Ideas about the “fifth column”

There is no clear understanding in Russian society of who Russian officials mean when they talk about the “fifth column” and “national traitors”. Nevertheless, three broad categories of answers to this question can be distinguished: the “collective West” (Western countries, their leaders, NATO, etc.), Russian elites (mostly those who have gone abroad or keep money there) and critics of the Russian government.

The respondents were asked an open question about who in their opinion Vladimir Putin meant when he spoke about the “so-called fifth column” and “national traitors” who help the West in the fight against Russia. About half (46%) of respondents found it difficult to answer this question. This means two things: people do not really understand what they are talking about and this topic does not cause a significant number of people an emotional response, the topic is not interesting to them.

At the same time, a large proportion of people believe that the words about the “fifth column” mean the West itself: various Western countries, Western politicians, NATO, etc. A significant number of respondents refer to various representatives of the Russian elite as “national traitors”: not only Russian artists who have left for the West or large businessmen who keep their money offshore, but also various politicians, deputies and officials. Finally, the third group includes various critics of the Russian government: from the “non-systemic opposition” to the “intelligentsia”.


The survey by the Levada Center was conducted May 26 – 31 2022, among a representative sample of all Russian urban and rural residents. The sample was comprised of 1634 people aged 18 or older in 137 municipalities of 50 regions of the Russian Federation. The survey was conducted as a personal interview in respondents’ homes. The answer distribution is presented as percentages of the total number of participants along with data from previous surveys.

The statistical error of these studies for a sample of 1600 people (with a probability of 0.95) does not exceed:

3.4% for indicators around 50%

2.9% for indicators around 25%/75%

2.0% for indicators around 10%/90%

1.5% for indicators around 5%/95%

The ANO Levada Center is included in the registry of non-commercial organizations acting as foreign agents.


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