In the years following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, the average Russian saw most domestic events, including social and economic problems, as part of the new normal. Even extraordinary aspects like Western sanctions were perceived as routine. Now something similar has happened with perceptions of war. Since at least 2014 (and, possibly, since the Russia-Georgia war in 2008), war has been a distant backdrop to ordinary life: Crimea, Donbas, Syria, mercenary armies, hypersonic weapons, and, most recently, a peacekeeping mission in Kazakhstan.
Our research has shown that Russians do not consider such limited military operations to be “real wars.” These events bear no relation to everyday life. Soldiers may lose their lives, but that is seen as part of the occupational risk. The army has gradually overtaken the presidency as the most trusted Russian institution, and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has long been the most popular minister, second only to President Vladimir Putin.