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Two years ago, a long process of growing authoritarianism and isolationism under President Vladimir Putin culminated in Russia's annexation of Crimea. But even as much of the international community condemned the move, Russians seemed to welcome it. Indeed, the peninsula's "return" to Russian control had a profound effect on public sentiment – one that seems to have strengthened Putin's grip on power, even as Russia faces deepening political and economic challenges. In March 2016, 83 percent of Russians supported the annexation of Crimea, while only 13 percent opposed it. Even progressives – including some who protested against the regime in Moscow's Bolotnaya Square in 2011-13 – have found in Crimea a reason to support Putin, albeit with some reservations. Indeed, Putin now enjoys an 80 percent approval rating, reflecting how closely he and Crimea are linked in Russians' minds.For most Russians, Crimea remains part of the "empire," both culturally and geographically.In fact, the main reason the majority of Russians support the annexation of Crimea seems to be precisely that: The majority of Russians support it.As if that were not counterintuitive enough, Russians also seem to be supporting the Putin regime's economic mismanagement precisely because their economic situation is so dire.
What Russians are protesting about
Putin’s art of the purge brings back memories
Will the Kerch blockade make Putin great again?
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