What explains receptivity of citizens in the post-communist world to Russian influence? popular attitudes in Central and Eastern Europe about Russia's role in the world and seeks to find answers to the question: does ideology or economic factors most influence support for Russia in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe? We use survey data from the Pew Research Center (2017) to assess the drivers for popular support of Russia. We find that the primary driver of individual-level support of Russia is political attitudes associated with the Far Right, but that this relationship also varies by country.

INTRODUCTION

Much was expected from the Visegrád group of Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland after the Cold War with respect to adopting democracy, the rule of law, market capitalism, and limited corruption. Nearly 30 years later there have arguably been democratic reversals in the region, with the rise of neo-authoritarian regimes in Hungary and the emergence of populist right-wing regimes in the Czech Republic and Poland. Most alarming perhaps is the growing influence of Russia in the countries that formerly constituted the communist world. As Ivan Krastev (2015) noted in an article in the New York Times:

It was only a decade ago that Central Europe, in the American imagination, was Donald Rumsfeld's “New Europe,” a collection of freedom-loving, heroic small nations—and America's most loyal allies. Washington ushered them into NATO as a bulwark against Middle Eastern instability and Russian expansionism. Today, however, that perception has changed. Many fear that a number of these plucky, strategically vital states have become Moscow's Trojan horses in the Western alliances.

What explains this receptivity of citizens in the post-communist world to Russian influence? This paper explores popular attitudes in Central and Eastern Europe about Russia's role in the world. Specifically, it examines whether attitudes about Russia are primarily influenced by economic or ideological considerations. In other words, does ideology or economic factors most influence support for Russia in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe? Although some secondary literature has noted growing support for Russia in post-communist Eastern Europe (Benkova, 2018; Conley et al., 2016), there has been little in the way of empirical works to examine the sources of such support across the post-communist space. In this paper, we use survey data from the Pew Research Center (2017) to assess the primary drivers for popular support for Russia in Central and Eastern Europe.

In sum, we find that, in support of much of the literature that suggests an affinity between the European Far Right and Russia, the primary driver of individual-level support of Russia is political attitudes associated with the Far Right. However, we also find that the level of Far Right support for Russia varies by country, and that in some cases Far Right attitudes correlate with support for Russia, and in other cases there is no relationship. This suggests that the Far Right individual's support of Russia depends on the country's historical relationship with this country.

In the following sections we outline the literature review, illustrate our empirical approach, and present the results of our analysis.

LITERATURE REVIEW

As several scholars have noted, there has emerged a fundamental reorientation of the relations between Russia and the West, as well as Russia's relations with the former Soviet states and its former satellites (McFaul, 2014; Daalder, 2017). Part of this reorientation is the growing Russian influence in the former Eastern Bloc in recent years, particularly after the ascendency to the Russian presidency by Vladimir Putin (Shekhovtsov, 2018; Benkova, 2018; Conley et al., 2016; Polyakova, 2016). Russia uses various methods to deepen its influence in the region, such as comprehensive disinformation campaigns in the media (Wenerski, 2017), reaching out to Far Right parties (Shekhovtsov, 2018; Lendvai, 2017; Polyakova, 2016; Laruelle, 2015; Orenstein 2014), creating closer economic ties with countries in the area (Szabó, 2018; Pethő and Szabó, 2018; Benkova, 2018; Conley et al., 2016; Hegedűs, 2016; Than, 2015), and waging a campaign against liberalism (Balogh et al., 2018; Liik, 2018; Lendvai, 2017; Krasztev 2015). These efforts appear to have served to influence public opinion in the region, relative to Russia, and have resulted in generally more positive views of Russia as a counterbalance to the West (Pew, 2017; Krastev, 2015). In particular, as Shekhovtsov (2018) and Polyakova (2016) have noted, Russia has sought to connect with Far Right political forces in Europe in order to gain leverage on European politics and undermine the liberal-democratic consensus in the West.

What motivates this receptivity to Russia in post-communist Eastern Europe? In general, there are two different kinds of explanations for the attraction of Russia for the countries in the region. First, there is the economic explanation, which largely focuses on the economic leverage Russia has over countries in the region, particularly in terms of energy dependence. From this perspective, citizens realize, pragmatically, that Russia represents an important economic partner for many countries in the region. Second, there is the ideological affinity explanation that exists independently of economic considerations. From this perspective, the attractiveness of Russia is largely motivated by the idealization of Putin and Putinism as a defender against corrupt Western values and ethno-nationalism, and an upholder of tradition. Although political leaders like Viktor Orbán tend to combine the two in justifying closer association with Russia, the question is what individual citizens think. What makes Russia attractive to them?

