THE PRESIDENT AND THE RUSSIANS DISAGREE ON WHAT MODERNIZATION SHOULD BEGIN WITH
Unlike the powers-that-be bent on economic matters alone, the population believes that modernization ought to include political changes.
President Dmitry Medvedev and the Russians have different notions of what modernization should begin with. The Russians’ priorities include reduction of state machinery, independence of courts, fair competition, and gubernatorial elections.
Zircon Group and OMI Russia conducted an opinion poll on June 25-30. One thousand and six hundred Russians were asked to define modernization. As it turned out, most respondents make an emphasis on political changes rather than technological innovations. This trend was particularly typical of the so called advanced group which was how sociologists dubbed qualified specialists or managers living in major cities who actively surf the Internet and who live in relative prosperity.
Respondents were asked to list five hallmarks indicating that modernization is really under way. Most respondents began with elimination of corruption (47% average Russians and 73% representatives of the advanced group) and reduction of the state machinery (42% and 66%). Fair competition was listed as the third hallmark by representatives of the advanced group (51%) whereas ordinary Russians suggested defeat of cancer (27%).
Political criteria of modernization turned out to include active participation of the population in local self-government (18% average and 31% advanced), reinstitution of direct gubernatorial elections (12% and 15%), independence of courts (20% and 37%), freedom of assembly (10% and 12%), and equal access to the media (9% and 15%). Technological criteria include discovery of new power sources (21% and 38%) and transition to digital TV (12% and 6%).
It is known in the meantime that the presidential commission for modernization is focused on five technological vectors: energy efficiency, nuclear and space, medical and IT technologies. Skolkovo is going to be the most expensive project, worth 170 billion rubles before 2015.
“The population remains in the dark with regard to what Medvedev’s modernization policy is supposed to result in. Too many Russians perceive “modernization” as too abstract a term to be sure of anything,” said Zircon Director General Igor Zadorin.
“When the necessity arises to pay for modernization with higher taxes or delayed retirement age, then and only then will it be clear whether or not modernization has the population’s support and a chance to succeed in Russia,” said Dmitry Badovsky of the Institute of Social Systems.
“The population is absolutely correct. There should be more to modernization than economic matters alone. Modernization ought to apply to political institutions as well,” said Yevgeny Gontmakher of the Contemporary Development Institute.
Sixty-give percent Russians (91% within the advanced group) admitted readiness to sacrifice stability to modernization. Stability as such is dear to 28% average Russians and 7% representatives of the advanced group.