Thursday, April 1, 2010

Window on Eurasia: ‘Obama is a Chechen Terrorist’ and Other ‘Curious Things’ Russians Have Told Moscow Pollsters

Paul Goble

Vienna, April 1 – The All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) has chosen to mark this April Fools’ Day not by inventing anything, despite the suspicions of some that it may have done so on occasion, but rather by offering a selection of some of the curious things Russians have told that survey firm over the past year.
In a press release yesterday entitled “NATO is a Curse Word, Obama is a Terrorist, the USSR is Without Sex and Other Curiosities of Sociological Surveys,” VTsIOM offered up what its pollsters say are some of the funniest, most unexpected, and “at times absurd” responses to their open-ended queries (
When asked whether they knew anything about Barak Obama, the release said, “certain respondents indicated that he is “the happy president of the US” and “someone who runs on at the mouth,” but others said that they believe that Obama is “the well-known leader of Chechen [terrorist] groups.”
With regard to the Western Alliance, some Russians told VTsIOM that NATO consists of “bandits” and that it was “a two-headed evil eagle.” Others said that it was in general “a bad word,” and still others said that they considered the Western alliance to be “a block of our friends.”
Asked about the Roma (“tsygane” or as some refer to them, “gypsies”), Russians said that they knew that members of this group “took out the trash,” while others were certain that “this people were extraterrestrials.” And when asked about their country’s political system, some Russians said it was “given by God” while others were certain that it was simply “a nightmare.”
Asked what they knew about the Soviet past, some Russians suggested that it was “entirely secret,” while others divided between assertions that it was a happy time when people were always paid and there were few drunks, while others said it was “a stupid thing” altogether and that “there was no sex.”
When VTsIOM asked Russians how the government should fight corruption, some Russians proposed introducing “human rights courses in kindergartens,” while others responded with suggestions that the government’s anti-corruption slogan ought to be “less drunkenness and fewer drugs!’”
Some Russians told the pollsters that happiness consists of having food and clothing, while others said that they were unhappy because they were members of “fan groups and the rights of such groups are restricted.” And a few said that they kept pets because they preferred them “instead of people.”
And asked their views about fast food restaurants, some Russians said that eating their offerings was “harmful” and that it could “even change one’s nationality” possibly transforming Russians “into Americans.”
As anyone who is familiar with surveys knows, there are always such curiosities offered by small groups of people to any poll in any country. But it is worth noting that VTsIOM in presenting these selected gems nonetheless attached its standard statement that its polls had a margin of error not exceeding 3.4 percent.
Today, this polling agency offered the results of a survey on how Russians intend to celebrate Easter ( And as one quick analysis of VTsIOM’s findings showed, most Russian Christians as well as every third atheist intends to do something to mark that holy day (

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