VIENNA – Residents of Russia’s larger cities place blame inter-ethnic animosity for recent clashes in the Karelian city of Kondopoga, but those who live in smaller towns and rural areas are more inclined to think that criminal elements were behind the violence there, according to the results of a just-completed poll.
Now that the central Russian media have begun to devote more space to Kondopoga and that analogous violence has broken out in Samara and one of the villages in Omsk oblast, the All Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) has asked 1600 Russians in 46 federal subjects for their opinions about the Karelian violence.
VTsIOM pollsters asked Russians how much they knew about the events in Kondopoga, how they would characterize those events, what they viewed as the major causes of the clashes there, and who they considered was to blame for the fact that these events took place.
Not surprisingly, only one Russian in six – 15 percent – indicated that he or she was “well informed” about what had taken place in the Karelian city. Half of the sample said that they had “heard something” about it. And a third – 34 percent – indicated that they were hearing about these events for the first time from those conducting this survey.
Also not surprisingly, those living in the North-West Federal District, within whose borders Kondopoga is located, were significantly better informed than the sample as a whole: 80 percent of people there indicated that they either were well-informed or had earlier heard something about the clashes.
More interesting were the differences between urban and rural Russians in their characterization of the Kondopoga outbreak. For the sample as a whole, 39 percent blamed the events on ethnic animosity, 23 percent said they were the result of the struggle of criminal groups, and six percent indicated that “most likely” they were simply “a drunken fight.”
Residents of Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other Russian cities over 500,000 were far more inclined to blame the clashes on ethnic animosity, with 50 percent in the capital and 49 percent in other large cities pointing to that as a cause, and only 22 to 24 percent saying they were the product of a struggle among criminal groups.
Russians living in smaller cities and rural areas, in contrast, were more inclined to blame crime rather than ethnicity. Among those living in cities under 100,000 or in rural areas, 30-32 percent pointed to ethnicity as a cause, while 21 to 31 percent suggested that criminal elements were behind the clashes.
Whether these differences reflect variations in the level and nature of coverage of these events in urban and rural areas or whether they are the product of differences in the personal experience of people in these two demographic groups is something the VTsIOM analysts did not address.
The entire sample was asked an open-ended question about the specific causes which led to the violence in Kondopoga. Each person interviewed was allowed to name up to two causes. From 21 to 26 percent named the clash of economic interests of local population and immigrant groups, the clash of two ways of life, mistakes in migration policy, and poverty.
Fifteen percent pointed to “the absence of a culture of inter-ethnic relations in contemporary Russia” and ten percent suggested that the Kondopoga clashes reflected “the growth of nationalistic tendencies in Russia.” Slightly more than one in five – 22 percent – said they found the question too difficult to answer.
The sample was also asked to identify who was “responsible” for these events. Respondents were allowed to give up to three answers. One in four – 24 percent – blamed local officials, eight percent said Moscow’s policies were to blame, but one in two – 50 percent – said they were not yet willing or able to give any answer.
Urban Russians say ethnicity behind Kondopoga; rural Russians blame criminal groups