Putin's Rating Immune to Food Ban for Now
Published: August 8, 2014 (Issue # 1823)
While the ban on many food imports imposed by President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday has sparked fears of Soviet-era shortages among some sections of Russian society, political analysts told The St. Petersburg Times that it will have little effect on the level of support for the government among the public.
Following the publication Thursday of the list of banned products, pictures of empty shelves from Soviet times flooded Russian social networks and blogs, along with sardonic jokes about how in introducing the ban, Russia had demonstrated its care for its citizens' spiritual well-being by letting them choose from only two kinds of cheese, fish, meat and other products.
Despite widespread anger at the move to limit the availability of foreign food, this negative reaction is still limited to an exclusive and politically conscious audience that is already largely critical of the government anyway, according to Lev Gudkov, director of the independent Levada Center pollster.
"According to our research, public opinion in Russia is conservative and only begins to seriously react to events two or three weeks after they happen. The consequences of these decisions, as well as of sanctions overall, will only become visible in November," as people are more politically apathetic during the summer, Gudkov told The St. Petersburg Times in a phone interview.
Gudkov said he did not expect immediate drastic changes in public opinion as a result of the new measures imposed by the Kremlin.
The partial foreign food ban has brought to the fore painful memories of the late Soviet Union, when people stood in line for basic commodities such as bread, butter and oatmeal. A video of a "food funeral," an art performance in central Moscow in 1990 in which a mock funeral procession marched along the capital's main street to bemoan the lack of food in stores, went viral Thursday.
The potential disappearance of even a limited number of foreign-produced products from shelves has demonstrated to what extent memories or even phantom pains from the Soviet Union are alive in society, according to Nikolai Petrov, an analyst of Russian internal politics with the Higher School of Economics.
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