On Social Justice, Russia Now Split into Two Nations, ‘TV Russians’ and ‘Internet Russians,’ Shelin Says

File Image of Laptop Computer, Tables and Mobile Device, adapted from image at energy.gov

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, Oct. 13, 2020)

The recent Public Opinion Foundation poll may very well have been conducted to set the stage for the introduction of progressive income taxes, Sergey Shelin says; but its most important findings is that there are now two Russians coexisting side by side, one that relies on state television and a second, almost equal in size, on the Internet.

According to the survey, the Rosbalt commentator continues, 48 percent of Russians rely on state television for their news and information while 44 percent rely on the Internet. “In fact,” he says, “these are two people, who view our life completely differently” (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2020/10/13/1867922.html).

“The television people” think by a margin of more than five to one that Russia is a less unjust society than those in the countries of Western Europe, while “the Internet people” 44 percent to 25 percent believe that life in Western Europe is more just than life in the Russian Federation,” Shelin says.

“The television people” believe that Russia has become more just in recent years, while “the Internet people” believe just the reverse. Moreover, while both have experienced injustice, the latter is more likely to report it than the former. And that matters because “the Internet people” are the future: they’re younger, more educated and more urban.

This pattern dictates that the regime will have to adopt more just policies or at least appear to do so, policies like progressive taxation, aid to families, and equalization of access to medical care, Shelin says. But there is one important qualification to this: “the Internet people” who care more about social justice also believe they and not the state must promote it.

According to the survey, “the Internet people” have become even more inclined to believe that they must take responsibility for promoting social justice rather than waiting for the government to do all the heavy lifting, Shelin continues. That gives the powers that be more wiggle room than many might suspect.

In the short term, he suggests, the Kremlin may be able to get away by making small and symbolic steps toward promoting social justice and win support for doing so. But in the slightly longer term, the regime will have to deal with the fact that “the Internet people” want to take things into their own hands and only ask that the state get out of the way.

That will present the regime with a far different and more difficult challenge than the current concerns about social justice the Public Opinion Foundation survey found, the Rosbalt commentator suggests.