One economic argument is that economic dependence (especially energy dependence) compels the countries of Eastern Europe to approach Russia positively. Indeed, a common theme among all the states in the region is their energy dependence on Russia and the need to develop close economic connections as a result of this dependence. For instance, in Hungary the Fidesz government insists that “an eastward turn promises new material opportunities and markets for Hungarian firms” (Laruelle, 2015, p. 185). Péter Szijjártó, former Undersecretary of Foreign and Economic Relations, states that the Hungarian opening to the East rests on four pillars, which are the following: (1) building close ties with the Far East—especially China; (2) strengthening close cooperation with countries such as Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan based on relevant trade strategies; (3) paying more attention to trade with the Arab world; and (4) concentrating on the Western Balkans (Laruelle, 2015, p. 185).

Russian policy toward Central and Eastern European countries depends on the individual country's level of economic and energy dependence on Russia, and this in exchange contributes to various degrees of vulnerability toward Russian influence (Benkova, 2018). The Vulnerability Index data are developed by the GLOBSEC Policy Institute, and they are based on social and political indicators gathered in the region. According to the data, Hungary is considered the most vulnerable country to Russian influence with 57 points out of 100. Experts argue that much of the country's vulnerability can be attributed to its pragmatic stance to “secure cheap energy” (Benkova, 2018; Than, 2015). Poland is the least vulnerable country, receiving a score of 30 out of 100 (Benkova, 2018). Polish society has the most pro-Western orientation and holds mostly anti-Russian views and favors sanctions against Russia. At the same time, Poland is highly dependent on Russian gas and to some extent on oil, and it is the 12th most important trading partner for Russia. The Czech Republic is the third most vulnerable of the Visegrád group, receiving a score of 38 out of 100. The country rejects a pro-Russian stance in general terms, and it has increased its fight against Russian disinformation (Benkova, 2018). Slovakia is the second most vulnerable country to Russian influence, receiving a score of 51 out of 100. The Slovak public for the most part “has traditionally had a relatively greater affinity toward Russia than any of their neighbors” (Benkova, 2018, p. 13). The behavior of the country's elite is similarly positive toward Russian foreign policy, and Slovakia is highly dependent on Russia for energy.

The current Hungarian government's policy of keleti nyitás, or “Eastern Opening,” is instructive in this regard and it involves the development of closer economic ties with Russia. In 2010, in a speech to the Hungarian Permanent Conference, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stated that “we are sailing under the Western flag, but in world economy an Eastern wind blows,” implying that while Hungary belongs to the West in many ways, the country needs to take advantage of the economic opportunities the East has to offer (cited in Laruelle, 2015, p. 184).1 This outlook of Eastern Opening has especially materialized with respect to Hungary's closer economic relations with Russia in recent years. For example, in January 2014, about two months before Russia's annexation of the Crimea, the Hungarian government signed an agreement with Rosatom (Russian state nuclear energy corporation) regarding the construction of two reactors at the Paks nuclear power plant in central Hungary (Hegedűs, 2016). Public discussion about the deal was practically absent, and much of the important detail was classified information. In addition to the nuclear energy deal, other economic interactions between the two countries included the MET gas trading scheme, modernization of the M3 line of the Budapest metro, and the recent Russian expansion into the financial sector of Hungary (Szabó, 2018).

The second attraction of Russia is the model of illiberalism that it represents. Polyakova (2016, p. 1) suggests that Euroskepticism (which includes both the rejection of EU institutions and concerns over the loss of national sovereignty and cultural “dilution” that the integration process has produced) “feeds into Putin's anti-Westernism as the master frame driving the far right–Putinist agenda.” Further, social conservativism supports this Euroskeptic and anti-Western frame, particularly the idea that Russia represents a bulwark against Western cultural corruption and the defense of “Christendom.” This appeal has resonated throughout Europe. The fear of national identities under threat and the dangers of migration has propelled many Far Right supporters from France to Italy to Hungary to view the Kremlin's focus on traditional values that Putin is a champion of the nativist ethno-nationalist movement.

