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Russia's pessimism escalates as the year draws to a close

The share of people thinking the country is following the right way has reduced from 26 to 18 per cent

The year of 2004 has truly proved to be a leap-year. Opinion polls conducted by the Russia Public Opinion Research Center (WCIOM) demonstrate that the positive dynamics registered in the first three months of the year changed into a vague summer pause and then seriously changed for the worse in September-October as a result of the Beslan tragedy. A temporary stabilization in people's attitudes fixed in November was shaky; polls conducted in December have revealed that Russians are rather troubled and pessimistic on the eve of 2005.

WCIOM Director Valery Fyodorov told Opec.ru: “The 2004 presidential election was expected to be the key event of the year, but instead the Beslan tragedy was in the focus of people's attention. The tragedy crushed all positive tendencies in people's attitudes that had been registered since beginning of the year.

The Russian population demonstrated positive attitudes to the events in this country early this year. It was just once, in May-June that people's opinions changed for negative because the authorities decided to substitute social privileges with money compensation. The situation radically changed in September.

In fact, the Beslan tragedy became the first act of terrorism that marred ratings of the authority so seriously. Until recently, acts of terrorism traditionally discredited Russia’s force structures; but the September tragedy in Beslan's school resulted in distrust toward authorities in general and shook ratings of the president.” Valery Fyodorov said the Beslan tragedy demonstrated that reforming has not at all improved effectiveness of authorities. Russia's force structures have not learnt the lessons of the 2002 hostage-taking in the Moscow theatre. Neither authorities nor force structures have improved their effectiveness within the two years since that tragedy.

At that, Russians are not inclined to think that poor effectiveness of forces structures influences the political situation in general. 8-14 per cent of the Russian population give positive estimates to the political situation in this country, while 47-55 per cent give average estimates to the political situation. Every third Russian (24-36 per cent) gives a negative estimate to the present-day political situation in Russia. Positive attitudes seriously dropped after the Beslan tragedy, but soon estimates of the political situation regained their positions.

However, powers-that-be should mind that a bigger group of the population believe Russia's development perspectives are rather weak than strong. The share of Russians believing the country is following the right way has dropped from 26 per cent in May 2004 to 18 per cent in December; at the same time, today more people say Russia is following the wrong way (31 per cent in May and 37 per cent in December).

Here are the key events that drew people's attention in 2003:

Acts of terrorism in Northern Caucasus and Moscow – 55 per cent
The US and Great Britain's campaign in Iraq – 38
Parliamentary election – 22
Dollar collapse, euro and ruble strengthening – 21
Pension reform launching – 20
Rise in wages to budget-related workers – 20
The Yukos scandal – 18
Legislation on obligatory insurance of car owners – 14
Russian football team in the finals of the European championship – 14
The velvet revolution in Georgia – 13
New projects on TV opening pop-stars – 9
The 300th anniversary of St.Petersburg – 9
Buying Chelsea by Roman Abramovich – 8
Chechnya presidential election – 6
Vitaly Ginzburg winning the Nobel Prize – 5
Killing of deputy Sergey Yushenkov – 5
Scandal about ballet dancer Anastasia Volochkova – 4
Tragic death of Sakhalin Governor Igor Farkhutdinov – 4
Paul McCartney live concert on Moscow's Red Square – 4
Resignation of presidential administration chief Alexander Voloshin – 4
Startup of Bureiskaya hydroelectric power station in Russia's Amur region – 3
TV series Idiot based on Dostoyevsky's novel – 2