Staunton, February 14 – In a poll timed to precede Valentine’s Day -- a holiday the Russian Orthodox Church opposes -- Russians showed high levels of tolerance for non-traditional family arrangements, highlighting changes in Russian society, undercutting Putin’s neo-traditionalism, and frightening many Orthodox who blame this pattern on the West.
The VTsIOM polling agency, which has close ties to the Russian government, reported yesterday that “the majority” of Russians now consider most forms of non-traditional family arrangements acceptable, marking a tectonic shift in Russian attitudes over a remarkably short time (regions.ru/news/2545423/).
According to the poll, 87 percent of Russian do not see anything wrong when an unmarried woman gives birth to a child, with 72 percent noting that this happens and 15 percent even supporting the idea. Eighty-one percent say they consider couples living together without official registration as completely acceptable, and only 16 percent condemn that.
Seventy-nine percent see nothing wrong in married couples deciding to remain childless, with 62 percent saying that each such case should be considered on its merits. Twenty-five years ago, a third of those polls condemned such decisions; today, “only 18 percent do,” VTsIOM reported. And fewer than half of the same said that infidelity was “unacceptable.”
Not surprisingly, the Russian Orthodox clergy with whom the Regions.ru news agency spoke viewed this as a disaster, the product of urbanization, media promotion of egotism, and Western influence. And undoubtedly, some of the causes they point to are in fact the real ones behind these figures.
But whatever the causes, these figures show that Russian society has changed in fundamental ways and that any effort by the church or by the Putin regime to push it back to where it was either on issues of marital legitimacy or the number of children couples will have are going to be resisted, whatever the pro-Kremlin neo-traditionalist propagandists say.
And those changes in attitudes toward family life will affect others and make it far harder for the regime to turn things around in a variety of other sectors than the Kremlin or many in the West imagine, forcing it to devote far more resources to achieve that goal than it has so far or alternatively forcing it to make a compromise with this new reality.