This dynamic, whereby anti-liberalism and social conservativism have enhanced the attractiveness of Russia and “Putinism,” is illustrated by the case of Hungary. Paul Lendvai, in Orbán: Europe's New Strongman (2017), traces the rise of the Hungarian leader, Victor Orbán, and his party, the Alliance of Young Democrats, or FIDESZ, to the top of Hungarian politics and their plot to destroy the liberal order. The author, himself of Hungarian origin, provides a well-researched and high-quality account of a virtually patron-client system that Hungarian politics has come to evolve into during the past few years. In this book, we get a complete and sobering picture of a leader and his era, who has created the “Hungarian model of Eastern Europe” that other Central European leaders have been emulating (Lendvai, 2017, p. 199). Ultimately, with his anti-immigration rhetoric, Orbán was able to pull together the former satellite nations and to oppose the European Union regarding migration policy. And onto the bandwagon did the rest of these countries jump.

In hindsight, Orbán's reaction to the massive flow of refugees that summer was likely the result of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in January 2015, after which Orbán participated in the solidarity march in Paris, along with other world leaders. Shortly after, he decided that Hungary will not allow any immigrant to enter the country. In this sense, it seems that the reaction of xenophobia was motivated by safety and demonstrating strength, although Lendvai interprets it more as a political strategy to hold on to political power. There is an even stronger argument made by the author, which emphasizes Orbán's resolve to attack the liberals head on. At a FIDESZ meeting later that year, Orbán told his audience that the refugee crisis had created “the first good identity crisis” that has the potential to destroy the “hypocritical” liberals (Lendvai, 2017, p. 201).

The current FIDESZ-heavy Hungarian leadership, especially Victor Orbán, has a long-term hatred for liberal politicians going back to the 1990s. Lendvai juxtaposes this conflict between early FIDESZ and older liberal political parties (Lendvai, 2017, p. 28). Given the different social background of the two groups, the Alliance of Young Democrats (FIDESZ) practically developed “an aversion fed by inferiority complexes” (Lendvai, 2017, p. 29). The Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) were mainly urban, left-wing intellectuals, “philosophers, sociologists, economists, who had broken with Marxism and often came from ex-communist, bourgeois, sometimes Jewish families. They were well read, open to the world and fluent in foreign languages, in contrast to the first generation of FIDESZ intellectuals, who were mostly from a rural or small-town background,” and were mainly lawyers by trade.

Thus, ideological affinity may attract the countries of Eastern Europe to Russia, particularly the ideology of the Far Right—extreme nationalism, coupled with anti-foreign and anti-democratic tendencies, all of which are modeled by Russia (Mankoff, 2012). Indeed, in many ways, Russia represents an alternative ideological model of illiberal autocracy as a competitive vision of a new world order in opposition to the current liberal world order (Lo, 2015; Wilson, 2014, p. 69). For instance, in a speech in Romania in July 2014, Victor Orbán emphasized his rejection of liberal democracy and his intention to establish an illiberal state, while he also called Russia a “shining example of success” along with Turkey and China (Lendvai, 2017, p. 141). The concept of “illiberal democracy” was originally coined by the public intellectual and journalist Fared Zakaria; however, the Hungarian prime minister has made it his political model, and it is being adopted by other Visegrád states as well. Illiberal democracy as a model and the rejection of the current world order thus have been gaining traction in Central Europe, mainly as a reaction to powerful international institutions, such as the European Union (EU). Even though the terminology contains the word “democracy,” Hungary and Orbán's admired states have been gradually becoming less and less democratic over time. Indeed, Ted Galen Carpenter argues that the populist nationalist countries of Turkey, Russia, and Hungary have many autocratic elements in common. Such countries have been gradually “consolidating power in the hands of a single leader”; there is a trend “toward authoritarian governance and the undermining of the free press, outright harassment of opposition parties and other regime opponents, open hostility towards immigrants, and the invocation of a shrill, intolerant patriotism” (Carpenter, 2017, p. 33).

Although both economic attraction and ideological affinity may work in tandem to explain levels of support for Russia in post-communist Eastern Europe, these arguments, largely based on individual cases or impressionistic evidence, have rarely been empirically tested. In part, this is because there has been relatively little in the way of attitudinal survey data that have assessed attitudes about Russia region wide. Fortunately, the Pew Foundation (Pew Research Center, 2017) has produced a useful (albeit only cross-sectional) data set that directly examined citizens' attitudes about Russia's role relative to the West. Based on this data, in the following section we examine which of the two explanations better accounts for differences among individuals in Eastern Europe with regard to their attitudes vis-à-vis Russia.

