Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Russians, Regime Diverge on What Modernization Should Entail, Poll Shows

Paul Goble

Staunton, July 27 – Russians say that the modernization they want will involve a reduction in the size of the state bureaucracy, independence for the courts, honest competition, and the election of governors, goals that put them at odds with the technological program President Dmitry Medvedev has proposed let alone what Prime Minister Vladimir Putin backs.
In an article in today’s “Vedomosti,” journalists Liliya Biryukova and Natalya Kostenko report that a poll conducted by the Tsirkon Research Group together with OMI finds that Russians understand modernization “not so much technological innovations but rather political change” (www.vedomosti.ru/newspaper/article/2010/07/27/241703).
Moreover, the poll found – for the full report of Tsirkon’s findings, see www.zircon.ru/upload/File/russian/publication/6/100726.pdf -- those Russians in “the advanced group” which includes specialists and managers living in major cities, who frequently use the Internet and are relatively well off display this tendency to an even greater degree.
The survey asked Russians to name five signs that they would take as indications that Russia was modernizing. “Most frequently of all,” Russians pointed to the elimination of corruption – 47 percent of all Russians and 73 percent of the advanced group – and the reduction in the number of bureaucrats – 42 percent and 66 percent.
“For the advanced group,” the “Vedomosti” journalists report, “the third most important criteria of modernization” would be the creation of “conditions for honest competition” (51 percent), while for the rest of the population, the third most important indicator would be “the acquisition of medicines to treat cancer” (27 percent).
“Among the political criteria of modernization,” the journalists continued, are “the active participation of citizens in local self-administration” (18 percent overall and 31 percent of the advanced), a return to the elections of governors (12 percent and15 percent), independence of courts (20 and 27), freedom of assembly (10 and 12), and equal access to the media (9 and 15).
As far as technological change as an indicator of modernization, something Medvedev has stressed, 21 percent of all Russians and 38 percent of those in the advanced group agreed that the acquisition of new sources of energy would be that, and 12 percent and six percent respectively agreed that the transition to digital television would be a sign.
Igor Zadorin, the general director of Tsirkon, told the paper that “the population does not yet have a clear understanding of what the course of modernization Medvedev has announced.” Indeed, “in the understanding of the majority,” he said, “modernization is an abstract word” with little real content.
Medvedev’s commission on modernization, the “Vedomosti” journalists note, has focused on five “technological directions”: energy efficiency, nuclear power, space programs, medical advances, and information technologies, and Arkady Dvorkovich, commenting on the Tsirkon findings, suggested that the population and Medvedev were not that far apart.
But others with whom the “Vedomosti” journalists spoke disagreed. Yevgeny Gontmakher of the Moscow Institute of Contemporary Development, suggested the president and the people were on very different wavelengths and that “the population is right in its feelings that modernization must involve not only the economy but political institutions as well.”

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