In the very same week that the Kremlin declared all-out war on Levada, the last remaining pollster operating in Russia with an independent voice, the Kremlin’s own publication, Russia Beyond the Headlines, featured Levada data prominently in its color insert distributed with the New York Times. It was yet another bizarre act in the tragicomedy known as Russia.
The May 22nd issue of RBTH had its entire second page plastered with information obtained from Levada regarding Vladimir Putin’s latest purported initiative against corruption. First a news story by Olga Doronina entitled “Russians see Official’s Money as the Root of All Evil” featured a huge color graphic reporting Levada’s poll results concerning the question of whether Putin’s measure to ban foreign ownership of assets by government officials was serious or a sham (the data favored the Kremlin, indicating 58% of Russians thought it was serious, although nearly half that group saw it as merely a way to gain control over wayward officials as opposed to actually purifying them). Then an op-ed from Georgy Bovt made repeated reference to Levada polling concerning Russian support for the measure.
How is it possible that at one and the same time the Kremlin can be attacking Levada as an unreliable “foreign agent” with the clear possibility that its operations would be shut down and also quoting from Levada as if it were the most reliable source of public opinion information in the country?
Because we’re talking about Russia, that’s why. Obviously, RBTH was slightly behind the curve and didn’t get wind of the Kremlin’s plans for Levada until its issue had already gone to print.
Oops. Good luck finding the news story from the NYT insert on the RBTH website. Now that Levada is under attack it seems to have been purged. Good luck, for that matter, finding reports by RBTH about Putin’s crackdown on Levada. None of it is anywhere to be found, the whole thing seems to have been swept under the carpet by this neo-Soviet publication. Weirdly, the Bovt piece was more than a month old, having been sitting on the RBTH website all that time and been published long before RBTH learned Levada was persona no grata, and that’s why it can still be found on the website, apparently.
But surely, RBTH must have known that Levada was a foreign agent all along, didn’t it? Apparently not, because RBTH found lots and lots of data published by Levada to be helpful to the Kremlin’s cause. Seven RBTH items in May alone quote Levada.
It’s so typical of Russia for the right hand not to know what the left hand is doing. RBTH thinks it’s free to use helpful data it finds in Levada reports, hardly suspecting that the data was being produced by a “foreign agent” committed to Russia’s overthrow. Then it finds itself with egg on its face as the news is suddenly announced.