DESIGN, METHODOLOGY, AND EMPIRICAL RESULTS

As suggested above, there are two contending hypotheses that might explain individual affinity toward Russia in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe—ideological affinity and economic attraction. To test these hypotheses, the data employed for this study were taken primarily from the Pew Research Center's (2017) project “Religious Belief and National Belonging in Central and Eastern Europe.” The data for this project were collected from 2015–16, and a variety of questions were asked to more than 30,000 respondents in post-communist Europe and the former Soviet Union.

The dependent variable for this project, “support for Russia,” was measured by the question that appeared on the survey (Q67b. “Please tell me if you completely agree, mostly agree, mostly disagree or completely disagree with the following statements: A strong Russia is necessary to balance the influence of the West.”). This measure captures the idea that Russia is attractive in order to stave off the association with the West (which has been a major theme of the Far Right in Europe). The variable was recoded into a dichotomous measure, where “completely agree” and “mostly agree” were coded as “1” and “otherwise” as “0.” In addition, a set of individual-level and country-level variables were included in the analysis as listed in table 1.

TABLE 1.

Measures of independent variables

VariableMeasureSource(s)
Individual Level   
Extreme right Composite measure of three recoded variables:
Q12 Democracy is not preferred
Q60c Would not want Muslims as citizens of my country
Q67e. Our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior to that of others
Measure ranges from 0 to 3 with highest score most sympathetic to extreme right ideology 
Pew Research Center (2017) “Religious Belief and National Belonging in Central and Eastern Europe” http://www.pewforum.org/2017/05/10/religious-belief-and-national-belonging-in-central-and-eastern-europe/ 
Satisfaction with the way things are going in the country Q1 Overall, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in our country today? 1 Satisfied 2 Dissatisfied Pew Research Center (2017) “Religious Belief and National Belonging in Central and Eastern Europe” http://www.pewforum.org/2017/05/10/religious-belief-and-national-belonging-in-central-and-eastern-europe/ 
Condition of the country's economy Q2 Thinking about our country's economic situation, how would you describe it—is it very good, somewhat good, somewhat bad, or very bad? 1 Very good 2 Somewhat good 3 Somewhat bad 4 Very bad Pew Research Center (2017)  
Gender QGEN (0 = Male, 1 = Female) Pew Research Center (2017)  
Age QAGE How old were you at your last birthday? [IN YEARS] Pew Research Center (2017)  
Years of education QEDU2 In total, how many years of schooling or education have you completed? Please include the years you spent in school. Pew Research Center (2017)  
Country Level   
Does the country share a border with Russia? Shared border with Russia dummy (0 = no border, 1 = shared border) Authors' estimation 
Percentage gas dependence on Russian imports Percentage of gas imports from Russia Jones, Dufour, and Gaventa (2015) Europe's declining gas demand: Trends and facts on European gas consumption 
VariableMeasureSource(s)
Individual Level   
Extreme right Composite measure of three recoded variables:
Q12 Democracy is not preferred
Q60c Would not want Muslims as citizens of my country
Q67e. Our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior to that of others
Measure ranges from 0 to 3 with highest score most sympathetic to extreme right ideology 
Pew Research Center (2017) “Religious Belief and National Belonging in Central and Eastern Europe” http://www.pewforum.org/2017/05/10/religious-belief-and-national-belonging-in-central-and-eastern-europe/ 
Satisfaction with the way things are going in the country Q1 Overall, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in our country today? 1 Satisfied 2 Dissatisfied Pew Research Center (2017) “Religious Belief and National Belonging in Central and Eastern Europe” http://www.pewforum.org/2017/05/10/religious-belief-and-national-belonging-in-central-and-eastern-europe/ 
Condition of the country's economy Q2 Thinking about our country's economic situation, how would you describe it—is it very good, somewhat good, somewhat bad, or very bad? 1 Very good 2 Somewhat good 3 Somewhat bad 4 Very bad Pew Research Center (2017)  
Gender QGEN (0 = Male, 1 = Female) Pew Research Center (2017)  
Age QAGE How old were you at your last birthday? [IN YEARS] Pew Research Center (2017)  
Years of education QEDU2 In total, how many years of schooling or education have you completed? Please include the years you spent in school. Pew Research Center (2017)  
Country Level   
Does the country share a border with Russia? Shared border with Russia dummy (0 = no border, 1 = shared border) Authors' estimation 
Percentage gas dependence on Russian imports Percentage of gas imports from Russia Jones, Dufour, and Gaventa (2015) Europe's declining gas demand: Trends and facts on European gas consumption 

