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The FSO on the QT: The state of sociological work and opinion polling in Russia today

24 minutes
The FSO on the QT: The state of sociological work and opinion polling in Russia today

In reporting and analysis about Russian politics, the question is ubiquitous: How does Vladimir Putin see things? While there’s no shortage of efforts to read the Russian president’s mind, a more grounded approach would be to examine the intelligence that shapes Putin’s policymaking. One of the Kremlin’s best-trusted sources of information about popular moods is the sociological work conducted by the country’s Secret Service, the Federal Protective Service (FSO). 

Most Russians are unaware that the FSO, in addition to guarding top state officials, is responsible for conducting sociological surveys and monitoring popular opinion and the country’s political situation. The agency’s findings are never published, but these data inform some of President Putin’s biggest decisions. For example, fairly recently, FSO polls showing rising national discontent reportedly influenced the Putin administration’s decision to expedite the reopening of Moscow and the rollback of its coronavirus quarantine measures.

To learn more about this kind of polling and the state of sociological research generally in Russia, “The Naked Pravda” turned to two sociologists who work on Russia:

  • (4:41) Denis Volkov, the deputy director at the Levada Center, explains how Russia’s elites interpret and utilize polling.
  • (7:34) Маrgarita Zavadskaya, a researcher at the University of Helsinki and the European University in St. Petersburg, discusses problems with big data and selling state officials on sociology.

“The Naked Pravda” comes out on Fridays (or sometimes Saturdays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: “The Naked Pravda.”

Producer, sound editing, and mixing — Kevin Rothrock

Send any questions or comments to [email protected]

Executive producer — Alexandr Sadikov

Music — Victor Davydov

Thinking Music by Kevin MacLeod / Link / License

Umbrella Pants by Kevin MacLeod / Link / License

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