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The results of the public opinion poll..

The results of the public opinion poll concerning the use and protection of tne forests of Karelia

In November-December 1999 certain governmental newspapers in the Russian Federation and Karelia (Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Russian Newspaper) and Severniy Kurier (Northern Herald)) published a series of articles, accusing non-governmental environmental organizations of destruction of the forestry complex in Karelia, as well as of activities, affecting the interests of the local population. Greenpeace was one of the main offenders. That's why Greenpeace Russia initiated an opinion poll among Karelian people to find out what they think of the current situation in the Republic's forestry complex, activities of the Greens in Russia, State forestry bodies and foreign wood logging companies. We also wanted to find out what the people consider as main causes of the crisis in the Karelian forestry. The poll itself was carried out by the Karelian Students Environmental Protection Organization.

The poll took place on January 15 - February 10, 2000 in 48 Karelian cities and towns. Total of 2,338 people participated in the poll, including 725 in Petrozavodsk, 321 in Kostomuksha, 187 in Medvezhiegorsk, 74 in Kondapoga, 149 in Pitkjaranta, 131 in Pjaozjorskiy, 60 in Segezh, 74 in Sortavala, 76 in Suojarvi, 31 in Yushkozer and 510 people in small settlements all over Karelia. We asked Karelian people our questions right at the places they live (75% of respondents) or right in the street, in public traffic and other public places (25% of respondents). The respondents have been divided by age categories in the following way: 20 years old and younger - 11.9%, 21 to 40 - 39.8%, 41-60 - 37.7%, 61 and older - 10.6%. The share of workers of the forestry complex was 10.9% of the total amount of respondents, including 1.5% of those from local units of the Federal Forestry Service and forest (range) districts; wood logging enterprises - 5.4%, wood working enterprises of the forestry complex - 4.0%. Such a division more or less corresponds to distribution of people among different categories of residential areas, age and employment.

Each respondent was given a questionnaire to fill out. The questionnaire consisted of 10 questions (excluding those, identifying the respondent). Each question had a list of possible answers, including "other" and "no opinion" variants. All questions, except the one about the causes of the crisis in the forestry complex, required only one answer. If a questionnaire had two or more answers given to such questions, or there was no answer at all, while processing, we considered this as equal to the "no opinion" variant. How do you assess the present state of the forestry complex in Karelia?

Karelia Petrozavodsk Karelia
without Petrozavodsk
normal, the forestry complex is developing steadily
normal, but it is getting worse with time 12,4%8,8%14,0%
in crisis, but a gradual rehabilitation
can be observed
in crisis and without any significant changes 22,8%24,7%21,9%
in crisis and it is getting worse30,1%29,3%30,4%
no opinion10,6%14,9%8,6%

There is nothing unexpected in the way people answered this question. Only 16.8% of the respondents consider the current situation in the Karelian forestry complex as normal. The overwhelming majority of the respondents (52.9%) not only consider the present situation as not normal, but also point out that no tendencies for rehabilitation can be observed. This is especially important today when the volumes of logged wood have been constantly growing in the Republic since 1997. It means that this growth hardly influences the actual standard of living of the local population.

What causes of the crisis in the Karelia forestry complex do you consider most important?

It was possible to give several answers to this particular question, that's why the percentage of the answers significantly exceeds 100.

export of better wood abroad54,1%
Karelia is running out of its forest resources35,6%
general crisis of the Russian economy34,0%
lack of Governmental control over the forestry
complex enterprises
corruption among officials, responsible
for the forestry complex
the Government of Karelia runs the forestry complex
out-of-date wood logging and wood working equipment25,2%
the forestry complex enterprises have been privatized
by people who are not interested in their development
taxation system that hinders further development
of the industry
deliberate actions by foreign companies, aimed
at destruction of the forestry complex in Karelia
lack of highly qualified workers at the forestry
complex enterprises
too high fees on transportation of timber by rail7,9%
Green movement and, in particular, Greenpeace4,7%
a much too big area of protected natural areas
and water protection zones
old-growth areas logging moratorium of large companies2,0%
no opinion4,4%

So, despite all the efforts of the forest complex management in Karelia to accuse the Greens of the current crisis of the Republic's forest industry, only 4.7% of people, living in Karelia, consider the Greens as one of the causes of the crisis. The overwhelming majority of Karelian people think that the main cause of the crisis is export of better timber abroad, which is exactly the thing that the forest complex management have spent their efforts to for the last 10 years and that the Russian Greens have been basically working against.

It is especially important that only 2.4% of the respondents think that large protected areas and water protection zones are an important cause of the crisis (obviously, ordinary Karelian people better than the authorities understand how fictitious the majority of existing protected areas is). Refusal to buy timber from ancient forests by large companies - the moratorium in which forestry officials see the source of all their problems - was considered by the Karelian people as the last important cause of the crisis.

How do you assess the export of raw wood abroad?

rather positively than negatively3,5%
rather negatively than positively21,9%
no opinion5,1%

No comments to this point. Only 8.6% of the respondents positively or rather positively than negatively assess export of raw wood abroad. That's why we can say that doing its best to increase export of raw wood to the neighboring countries, the Karelian Government acts in counter to the opinion of the Karelian population majority.