To assess the impact of economic factors on attitudes toward Russia, three variables were selected—two individual-level measures and a state-level measure. These included, at the individual level, a question about the respondent's “satisfaction with the way things are going in the country” (q1) as well as the individual respondent's assessment of the “condition of the country's economy” (q2). At the country level, to assess economic “pull” influences, we use dependence on Russian gas imports as an important variable indicating economic links between the country and Russia (Jones, Dufour & Gaventa 2015).

As far as the measurement of ideological orientation is concerned, this was primarily measured at the individual level, which was calculated based on a composite of three recoded variables (as listed in table 1). The measure “extreme right” reflected individuals who did not believe democracy was the most preferred political option (suggesting support for authoritarianism), intolerance of “others” (proxied by a question regarding Muslims as acceptable citizens in a country), and high levels of national pride (indicated by a question that asked respondents if they believed that their country's culture was superior to that of others). A Cronbach's Alpha score of .73 indicated that the three items tended to load together, suggesting that they collectively measured an underlying common dimension that we think is indicative of Far Right support. We calculated a simple additive index of the three items, ranging from 0 to 3, where the high score represented most support for a Far Right ideological orientation.

In addition to these variables, we include individual-level controls for age, education, and gender, as well as a country-level control variable as to whether the country shared a border with Russia (for description, see table 1).

In order to evaluate the independent and country-level variables that affect individual respondents' positive attitudes toward Russian assertion of power, we examined a multivariate explanatory model. Table 2 reports the results of a mixed-effects logistic regression analysis that takes into account the “nested” nature of the data—that is, the fact that individual respondents operate within national contexts. In addition, we use robust clustered standard errors by country.

TABLE 2.

Mixed-effects logit results, support for Russia as counterbalance to West

VariableOdds Ratio (robust clustered standard errors)
Individual level  
Extreme right 1.439*** (.062) 
Satisfaction with the way things are going in the country 1.000 (.001) 
Condition of the country's economy 1.003 (.001) 
Gender .952 (.006) 
Age 1.005*** (.002) 
Education 1.000 (.002) 
Country Level  
Shared border with Russia .462* (.002) 
Gas dependence on Russia .991* (.003) 
  
N = 19,466 (17 countries) * = p ≤.05 
 Log pseudolikelihood = −12,215.594 ** = p ≤.01 
 Pseudo R-square = .07 *** = p ≤.001 
VariableOdds Ratio (robust clustered standard errors)
Individual level  
Extreme right 1.439*** (.062) 
Satisfaction with the way things are going in the country 1.000 (.001) 
Condition of the country's economy 1.003 (.001) 
Gender .952 (.006) 
Age 1.005*** (.002) 
Education 1.000 (.002) 
Country Level  
Shared border with Russia .462* (.002) 
Gas dependence on Russia .991* (.003) 
  
N = 19,466 (17 countries) * = p ≤.05 
 Log pseudolikelihood = −12,215.594 ** = p ≤.01 
 Pseudo R-square = .07 *** = p ≤.001 
Sources for data: Pew Research Center (2017); Jones, Dufour, and Gaventa (2015); authors' compilation.

Table 2 reports the logistic regression results, using odds ratios rather than coefficients. Odds ratios are interpreted differently than general coefficients. When an odds ratio is larger than 1, this indicates the percent increase in the dependent variable; when the odds ratio is smaller than 1, this indicates the percent decrease in the dependent variable. This allows for easier interpretation when compared to coefficients.

The results reported in table 2 clearly indicate greater support for the ideological affinity hypothesis. Individuals who believe that authoritarian alternatives to democracy are attractive, who are intolerant of “the other,” and who are nationalist also are more likely to believe that Russia plays a positive role in balancing the influence of the West. Indeed, for every one-point increase in our measure of “extreme right,” there is a 43% increased likelihood that the individual respondent believes that Russia plays a positive role. This result empirically supports much of the literature about the Far Right's affinity for Russia, at least at the individual level. Individuals who express Far Right attitudes are much more likely to view Russia's role in countering the West positively.

