The matter of trust in Russia

Russian business daily Vedomosti.ru published findings from the „Eurobarometer in Russia“ report prepared by The Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (http://ranepa.com/), as well as the World Values Survey association (http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/) study on the level of interpersonal trust in Russia. According to the reports, this indicator is on average 1.5-2 times lower than in Western Europe and the United States. 

The level of general interpersonal trust seems to be the lowest in Russian cities with a population exceeding 1 million. For instance, less than 1 percent of the surveyed in Moscow believe that people in general can be trusted – the lowest percentage in all of Russia. Three quarters of the surveyed across the country feel distrust and wariness towards strangers. In some relatively isolated communities, such as industrial small towns formed during the Soviet era, the level of distrust towards unfamiliar persons reaches a full 100 percent. 

However, the situation is quite different when it comes to interpersonal relationships with familiar people – family and friends. With the level of institutional confidence being notoriously low, Russians rely on their private social circles more than anything else. For instance, 44 percent of the surveyed stated that they would prefer borrowing money from family or friends in case of need rather than from the bank (16 percent stated the opposite). An average Russian citizen is able to raise 75,000 rubles (USD 2,390) from relatives and friends within three days. The percentage of those preferring to borrow from family and friends roughly corresponds to the percentage of those willing to lend money to a fellow in need: 42 percent of the surveyed stated that they regularly lend money to their friends and/or cousins, and they feel confident that they’ll get their money back. 

According to the studies, Russians tend to have a wide network of acquaintances, contacting with as many as 25-30 people on a regular basis. The most sociable 25 percent of the population regularly interact with between 40-60 people. Only 15 percent of the unfortunate ones maintain regular relationships with less than 10 people and are forced to rely on government institutions to a larger extent. It seems that necessity is the primary motivator behind the reliance on government institutions – individuals with a wider social circle tend to trust the institutions less than the less sociable ones. The studies conclude that the level of abstract trust (towards institutions and strangers) in Russia is very low, forcing the people to rely on family and friends both in their private and business relationships.

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