Do you think it is necessary to restrict export of raw wood abroad,
imposing customs duties on export?

yes, it is necessary66,7%
no opinion15,5%

The decision the Russian Government took to increase rates of customs duties on raw wood was followed by an outburst of negative reaction on the part of the Karelian Government and forest industry. The bosses of the forest industry complex in Karelia claimed that such a decision had only one purpose - to rob Karelia's population. However, only 14.7% of the respondents shared this opinion, while the overwhelming majority think it necessary to take such a measure as restriction of raw wood export, imposing customs duties. Obviously, turning Karelia into a raw material republic gives more reasons to worry to its people than to its authorities.

How do you assess the activities of the Greens in Karelia?

all KareliaKostomuksha
rather positively than negatively11,8%15,0%
rather negatively than positively4,3%5,0%
no opinion15,0%13,1%

The answers to this question show whether Karelian people see the Green movement as good or bad thing. The majority of the respondents (54.1%) think positively or rather positively than negatively of the Greens despite the tough campaign against non-governmental environmental organizations in Karelian and Russian governmental mass media.

Separately, we give you the poll returns in Kostomuksha, around which largest areas of old-growth forest areas, suggested by non-governmental organizations for protection, are situated, including the Kalevalskiy forest. Here in 1996-1997 both Russian and international environmental organizations were especially active supporting conservation of unique forest areas. Here Karelia's largest forest, reserved for establishment of new specially protected natural areas, is also situated. Besides, Kostomuksha has one of the wood logging enterprises "that suffered from activities of the Greens the most" (as some newspapers have it): the Kostomuksha Timber Industry Enterprise.

The poll returns in Pjaozjorskiy are a little bit different, due to the fact that 56.5% of the respondents were forest industry workers and, besides, there has been a massive anti-Green campaign for the last three years there. Here about a half of the respondents think of Russian Greens negatively or rather negatively than positively.

On what, as you think, part of the felling and slash areas does the Forestry Service
restore valuable forests?

practically in all felling and slash areas4,9%
on more than a half of the felling and slash areas5,4%
on more than a quarter of the felling and slash areas4,8%
in some felling and slash areas24,6%
practically nowhere, felling and slash areas
are overgrown with everything that may
no opinion29,9%

The way people answered this question should make the Karelian law enforcement bodies think of what is going on in the Republic. According to official data, units of the Karelian Forest Committee restore forests in practically all felling and slash areas. The majority of Karelian people who know about all felling activities not from the papers think that valuable forests are restored only in some felling and slash areas or not restored at all. The only thing that is left for us to do is either to say that more than a half of Karelian people are not observant enough, or try to find out what the Karelian Forest Committee spends the money, allocated on reforestation activities.

What part of the Forestry Service workers in Karelia takes bribes,
illegally sells timber or is involved in any other illegal activities?

almost all11,5%
majority of them (more than a half)16,6%
most of them24,9%
some of them19,2%
none of them0,6%
no opinion25,9%

No special comments are necessary for this question. Only one thing to remember: if someone takes bribes, it means that someone offers it, if someone sells timber illegally, it means that someone is willing to buy it. As long as such a situation is fine with consumers of wood, there is no use hoping for serious changes in the forestry complex of Karelia.

Do you think that the Government of the Republic of Karelia should set water protection zones
along all the rivers, streams and round all lakes, regardless of their size?

no opinion12,4%

How often did you meet officers of the State Forest Service in forests (not at logging sites)
during the last two years?

very often, in fact every time I was in forest1,3%
I know nothing about this State Forest Service in Karelia4,6%
no opinion8,0%

So, the State Forest Service is something very difficult to encounter in Karelian forests (and, as a matter of fact, in all other Russian regions), inspite of the fact that the Federal Forestry Service of the Russian Federation is one of the largest managerial institutions and one of its functions is exactly protection of forests and the Karelian Forest Committee is not the smallest and weakest part in the structure of the Service.

Are the activities of foreign wood logging companies beneficial for the local population?

no opinion24,0%


Thus, the public opinion poll showed that the major forest officials of Karelia which state that the greens have destroyed the Karelian forest complex and have drawn the Republic to the poverty edge, do not express the general opinion of the Karelian citizens. In fact, Karelian officials just need to create an enemy to blame for their own mistakes and results of unskillful management under complicated economical conditions. But efforts of the unskillful leaders of disintegrating lespsomkhoses (forest industry management units) and bureaucratic semi-state holdings to write off the defects to the greens activity are in vain. Only a scanty part of Karelian citizens blames the greens for the forest complex crisis; the most part of the population is friendly to the greens. However, the officials' activity in transferring Karelia into the raw materials' Republic doesn't suit its population completely. While the forest leaders of Karelia selflessly strive for removing any obstacles for raw timber export (as they see the major obstacle in the greens of Russia and their ecological demands to the logging process of exported timber), the majority of Karelian citizens do not approve such export. While the most prominent officials declare that Karelia has been robbed by enlarging timber export duties, the majority of Karelian citizens consider it necessary to limit the raw timber export with the higher duties.

Just the same is the difference between the public and official leaders' opinion concerning the Forest Committee' activity. If the official statistics show permanent renewal of valuable forests after all cuttings and fires, the locals, not versed in official data, see only vast vacant lots slowly growing with birch and aspen stands were once forest stood. As for forest protection service, it exists only in forest officials' imagination.

Thus, in Karelia, as in many other regions, the Government with forestry leaders and the majority of common people live in parallel worlds. And the leaders get interested in public opinion results only during election campaigns.

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