When asked to choose between lower wages, new tax hikes, pension freezes or abstaining from Western food, most Russians said they would rather give up French cheese, Spanish ham and American Hershey bars if given the choice. In all, nearly 80 percent of Russians polled said they would give up Western foodstuffs to help shore up Russia's struggling economy, according to the survey results released Wednesday by the Sociology Institute of Russia's Academy of Sciences.
Nearly 55 percent of those polled said they would be willing to turn down tourist and business trips to the U.S. and Europe, and 51 percent said they could refuse to keep their money in foreign currency. In contrast, only about 10 percent of the respondents said they would support lower wages or a pension freeze. A mere 12 percent backed tax hikes, according to the Russian News Agency ITAR-TASS. The poll of 4,000 adults across Russia was conducted in November 2014.
Russian leaders insisted last week that Russians were prepared to make any sacrifice to wait out the tumbling economy amid Western sanctions against Russia over President Vladimir Putin's support for anti-government rebels in Ukraine. "Read our history: The Russians will never give up their leader. We will tighten our belt, eat less food, suffer any privations, but if outsiders want to force changes on us, we will be united as never before," said Igor Shuvalov, the deputy prime minister.
Consumers are facing food shortages as prices have soared for staples such as fish, fruit and imported cheeses, according to USA Today. "I was at the market, you can already see there's no Polish apples, and prices for berries have (gone up)," said Vladlen Maksimov, head of the Inter-regional Union of Entrepreneurs, a Russian group that includes small businesses and retailers.
Last year, Russia imposed a food ban on most Western imports of produce, meat, fish and dairy in retaliation for the sanctions brought against the country by the European Union and U.S. "The West doesn't have to feed Russia; Russia can grow food for itself," Ivan Alexeyevich, 65, told NPR at the time. "Take the Soviet times: Everything was Soviet, everyone ate Soviet, Russia didn't depend on the West — so there's nothing to worry about."