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Russians’ Growing Appetite for Change

by Andrei Kolesnikov; Denis Volkov

Jan 30, 2020

In the past two years, the Russian public's appetite for change has increased considerably. A small but growing group of Russians blame President Vladimir Putin for the country's problems, and his capacity to deliver change is now being questioned. Yet the demands for change are taking very different forms, not only in open protests but also through latent discontent, and the public has not identified a specific alternative leader as a potential agent of change.

In July 2019, the Carnegie Moscow Center and the Levada Center, Russia's main independent polling agency, conducted a third poll in two years asking 1,600 Russians about their readiness for change. The results show some striking new trends. A total of 59 percent of respondents—17 percent more than two years before—said that the country needed "decisive comprehensive change" (see Figure 1). The Russian publication of this research in November 2019 attracted a lot of attention from the media and political class. An answer came in January 2020 in a form of constitutional changes and the resignation of the government. In his annual address on January 15, Vladimir Putin said: "Our society is clearly calling for change. People want development. . . . The pace of change must be expedited every year and produce tangible results in attaining worthy living standards that would be clearly perceived by the people. And, I repeat, they must be actively involved in this process."