The number of Russians who support the territorial expansion of Russia has fallen, according to polls conducted by independent polling and research agency Levada Center.
In March 2015, 32 percent of those polled claimed they want Russia to expand into the territories of former Soviet republics. One year earlier, in March 2014, 58 percent of those polled expressed this sentiment. In 2013, 49 percent voiced support for territorial expansion. In 2010, this figure stood at 46 percent, and in 2006 – at 60 percent.
About one-third of those polled in March 2015 said that Russia has the right to annex parts of former Soviet states due to the fact that Russians residing in these countries today may experience violations of their rights. One year before, 58 percent of respondents expressed this opinion.
A big part of the population still sees the absorption of Crimea into Russia in a positive light, but the explanations which legitimize the act have changed. While last year the actions of the Russian government were seen as efforts to defend the Russian population in Crimea and to stabilize the situation in Ukraine, this year the emphasis has shifted to a reinstitution of historical justice (40%) in the form of returning Russian lands to Russia.
In March 2014, Crimea seceded from Ukraine and became a part of Russia. This resulted in a massive strain on the Russian budget. The Kremlin has reallocated $7.2 billion from Russians’ pension funds to support the new territory, and the funds will not be reimbursed. In September of last year, polls showed that 73 percept of Russian supported the annexation.