History, traditions
Author`s name Ольга Савка

Russians do not know what 'democracy' stands for

Putin's era is the most democratic period in the history of Russia

“Democracy” is one of the most popular words of the present-day political lexicon. The results of a public opinion poll shows that ordinary Russians interpret the meaning of the word in a number of different ways. Respondents were supposed to answer a direct question: “What is your understanding of the word 'democracy', and what this word means in your opinion?”. The poll results show that the people attribute a few somewhat opposing concepts to the word. In the meantime, 33% of the respondents failed to provide any answer to the question.

As a rule, the respondents point to positive ideas associated with the word “democracy.” 35% of the polled believe that the concept means the freedom of speech, human rights, equality, political freedoms. As a whole, their idea of democracy implies the opportunity “to be a free individual.” 10% of our compatriots understand democracy as government by the people, “power by their elected agents under a free electoral system.” 6% interpret the concept as “the rule of law, order, and discipline.” Some of the respondents provide Soviet-era descriptions of democracy e.g. the authorities looking after the common people (3%), and total equality for all (2%).

Meanwhile, democracy is painted grim and black by a significant portion (14%) of the respondents. In some cases the people reject the concept of democracy as “one of the most flawed and corrupt forms of government”. Other people detest social and political changes Russia has been going through recently, they believe that democracy brought about anarchy, lawlessness and increase in crime all over the country. Some people level their harshest criticism at the advocates of democracy by calling them “boorish and unscrupulous.”

Every third respondent (34%) believes that Russia has too little democracy at the moment due to violations of human rights, lack of  law and order, and deterioration of living standards. On the other hand, 21% of the respondents believe there is too much democracy in Russia. Some of them actually come up with the same list of problems as those who find faults with democracy (lack law and order, politicians' irresponsibility and unaccountability). In short, the negative attitude of the Russians toward democracy stems largely from their resentment against today's version of democracy in Russia. However, some respondents regard democracy as an unacceptable political system.

Putin's era is the most democratic period in history of Russia, according to 29% of the respondents. The era of Brezhnev is a runner-up by these criteria (14%). Gorbachev's time seems the most democratic one to 11% while the Yeltsin years look like a true democracy to 9% of the people who took part in the poll.