Not surprisingly, distrust and pessimism continue to be hallmarks of public opinion in Chechnya. In early July, the Institute of Social Marketing conducted an opinion survey in 74 Chechen cities, towns and villages, including Grozny, Gudermes, Shali and Urus-Martan. The results of such polls should be treated with caution, since today’s rank-and-file Chechens know all too well that they are well-advised not to risk letting strangers know that they may have anti-Kadyrov or pro-Maskhadov opinions. Nevertheless, some of the findings, as reported in Novye izvestia on July 27, are worth noting.
Half of those polled said that they favor the creation of a public body to monitor the distribution of federal subsidies within Chechnya, but only 23 percent said that they would trust this entity. Similarly, half of the respondents said that the overall situation in the republic has not changed lately. Nevertheless, as Novye izvestia put it, “the dominant mood in recent days are feelings of alarm and uncertainty—57 percent of those polled are experiencing those feelings.” Such uncertainty about the future was especially marked among males, among people with higher education, and among residents of Grozny. Women, as well as the elderly of both sexes, were more likely to be optimists. Compared with the public mood of a year ago, the number of optimists has fallen.
A more delicate question—with probably a less reliable finding—was that of people’s voting plans in the upcoming special election. Some 70 percent of those polled said that they intend to vote on August 29—which, of course, was the prudent answer, regardless of one’s real intentions.
Also delicate is the issue of Chechnya’s independence. Not surprisingly, with the republic swarming with tens of thousands of federal soldiers fighting to stamp out the independence movement, a super-majority (80 percent) of the respondents said that they want Chechnya to be part of the Russian Federation. Only 16 percent said that they favor secession.