda, censorship and penalties for protest, Europe's commentators are dubious about how reliable these results are - especially now that the war against Ukraine has been going on for more than 100 days.

Open/close all quotes
The New Times (RU) /

Apathy instead of optimism

The New Times writes:

One hundred days is a lot for something that goes by the name of an 'operation'. This excessive period is dampening the general public's interest. You would think that this is exactly what the Kremlin is hoping for. Nevertheless, the widespread apathy is demobilising - and mobilisation of the masses is precisely what Putin needs. The fact that the conflict is becoming routine means that even the supporters of the 'operation' can't shake off the feeling of being trapped in a never-ending nightmare that has destroyed the former way of life and deprived the Russians of their future. Yes, the Russians. Because in the 'post-operation' period, the Ukrainians will have a future and be eager to rebuild their country. ... The ostracised Russians have no such future.”

wPolityce.pl (PL) /

Propaganda images of Ukraine in ruins

The Kremlin is stumbling over its own illusions, wPolityce explains:

“The course the war has taken comes as a real shock for the Russian leadership. As it turns out, there are fewer 'Little Russians' than expected, and no one is willing to declare any more self-proclaimed 'people's republics'. Instead there are far more so-called 'Nazis' - and not only in the west, but also in the east and south of Ukraine. ... The vast majority of 'Khokhol' [a pejorative term for Ukrainians] are firmly in favour of independence from 'Big Brother'. ... So the entire image of Ukraine which had been cultivated for years within the walls of the Kremlin is suddenly in ruins.”

Népszava (HU) /

This is not just Putin

The Russian population bears much responsibility for the fact that things have come this far, Népszava points out:

“Russia is an autocracy, but it has become an autocracy through free elections. ... 'The people' have repeatedly nodded through the measures that have undermined the rule of law. And to this day, for them the real enemy is neither Putin nor the Kremlin but rather the opposition - which is allegedly financed by George Soros and 'the hostile West' - as well as 'foreign agents'. Nowadays, to firmly entrench a dictatorship you also need the people - and not only in Russia.”

The New Times (RU) /

Between young and old yes-sayers

Yevgenia Albats, chief editor of The New Times, sounded out the mood on the Ukraine war in the Russian provinces and observed major generational differences:

“People below the retirement age or now retired were socialised under Soviet rule, when any resistance was extremely precarious and it was impossible to influence state decisions and actions. ... The generation of 30 to 40-year-olds grew up in completely different circumstances: individualists were successful, there were elections, protest demonstrations and people felt that they had rights. All this has produced a completely different attitude towards the state. ... The 20-year-olds, who know no other boss than Putin and neither fear the return of Soviet conditions nor know the experience of freedom, have nothing but complexes that they compensate for with the idea of belonging to an elite nation.”

wPolityce.pl (PL) /

Less enthusiastic than one might think

Writing in wPolityce historian and Russia analyst Marek Budzisz points to cracks in Russian support for the war:

“Bearing in mind unofficial surveys and events in Russia since the war began, the picture is not as clear-cut as the official polls suggest. I'm thinking in particular of the fact that in six Russian cities Molotov cocktails have been thrown at the buildings of military replacement offices in the last two months. That doesn't exactly suggest a euphoric, pro-war mood.”