Pedophiles, Vaccination, YouTube Blocking Caused Most Worries among Russians in Q3 2021

28 October

CROS released the results of the National Index of Anxieties for the third quarter of 2021. The research identifies and ranks the phobias and fears of Russians based on the analysis of the traditional and social media.

According to the overall evaluation of the traditional and social media in Q3, people in Russia were most worried about the new wave of Covid-19, mandatory vaccination and the rise in violent crimes (the shooting in Perm, crimes committed by maniacs and pedophiles).

At the same time, in terms of the importance for people (the Index of Phobia Experience*), mandatory vaccination came out on top for the second consecutive quarter, outstripping all other phobias by almost twice and reaching the index of 1.99. It is followed with a wide margin by new restrictions on the Internet (1.11) and a rise in violent crimes (0.9). Summer natural disasters (0.88) and food poisoning (0.85) were also ranked high. Interestingly, according to the Phobia Experience Index, the new Covid-19 wave got only the eighth place in the list (0.62).

The only pseudophobia in the last quarter was the aggravation of the situation in Afghanistan and the Taliban coming to power in the country (the Taliban is banned in the Russian Federation) (0.28). Despite the active discussion of this topic in the media, it did not cause any significant worries among social media users.

The ranking of phobias by their importance for people in the traditional and social media:

1. mandatory vaccination

2. new restrictions on the Internet

3. rise in violent crimes

4. natural disasters and their consequences

5. food poisoning

6. environmental disasters in Russian resorts

7. price inflation

8. Covid-19 new wave

9. phone / bank fraud

10. the Taliban seizing power in Afghanistan (the Taliban is banned in the Russian Federation)

“Coronavirus and vaccination remained the main drivers of anxiety for Russians in the third quarter. Interestingly, once again, worries about vaccination are stronger than fears of Covid-19. Apparently, people still do not have trust in vaccines, and this should be alarming, since it is already a systemic problem in communications between the government and society”, Andrey Lebedev, CROS head of analytics and a co-author of the research, commented. “The mass shooting in Perm and a number of other brutal crimes became an emotional shock for the country – people again acutely felt their insecurity, and the fact that the events in Perm took place several months after the shooting in a Kazan school added anxiety to public sentiment. Another interesting point is that we did not notice people’s concerns related to the State Duma elections and their results. On the one hand, this suggests that people have become less interested in politics, on the other hand, the high index of Phobia Experience about the new restrictions on the Internet suggests that people begin to worry about political issues only when they get affected personally", Andrey added.

“The fear of significant restrictions on the Internet, especially related to the popular Google services, is the one that is growing slowly but surely. Even retractions (that there are no plans to block services and websites) by Roskomnadzor, the communications watchdog, do not reduce the fears. People see that Google itself removes links to Russian outlets in search results, and the regulators have an idea to oblige digital companies to work through Russian representative offices in order to promptly fulfill orders to shut off sites or block content," Peter Kirian, CROS Director for Media Projects and a co-author of the research, said.

Top anxieties in terms of the importance for people

Mandatory vaccination

The main reason for the strengthening of this anxiety were the measures by regional authorities to introduce mandatory vaccination of certain categories of people and restrictions for the unvaccinated ones. In mid-July, against the backdrop of a surge in the Covid-19 incidence, the Press Secretary to the President of Russia Dmitry Peskov said that vaccination could become the single option.

These measures began to cause particular concern when they began to result in the suspension from work of employees in a number of industries if they refused to be vaccinated against coronavirus in the absence of contraindications.

Fear of long-term health consequences, disbelief in the effectiveness of vaccines, the presence of medical contraindications, and the presence of antibodies due to a recent illness continue to be listed among the most common reasons for not wanting to be vaccinated against Covid-19. According to a research by Action Medicine (published by Forbes), about 20% of Russian doctors did not recommend their patients to get vaccinated, explaining this by their distrust of Russian vaccines.

Strengthening of restrictions on the Internet

Several news stories on this topic immediately became the reasons for the growing people’s concern in connection with the strengthening of the Internet control and the possible termination of access to online services.

In September, there were reports of a possible blocking of Google Docs in Russia, which caused serious anxiety among social media users, even despite the subsequent retractions by the Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications. Also in September, social media users were alarmed by the information about the possible blocking of YouTube in Russia as a response to the blocking of Russia Today’s two German YouTube channels. Moreover, news of the blocking of two VPN services in Russia in July and six more in September contributed to the growing anxiety.

In July, Twitter's report on the removal of content after the request of the authorities of different countries caused certain resonance. In terms of the number of authorities’ requests for removal, Russia ranked third after Japan and India. It also became known that over the past two years Google had removed almost half a million links from its Russian search results.

Rise in violent crimes

Mass shooting at Perm State University, which claimed the lives of six people; the murder of two ten-year-old schoolgirls in Kiselevsk (Kemerovo region), the rape and murder of eight-year-old Nastya Muravyova in Tyumen, the murder of an elderly woman by migrants in the Moscow region, the detention of a man suspected of murdering a nine-year-old girl who disappeared in the Oryol region back in June – these tragic events shook the entire society and forced experts and common people to return to the discussion of security problems and the growth of violence.

The news about the murder of schoolgirls in the Kemerovo region have intensified the discussion on how to protect the society from pedophiles that got out of jail. There were calls for an extremely tougher punishment for crimes against children including the lifting of the moratorium on the death penalty. In mid-September, it became known that the United Russia party had submitted to the State Duma a bill on life imprisonment for pedophiles.


* The Index of Phobia Experience is a significant indicator of an issue’s relevance and significance and the depth of its discussion. It also allows to reveal pseudophobias, i.e. topics that are present in the traditional media, but are of little interest when discussed in social media.