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Fear Fuels Alliance: The Pro-War Russians’ Beliefs

Russians’ Attitudes
May 19, 2023
7 min



It's not tyrants who are terrible but those who follow them. In this report, you will find answers to the question – what are the beliefs and fears of Russian war supporters?


Executive Summary


  • Belief in the genocide in Donbas, the necessity of keeping the Ukrainian population loyal to Russia, and the need to resist NATO positively correlate with war support.

  • Fear of separatism in Russia positively predicts support for the war.

  • Fear of losing money, being mobilized, or being politically prosecuted predicts opposing the war.




The respondents were recruited online.

The final sample included 941 respondents, stratified by gender and age. The sample also represents the population of small and big cities in central Russia.

We surveyed respondents about their motives for positive or negative attitudes toward the war. As for the potential explanations for the war support, we used the following:

  • Belief in the need to keep the Ukrainian population loyal to Russia;

  • Belief in the need to resist NATO;

  • Consent that the Ukrainian military commit genocide in Donbas;

  • General life satisfaction;

  • Level of authoritarian attitudes (Conservatism, Conventionalism, Aggression);

  • Fear of being mobilized;

  • Fear of deterioration of personal financial situation;

  • Fear of separation territories from the Russian Federation (for example, Chechnya or others);

  • Fear of political persecution in Russia.


Key Findings


The regression model we created explains 70,8% of the answers to the question regarding war support.

The strongest predictors for supporting the so-called “special military operation” are:

  • Consent that the Ukrainian military commit genocide in the Donbas region (β = .37, p < .001);
  • Strong belief in the need to keep the Ukrainian population loyal to Russia (β = .31, p < .001);
  • Strong belief in the need to resist NATO (β = .28, p < .001);

As expected, the most vital factors to support the war are curated by propaganda. In other words, the necessity of the “special military operation” was cultivated in the minds of Russians, which indicates they’re still strongly susceptible to the influence of state media.

Among other factors of war support, we can distinguish the feelings of danger.

The fear that some Russian territories, like Chechnya, can receive independence (being separated from the Russian Federation) increases the support for the invasion of Ukraine (β = .16, p < .001).

Based on our previous research and analysis, we assume there is a group within Russian society for which the notion of belonging to the "great Russian empire" is crucial for their sense of identity and significance. Furthermore, there is a high likelihood that these individuals experience a lack of recognition in other areas of their social lives, such as limited professional opportunities, low income, or status inconsistency. Consequently, the prospect of not being part of a powerful Russia evokes a profound sense of fear and anxiety, as it directly impacts their personal sense of importance and worth.

For another group, fears of mobilization, political persecution in Russia, and deterioration of the personal financial situation are negatively connected to the war support:

  • Fear of being mobilized (β = -.17, p < .001);
  • Fear of political persecution in Russia (β = -.17, p < .001);
  • Fear of deterioration of personal financial situation (β = -.13, p < .001);

For these individuals, in contrast with the group discussed above, “special military operation” carries the risk of deteriorating their social position. Namely, within this group, we can expect an increasing wave of dissatisfaction with the government.

Holding authoritarian attitudes and level of life satisfaction also impact the attitude toward the invasion, though not as significant.

The higher level of authoritarian attitudes respondents have (acceptance of aggression toward those who are weaker, high importance of traditional values and conventionalism) - the higher their level of support for the war (β = 0.02, p < .001).

At the same time, dissatisfaction with a personal life may increase war support (β = 0.03, p < .001). This connection can be potentially attributed to the desire for a sense of purpose, belonging, and the diversion from personal challenges that the war offers.




The war in Ukraine has kept a high level of support among the Russian population for more than a year. Consequently, the stronger respondents support the war, the less they accept the peace talk between Russia and Ukraine. Three main predictors to support the war are beliefs that the Ukrainian military committed genocide in Donbas, a necessity to keep loyalty among Ukrainians towards Russia, and the need to resist NATO. At the same time, the feeling of personal danger (mobilization, political persecution, and deterioration of personal financial situation) is negatively associated with war support.

We can suppose that Russian society can be roughly divided into two groups. The first one is those unsatisfied with their own life and psychologically in dire need of belonging to someone strong and powerful (in other words, the classical authoritarian personality). The second one is those who are concentrated on personal gains. It leads us to the thoughts – the respondents who belong to the second group have something to lose and live with the fear of such loss. Therefore, they hypothetically can make a decent power of resistance to the Russian regime. As Thucydides said: “Only mutual fear makes an alliance reliable.”

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Russians’ Attitudes
May 19, 2023
7 min
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