Nikolai Popov (polls), 1997

Notes on Nikolai Popov interview by phone Moscow Oct 27 1997

A few days ago was the tenth anniversary of the famous plenary committee of 1987 when Yeltsin was becoming more popular as a critic of the status quo. There was a gradual increase in popularity, His dismissal at that plenary increased his popularity. He was known already as a populist. Then supposedly had a heart attack as a result of the conflict.

At the party conference in 1988 he was again vocal.

1989 was his election to the new Supreme Soviet. Already he was about as popular as MSG, who was already being criticized for Tbilisi, then Baku.

Pivotal time was 1990. The popularity lines of Yeltsin and MSG crossed.

There has been no extensive study of dissidents. The term and the groups are not well known outside of Moscow.

How much would Sakharov’s support be worth in changing public opinion? More so among Moscow’s elite than elsewhere.

Sakharov was not influential in the election of Yeltsin to the Supreme Soviet.

In 1991 there was a landslide of public opinion change after Yeltsin’s election. It coincided with the imminent destruction of the Soviet Union. Yeltsin’s election was quite a signal of that.

Yeltsin was not mainly responsible for MSG’s decline in popularity. He would have failed without Yeltsin. He had no plan. The reforms were spontaneous. There were more promises than plans. He did well in international affairs but domestically did not perform much. Did allow for more freedom, etc but people probably would prefer to claim that they themselves won these freedoms.

There were increasing shortages of food with a noticeable decline in living standards from the mid-1980s but no crisis then like the one of 1991-93.

MSG popularity declined because of the great hopes and promises he made. His style was too vocal. All empty talk.

What about the last presidential election?

Popov was working for the president, did polls for him.

In Jan before the election:
Yeltsin 7%  
Yavlinsky 8%  
End of May
Yeltsin 30%  
Zhuganov 24%  
Yavlinsky 9% (which would go to Yeltsin on 2nd rnd
Zhuganov 7%  
Lebed 5% (go to Yeltsin, primarily)

A few days later VCIOM poll found 32 to 22%, close to Popov’s result

Lebed was saying close to the elections that he could have won but he started too late, didn’t have extensive organization and didn’t have financial support. Lacked a few million dollars. This was showing in the polls. He was taking off like a jet plane, about 1% growth per week

Would he have got 30%? Popov doubts it. Yavlinsky was the same story:

Zhuganov 27%
Lebed 10%
Yavlinsky 10%
Nemtsov 10%
Luzhkov 7%
Chernmyr 4%

Gaidar is responsible for shock therapy. Yavlinsky looks more attractive and sympatico. Gaidar lost our savings.
Public opinion re the economy has not changed much since 1993
Assessement of the economic situation of the country and my family

On a scale of 0-5:
Ups and downs but since 1993 not much change
Country 1.3, now 1.1
My family 0.18, now 0.22

There are 15 items (Life in general, hope for the future, feeling of freedom, personal safety, family relations, jobs, food situation in the family, housing, health, and ecology.) Feeling of freedom and food in the family have stayed the same, but all the others have become worse since 1991.

The administration claims there is a slight growth in the first half of 1997, but critics say that is not true; the government is just including factors from the shadow economy as part of the formal economy where they hadn’t measured these factors before. They have only started measuring it this year. The only way of telling is to ask people what they are planning to buy and what their friends are buying. Some are getting somewhat better off.

I asked about NGO membership.

Far from a civil society. Only a fraction of one percent belong to professional associations, etc. It is still insignificant.

The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy, by Metta Spencer, published by Lexington Books