Russians are in for a rude awakening this fall

President Vladimir Putin reported a series of positive economic developments at a regular meeting with his government. However, according to  Insider, the statistics have been manipulated.

The Putin administration thus is bracing itself for an anticipated rise in popular discontent in Russia as prices continue to go up and factories shut down. On their payroll, Kremlin officials and political strategists believe that Vladimir Putin’s supporters are losing interest in the war against Ukraine — which means they’re beginning to pay attention to other issues. And with the start of the school year fast approaching, the pressures of getting the kids ready for class could be the final straw.

Where Autumn is traditionally associated with an uptick in widespread discontent. Social anxieties receded during the summer as people go off on holiday or to their dachas. As autumn rolls around, Russians begin worrying about work difficulties and notice rising prices — the sense of optimism associated with the summer holidays disappears. “Summer is a time for a kind of pause: it’s warm, it’s bright, working days go by in the background. In the fall, everyone understands that winter is coming; expect nothing good,” one source quipped.

Getting ready for the start of the school year on September 1 is another potential trigger for social discontent. People will inevitably compare how much they spent on back-to-school in 2022 — amid Russia’s full-blown war against Ukraine — to their spending in previous years. And the scale of the rise in prices will become all too clear. 

Claims about some pro-Kremlin Russians losing interest in the war against Ukraine are indirectly evidenced by a recent survey conducted by the privately held research company Romir. The survey showed that since February, the average daily TV-viewing reach of the Russian state-controlled channels Perviy Kanal and Rossiya-1 has dropped by eight percent. Most of the airtime on Russian television is taken up by political talk shows, where presenters and guests discuss Ukraine and “hostile Western countries.” 

Getting ready to throw money around

The mass exodus of Western companies from Russia in response to the February invasion has led to another problem that worries Kremlin officials — manufacturers in the regions are shutting down. As a result, unemployment issues are expected in the Kaluga region (where large foreign automakers have their factories), the Leningrad region (where many large enterprises have Western owners or are dependent on supplies from the West), and other industrial areas. 

The way the Putin administration’s domestic policy bloc sees it; there’s only one way to stave off rising discontent: handing out cash. Meduza’s sources recalled that during the coronavirus pandemic, the Russian government dealt with the ensuing economic fallout by offering financial support to the population on multiple occasions. As a rule, these payments were made available to families with children and were distributed ahead of elections. In the fall, they will try to shower the dissatisfied with money. It might be relatively small amounts, but people will be glad to receive them. To develop an ideological justification for why Putin embarked upon a full-blown war against Ukraine and why Russians should put up with economic hardships due to Western sanctions. However, these ideas were developed with the expectation of ending the war through peace talks. 

Now, Putin is committed to a long war, and the Kremlin is no longer trying to give this strategy an ideological framework. The authorities believe they’ll be able to weather the next wave of popular discontent by quelling it with money.

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