Human rights activists have documented mass graves, disappearances and torture, as well as the indiscriminate use of force by Russian federal forces against civilians in the current war in Chechnya. They recently have collected information that suggests Russian authorities are forming death squads to track down rebels. What impact do these reported abuses have on how Russians think about the war in Chechnya? What other factors shape their views? How popular is the war and why?
Over the last year, surveys have typically shown that the Russian public is more-or-less equally divided between those who support a military solution and those who support peace talks in Chechnya, with a sizable portion not having an opinion. These findings suggest ambivalence, but they tell us nothing about the contour of the ambivalence (e.g., the military versus negotiated settlement is too stark a distinction) or about the deeper feelings and interpretations of the war that inform whatever policy preferences Russians articulate. Findings from a survey we conducted through VTsIOM allow us to address both of these issues. […]
Sarah E. Mendelson