In the Thick of ItA blog on the U.S.-Russia relationship
Levada: Majority of Russians View Their Country, China as ‘Great,’ But Not US, Its Allies
The Levada Center has just released the latest installment in its series of polls on which countries Russians consider to be “great” as well as on their general attitudes toward certain countries. The polls show that the share of Russians who view their own country as great has almost doubled in the past two decades from 43% in 2002 to 80% in 2023 (Table 1) in a clear reflection that both a recent streak of increases in Russia’s national power and the Kremlin’s consistent messaging on Russia’s “rise from its knees” during Vladimir Putin’s rule continue to have an impact on the Russian public.
In addition to increasingly seeing their own country as great, Russians also see a similar trend in China.1 In fact, the share of Levada respondents who view China as great has more than tripled, from 19% in 2002 to 63% in 2023, reflecting the steady strengthening of Moscow’s alignment with Beijing. The share of Russians who view India, with which Russia has enjoyed steadily positive relations, as great, has also nearly tripled, from 5% to 14% during the same period.
In contrast, even those Western countries that continue to be superior to Russia in components of national might such as GDP size (the U.S., Japan and Germany, when measured in constant international dollars, PPP) and population size (the U.S.), looked less great than Russia in the eyes of those polled by Levada. In fact, the share of Russians who view the U.S. as great halved from 62% in 2002 to 30% in 2023. The same period saw the share of Russians who view Japan, the U.K., Germany and France as great shrink at an even faster rate, ending at 9%, 9%, 8% and 3%, respectively, in 2023. The disparity between these Western countries’ global rankings in elements of national power such as economic output and military expenditures and the decline in their perceived greatness in the eyes of common Russians indicates that Russians’ perceptions may have been significantly influenced by the aforementioned Kremlin propaganda. Russia’s repeated use of force abroad under Putin’s watch may have also played a role in shaping Russians’ views on the greatness of their country (Table 1).
Interestingly, while the share of Russians who admire Western greatness has shrunk dramatically over the past two decades, shorter-term measurements reveal certain improvements in Russians’ views toward some of these countries, as well as toward Ukraine, which Russian leaders claim is acting as the spear of what they seek to portray as the West’s geopolitical assault on Russia.
The share of Russians who say they have a good attitude toward the U.S. was 22% in August 2023 (Table 2), which is higher than at any other point since February 2022 (the month when Russia invaded Ukraine). The share of Russians who reported having a good attitude toward the EU also improved remarkably from 16% in May 2023 to 23% in August 2023 (Table 3). Finally, the share of those with a positive attitude toward Ukraine also increased, from 15% in May 2023 to 21% in August 2023 (Table 4). That said, the shares of Russians with a good attitude toward the U.S., EU and Ukraine remained dwarfed by the share of Russians who have a good attitude toward China, which has remained above 83% since March 2022 (Table 5), reflecting the aforementioned alignment pursued by leaders of Russia and China as their countries remain locked in a great power rivalry with the U.S. and its allies. And, yet, one can’t help wondering what accounts for the recent upticks in Russians’ positive views of the West and its Ukrainian ally.
- Levada’s request to respondents to “name three countries you consider to be great” contains no definition of what constitutes a “great” country.
Simon Saradzhyan is the founding director of Russia Matters.