Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Interesting article from Russia

Izvestia (December 27, 2004, Commentary by Georgiy Ilyichev: "Moscow's Political Campaign Experts Agitated Only the Russians") has an interesting article on the Russian attempts to influence the Ukrainian election and the consequences:

The images of "our boy Yanukovych" and "American hireling and Russia's enemy Yushchenko," as well as the extremely contemptuous attitude toward the latter's "unscrupulous" and "brainless" supporters, are the main results of the massive invasion of the Ukrainian electoral process by Russian political campaign experts. Our domestic "masters of PR" won a victory--not in Ukraine, where their clients had believed so strongly in the absolute power of manipulative campaign strategies, but in the usual place, where they are so accustomed to winning victories--in the minds of our fellow citizens.

Today the majority of Russians (51 percent) believe that only the success of Viktor Yanukovych in yesterday's election would have served our country's interests (Levada Center data--see Diagram 1 (not reproduced here)). This is amazing in view of the fact that 73 percent of the respondents in a Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) poll did not know the name of the Ukrainian prime minister in August, and each of the two candidates earned a positive rating from only 6 percent of the respondents. We can only take our hats off to the PR experts: They certainly are skilled at what they do.

Back in August, Chairman Mark Urnov of the Ekspertiza Analytical Programs Foundation made a futile appeal to the common sense of his colleagues:

"The outcome of the presidential election in Ukraine is exceptionally important to us, but this gravity does not mean we should resort to biased PR or start concocting irrational theories, as some of my colleagues are prone to do. From the standpoint of Russia's foreign-policy strategy, it would be a huge mistake to put our money on just one of the candidates today, especially Yanukovych with his criminal past. If he should lose, we would be in an awkward position."

Urnov's prediction came true with deplorable accuracy. The "men responsible for Ukraine" in the corridors of power had no alternative but to blame their strategic failure on the campaign experts.

"Russia never officially endorsed anyone in the Ukrainian election, and the involvement of Russian political experts in that election was just an unfortunate commercial undertaking," State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, a participant in the international talks on the Ukrainian crisis, declared in Yerevan on 16 December.

It is too bad that the results of a poll conducted on 11-12 December by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) had not been tallied and published by that time.

One out of every three Russians blamed his own government for this, saying that the "inconsistent and indecisive behavior of our country allowed other nations to seize the initiative in resolving the crisis in Ukraine" (see Diagram 2 (not reproduced here)). Another third of the respondents, on the other hand, appreciated Russia's "vigorous and appropriate" actions, the same actions our public officials are currently disavowing.

"Who organized the mass demonstrations by Yushchenko's supporters?" The most common answers to this question in the FOM survey were the United States (15 percent of the respondents)--"America paid the instigators more money, so they are doing their best to cause trouble in the country"--and the Western countries in general (7 percent). Consequently, respondents had no trouble coming up with the reason that so many people gathered in Independence Square: "All of them had been bought." "They were coming home with $1,000 a week.

"The main cause of the "orange revolution"--civil protest against the government's disdain for the opinions of much of the population--barely registered in the Russian mind. By shifting the blame to the "worldwide backstage manipulators," who supposedly manipulated the Ukrainians, the Russian PR experts could not fail to win a resounding victory in their own country. This is easy to do in a country where only 1 percent of the citizens regard "election fraud" and "civil rights violations" as good reasons for mass protest demonstrations.



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