Russians Pessimistic About Chechnya

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 29

The Russian public continues to be pessimistic about the war in Chechnya, according to the latest findings of the independent, widely respected Levada polling center. The center published a summary and analysis on its website ( on July 14.

In May, 61 percent of those polled considered that the war in Chechnya was continuing; by the end of June this figure had risen to 70 percent. The proportion of those who believed that peaceful life is being restored in Chechnya shrank during the same period from 31 percent to 21 percent. However, public opinion about what to do in Chechnya remained almost unchanged: The percentage of those supporting peace negotiations rose only slightly, from 60 percent to 62 percent.

Lest Moscow’s “hawks” take comfort from that latter finding, the Levada Center analysis noted the “absence of the kind of upsurge in bellicosity as a reaction to the latest terrorist attack which had been typical in the past.” In the polling center’s view, a crucial element is the attempt of the state-controlled media to “minimize the significance of events such as the murder of Akhmad Kadyrov and the raid into Ingushetia.”

The pollsters found the Russian public more inclined to blame the leadership of the federal security forces than external circumstances for the Ingushetia fiasco. Some 37 percent attributed the federal forces’ failure last month to “laxity and lack of discipline within the security structures,” and 36 percent to corruption and bribery. Only 15 percent considered that the reason for the defeat was that the federal troop deployments in the region were not large enough.

An even more striking sign of pessimism: Some 68 percent of respondents believed that the rebel guerrillas might now be able to storm Grozny as they successfully did in 1996.