By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia

New Levada Center polls show that Russians are less trusting of Vladimir Putin and other senior leaders including Dmitry Medvedev, Sergey Shoygu and Sergey Lavrov than they were, with fewer than 50 percent of Russians surveyed now saying that they trust the Kremlin leader, Yury Gudkov says.

Several factors are involved, the sociologist says, including the end of election-era mobilization, the growth of tensions over rising prices and falling incomes, and the extreme unpopularity of the government’s plan to raise the retirement age. “All this taken together has given this effect”.

The unfavorable international environment also plays a role, Gudkov continues. “Forced anti-Western and anti-Ukrainian mobilization cannot last too long,” especially given that with the controversy over pensions, “all foreign policy events have begun to seem less significant” to most Russians.

Putin who enjoys the reputation of being a “Teflon” president began to see a decline in public trust immediately after the elections, but the decline has not lasted long enough to say that it is a trend.  Several more soundings of public opinion over the next months will be needed for that, Gudkov says.

What has occurred so far will not necessarily lead to changes in cadres, he adds, because in an authoritarian system like Russia’s today decisions about that reflect the views of the leadership rather than the assessments of the population, a pattern that Gudkov describes as “unfortunate.”

But he says that he “fears there will be changes but not those which we are waiting for. There exists the danger that the [Kremlin’s] course will become as a result harsher and more repressive and the reduction in the support from the population will lead to a return to the use of blackmail in international affairs,” including “provocations” designed to mobilize the population.

By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia