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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russians Don't Care About the Rich

The number of Russians who feel positively about the country's richest people may be roughly equal to those who feel negatively about them, but most citizens do not care one way or the other, a new survey has found.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of those who feel contempt, irritation and hatred toward the rich also perceive themselves to be poor and disadvantaged.

The survey, released by the independent Levada Center on Sunday, found the highest proportion of rich-haters to be in the Southern, Siberian and Volga federal districts, which analysts said reflected the cultural heritage of people in these areas, as well as a tendency toward dependence on official patronage.

"People hate the rich more in places where they think the rich's money could be theirs," said Maxim Dianov, head of the Institute of Regional Problems.

The survey, which is conducted annually by the Levada Center, found that the percentage of people who were indifferent toward the rich grew slightly, from last year's 37 percent to 41 percent.

The rich were respected by 12 percent of respondents, a slight drop from last year's 15 percent while those who said the rich irritated them fell from 18 percent to 14 percent.

A total of 1,600 Russians across the country were polled in the survey, which had a margin of error of less than 3 percentage points.

Other feelings expressed toward the rich were curiosity (15 percent), hatred (8 percent), contempt (6 percent) and compassion (2 percent). Two percent of those polled would not say how they felt.

Most positive about the wealthy were respondents under 40, businessmen, people with a higher education and those earning over 12,000 rubles ($400) per family member per month. They also tended to be residents of large cities and were likely to vote for the liberal Union of Right Forces, or SPS, party.

Those earning between 7,000 rubles and 12,000 rubles per month, students and law enforcement officers were the most curious about the rich. Those who were curious expressed political preferences for the SPS and Yabloko parties.

The most negative about the rich were those older than 55, those who did not finish high school and respondents whose monthly incomes were less than 7,000 rubles. Those who felt contempt for the rich tended to live in small towns and vote for the Communists or Yabloko, while those who hated the rich lived largely in rural areas and mid-sized towns, and support either the Communists or Rodina. There was no mention of the United Russia party in the center's findings.

"There is a clear, direct and logical correlation between sympathy -- or, rather, tolerance -- toward the rich and respondents' incomes," said Irina Palilova, a Levada Center analyst. "The idea that the rich came by their wealth improperly is particularly strong among the poor and disadvantaged."

Citing poll results over several years, she added that tolerance toward the rich was gradually growing.

An income-based analysis, however, did not appear to fully explain why hatred toward the wealthy was as high in the natural resource-rich Siberian Federal District as in the impoverished Southern Federal District.

In the relatively industrially undeveloped Far East Federal District, by contrast, respect and curiosity toward the rich was among the nation's highest, at 20 percent and 26 percent respectively.

Dianov said the lack of sympathy toward the rich in the Siberian, Volga and Urals federal districts could be explained by smear campaigns in the media against oligarchs. Most of the industries owned by oligarchs are in these three federal districts, he said. "Many residents of these well-off provinces feel cheated and excluded from this wealth, and believe that they would be better off without these 'evil' oligarchs," Dianov said.

Tatyana Stanovaya of the Center for Political Technologies said that higher tolerance of the rich in the Northwest Federal District was due to residents there being relatively better-educated and Westernized.

"People there believe in the notion of a self-made man and often see examples nearby," she said.

Southern Russia, including the mainly Muslim republics of the North Caucasus, was at the other end of the cultural scale, with most societies there being traditionalist and thus having fewer freedoms and opportunities for individuals to get ahead in business, she said. "It is very difficult for an individual to set up his own business there without being part of a corrupt local clan," she said.

Dianov agreed with Stanovaya's analysis, adding that a widespread belief in the North Caucasus that wealth belongs to one's community or clan coincided with feelings of resentment toward corrupt local authorities.

There, "the composition of the rich is what really matters," he said.