However, is this relationship at the individual level reflected at the national level? Are countries that have higher levels of support for the Far Right more likely, in the aggregate, to have more respondents who express pro-Russian sentiments? Figure 1 illustrates the rank order by country in terms of the percent of respondents who said that a strong Russia is necessary, compared to the percent of respondents who expressed Far Right sentiments. The graphic shows no clear relationship between the two dimensions. In some cases, support for Russia is very strong, and a significant proportion of respondents expressed Far Right sentiments (Armenia and Belarus). However, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Bosnia, Bulgaria, and Moldova, all of which expressed relatively high support for Russia in the aggregate, have either mid-levels of support, at about 10% of the respondents (Serbia, Bulgaria, and Moldova) or very low support for the Far Right (Kazakhstan and Bosnia). Although support for Russia is generally lower in East Central Europe and the Baltic States, some of these states rank higher on support for the Far Right (Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, and Poland) and some lower (Lithuania and Estonia). Figure 2 also graphically suggests that there is little in the way of a relationship, at the aggregate level, between pro-Russian sentiments and Far Right sentiments.

FIGURE 1.

Percent of respondents who think a strong Russia is necessary and who express Far Right sympathies.

FIGURE 1.

Percent of respondents who think a strong Russia is necessary and who express Far Right sympathies.

FIGURE 2.

Scatterplot percent respondents who believe a strong Russia is necessary by percent of respondents who hold Far Right sympathies.

FIGURE 2.

Scatterplot percent respondents who believe a strong Russia is necessary by percent of respondents who hold Far Right sympathies.

These results suggest, at both the individual and aggregate levels, that although one may speak of Far Right sentiments correlating with pro-Russian sentiments, the results do not indicate that publics that are more inclined toward the Far Right are necessarily inclined to be supportive of Russia. In other words, this highly touted relationship in the literature really varies by country. It is likely the case that some Far Right supporters are supportive of Russia (as in Armenia, for instance) but not in others (such as Poland). Thus, despite the recently emphasized relationship between the Far Right and pro-Russian sentiments, this relationship varies by different countries, and whether Far Right supporters are also pro-Russia may depend heavily on national histories, particularly historical relations with Russia.

On the other hand, what is clear is that there is much less support for the economic arguments. Although there is no variable that measures an individual's own economic fortunes, two variables (“Satisfaction with the way things are going in the country” and the “Condition of the country's economy,” both sociotropic evaluations of the economy) are generally unrelated to perceiving that Russia plays a positive role. At the country level, gas dependence in fact reduces the likelihood of perceiving that Russia plays a positive role, contrary to what we might have expected if the economic argument was supported (albeit by a very small magnitude—9/10ths of one percent). Interestingly, older people are more likely to perceive Russia as playing a positive role, whereas gender and level of education have no discernible effect. However, a shared border with Russia makes individual perceptions of Russia more negative (in part because Russia may be perceived as a bigger direct security threat to such countries).

Thus, in sum, our results tend to support the ideological affinity hypothesis more than the economic attraction hypothesis in explaining support for Russia among individuals in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe.

CONCLUSION

This paper is an attempt to empirically examine the forces that affect perceptions about Russia among individuals in the post-communist space. We found that, when considering economic versus ideological explanations, ideological affinity explained support for Russia better than did individual- and country-level economic factors (such as a country's energy dependence or how well the individual respondent saw the state of the country's economy). These findings suggest that ideological factors, quite independently of economic ones, explain the attraction of Russia. Individuals who share Far Right political inclinations (illiberalism, extreme nationalism, and anti-foreigner) are far more likely to view Russia's role in the world positively, when compared to those who don't share these inclinations. Thus, it is less about the economic attraction of Russia, as the illiberalism that Russia represents makes it an attraction to politicians like Orbán and his followers. Indeed, what may fuel this attraction for Russia is much more about cultural identity threat, and blatant racism, than it is about economic attraction and the “Eastern way.”

However, in the aggregate, whether individuals with Far Right sympathies favor a strong Russia clearly varies by country. Thus, whether Russia's demonstrated support for the Far Right in post-communist Europe, and for Europe more generally, translates into the shifting of orientations of countries toward a more positive view of Russia, largely depends on individual national conditions. In other words, Far Right support is likely conditional and not as universal as is often suggested in the existing literature.

Note

1.

The Hungarian Permanent Conference is an institution that concerns itself with Hungarian minorities in neighboring states.

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