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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Poll: People Fear Famine and Terror the Most

Russians most fear famine and terrorist attacks, according to a recent state-sponsored opinion poll.

When asked to pick from a pre-selected list of 20 threats faced by Russia, 70 percent of respondents in a survey by the state-controlled VTsIOM polling agency chose famine.

When asked to pick a threat to their personal safety, 36 percent selected "a terrorist attack on a strategic facility." This menace was followed by fear of depopulation, picked by 33 percent, and fear of famine, picked by 30 percent, VTsIOM said in a statement last week.

But analysts said the results of the survey, carried out in late April, reflected the Kremlin's worries as expressed through the state-controlled media rather than those of average Russians.

VTsIOM's list of fears included a split in Russia's ruling elite on the eve of the presidential election in 2008 leading to a "power struggle" (46 percent); Russia splitting into several countries (34 percent); a revolution in Russia, similar to those in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan (27 percent); and a coup supported by Western secret services (22 percent).

"Some of these fears, like the disintegration of Russia, were real during the Boris Yeltsin era, but they almost disappeared when Vladimir Putin came to power and consolidated the power of Moscow over the provinces," said Tatyana Stanovaya, an analyst with the Center for Political Technologies.

"These fears returned as the Kremlin began to fear a velvet revolution in Russia," she said.

The fears would also explain how a Western-backed coup and loss of Russia's sovereignty and the establishment of "external" rule over the country by the United States (18 percent) could appear on the list, Stanovaya said.

VTsIOM analyst Dmitry Polikanov agreed, saying that a ruling elite could well spread such fears in an effort to frighten people into supporting it.

Fear of political instability featured less in personal fears than in fears for the country, the survey found. Only fear of civil war (18 percent) and the breakup of Russia into several states (15 percent) made it into the top 10 personal fears.

Yury Korgunyuk, a political analyst with the Indem think tank, said the polling agency's list of fears was contentious and did not reflect Russians' real worries. "For many years, Russians have said in polls that their biggest fear is the spread of crime. There is no word about crime in VTsIOM's poll," he said.

"The government uses the media to lull people into the feeling that that the economy's prospects are good, terrorism is being quelled and money is being given to science and culture," Stanovaya said. "But when people return to reality with inflation, shrinking incomes and never-ending reports of terrorists being killed, all positive illusions collapse, and this frightens people."

But the survey also put a question mark next to the success of "anti-fascist" rhetoric used by the pro-Kremlin Nashi youth movement.

While Nashi leaders have vowed to combat "fascists," among whom they number most of the country's liberal politicians, the survey found that only 4 percent of Russians fear fascism, marginally ahead of a threat from a comet or meteorites (2 percent).

The poll, in which 1,600 people were questioned in 40 regions, had a margin of error of 3.4 percent.