On 20–27 April 2009 Information Agency ”Caucasus Times” held its regular public opinion poll in the city of Cherkessk, capital of the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkesia. In total, 400 residents of Cherkessk of different nationalities older 16, mostly Karachais, Circassians and Russians representing different professions and age groups, have been polled.
Major goal of this research was to explore attitudes of the population towards different aspects of corruption situation in their republic and towards other most urgent problems currently facing Karachaevo-Cherkesia. In addition, there was asked a separate question about the attitudes of the population towards the policy of the federal center in the North Caucasus.
Poll results indicate that overwhelming majority of Cherkessk residents (91%) had personal direct experience with different forms of corruption. Only 9% of those polled said they did not face any manifestations of corruption activities. It is worth of noting that number of those who have direct experience of facing corruption in the capital of Karachaevo-Cherkesia proved to be somewhat higher than in other North Caucasus republics. Thus, 91% of Cherkessk residents reported facing corruption while only 79% of residents in North Ossetian Vladikavkaz and 86% of residents in Dagestan’s capital Makhachkala reported that problem.
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Health system (49%), law enforcement agencies (43%) and education sphere (31%) were indicated by the respondents in Cherkessk as the most corrupted structures in Karachaevo-Cherkesia. Interestingly, the same institutions were mentioned among the most corrupted by respondents in other North Caucasus capitals during the previous polls. Interesting feature of Karachaevo-Cherkesia is the fact that many respondents while talking about law enforcement agencies pointed out that traffic police is the most corrupted branch of republican police. In view of the respondents, republican traffic police officers are more likely to take bribes than traffic police in neighboring Russia’s regions.
In respondents’ view, corruption in education sphere is manifested mostly in wide spread practice of giving bribes for positive results of state exams in schools and for school medals. Giving various gifts to teachers and lecturers is also considered by respondents as a form of corruption. Apart from health system, law enforcement agencies and education, Cherkessk residents consider that the most corrupted structures also include court system (21%), social security system (18%) and tax system (11%). 6% of respondents reported difficulties in answering this question.
Poll results indicate that overwhelming majority of respondents in Cherkessk (91%) have direct personal experience of facing different forms of corruption while only 9% reported that they did not encounter any corruption practices. Most of those polled (41%) said they faced different cases of corruption in health system; 37% – in law enforcement agencies and 22% – in education sphere. In addition, 15% encountered corruption in courts, 7% – in social security system and 6% – in tax system. 7% found in hard to answer this question.
Another interesting feature of Cherkessk which makes it different from other North Caucasus capitals is the fact that while judging changes in level of corruption in Karachaevo-Cherkesia during recent years more than one third of respondents (39%) reported difficulties in answering this question. In other North Caucasus republics number of those who could not answer that question was significantly lower while most respondents indicated rise in corruption. Thus, during the recent poll in North Ossetian Vladikavkaz 19% noticed that scale of corruption in their republic did not change, 41% felt that it increased and 30% – “rather increased”. Among Cherkessk residents, 11% believe scale of corruption in their republic did not change while 10% felt it increased and 13% – “rather increased”. Overall number of optimists (27%) turned out to be slightly higher than number of pessimists (23%). It should be noted that unlike people in Cherkessk, residents in the capitals of other North Caucasus republics tend to be more negative in their judgments of changes in corruption situation in their republics in recent years.
One-third of all respondents (33%) reported difficulties while responding to a question about possible changes in scale of corruption in Karachaevo-Cherkesia in the coming years. Almost one-third of respondents (29%) were rather pessimistic saying that level of corruption in Karachaevo-Cherkesia in the coming years will “rather increase”. 8% of respondents thought that corruption is going to increase. Only 6% of those polled think that corruption in their republic will decrease and 9% – «rather decrease”. 15% are certain that level of corruption will remain the same. Overall number of pessimists who anticipate that corruption in their republic will increase or “rather increase” (37%) proved to be substantially higher than number of optimists (15%) who hopes that corruption is going to decrease or “rather decrease”.
Respondents’ reaction to a question about what is major source of corruption in Karachaevo-Cherkesia revealed substantial differences between residents of Cherkessk and residents of other North Caucasus republics. Thus, most Cherkessk residents (54%) consider federal authorities to be major source of corruption while only 46% indicated local authorities as major source of corruption. Unlike Cherkessk residents, population of other North Caucasus capitals tends to see main source of corruption mostly in the local authorities. Thus, 81% of North Ossetian Vladikavkaz residents think that federal authorities represent major corruption source.
Cherkessk respondents’ reaction to a question about their attitudes towards the policy of the federal center also revealed serious differences between people in Karachaevo-Cherkesia and other North Caucasus republics. Major difference is that people in Cherkessk proved to be much more positive about federal policy than people in other North Caucasus republics. Thus, more than half of Cherkessk respondents (58%) were generally positive about the policy of federal center; and among them 35% evaluated federal policy positively and 23% – “rather positively”. 37% of those polled are generally critical about the policy of federal center; among them 19% judged federal policy “rather negatively” and 18% – negatively. 5% reported difficulties in answering that question.
One of possible reasons explaining quite positive attitudes of Cherkessk residents towards federal policy can be recent change of republican leadership initiated by Moscow. As a result of that change, former unpopular republican president M. Batdyev, whose son in law was involved in criminal activities, was replaced by E. Ebzeev who is still quite popular among population.
It is worth of noting that during the previous opinion poll in Vladikavkaz general number of those critical about Kremlin policy in the North Caucasus was 58%, which was much higher than number of those with positive attitudes towards federal policy (28%).
Responses to a question on the most urgent problems currently facing Karachaevo-Cherkesia showed similarity of people in Cherkessk with people in other North Caucasus regions. Among the most important problems Cherkessk residents indicated problems of social and economic nature, among them unemployment (58%), corruption (37%) and social insecurity (16%). People in other North Caucasus republics also mentioned those problems among the most urgent.