Tallinn, March 30 – Young Russians who have been the hardest hit by the economic crisis either because their parents have less money to give them or because they themselves are not able to find work in the area of their specializations are the most likely to say that they will take part in political actions.
On the one hand, their willingness to do so reflects a positive development in that it appears to suggest that they believe that such actions will in fact benefit them. But on the other, as the crisis deepens and many leave school in the coming months, this increasing willingness to do so could help power a larger wave of anti-government protests.
In an article in today’s “Izvestiya” entitled “The Generation of the ‘00s Are Choosing Politics,” Aleksandra Beluza reports on surveys conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation on the experiences of young people at this time of economic crisis and their declarations about what they intend to do as a result (www.izvestia.ru/obshestvo/article3126657/).
Of those young Russians still living at home, the survey found, many say their parents have less money to help them, and of those who are entering the workforce, “more than half have not been able to find work,” and another two percent have lost the positions that they had earlier acquired.
Nearly half – 49 percent – told the pollsters that the economic crisis was having an impact on their lives, although 43 percent expressed the conviction that it would not affect them in any profound way. Not surprisingly, those who lack money even for food “more often than the others” are inclined to blame “a hidden hand” for their problems.
Larisa Pautova, the director of the “New Generation” program at the Public Opinion Foundation said that “it is indicative that young people aged 16 to 17 are more optimistic because they live with their parents. But young men and women aged 25 to 26 among whom almost three quarters are now working feel the crisis on themselves” more intensely.
And even those in between, many of whom are students, say that they have experienced problems because of increases in fees and living expenses as against falling incomes and falling resources available from their parents. Only relatively well-off people in Moscow and major cities say that the crisis has not affected them in a major way.
In addition to age differences, there are important regional ones as well, Pautova said. “Young residents of Siberia,” for example,” complain about difficulties in finding work in the areas for which they were trained far more often than members of their cohort in the Urals and the Far East,” a possible leading indicator of demonstrations in the coming weeks and months.
And Pautova told “Izvestiya” that her finds suggest that “the crisis has hit the least well off young between the ages of 21 and 23 who have graduated from technical schools and higher educational institutions. Namely, this group is distinguished by a comparatively great interest in politics and a relatively higher propensity to engage in protest activities.”
She also reported that her firm’s surveys had found that young people most affected by the crisis were far more likely to be critical of the government and that their willingness to engage in political action was growing as well. An indication of that, she said, is that a year ago only 12 percent of young Russians follow politics; now 46 percent say they do.