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The continuing economic crisis in Russia has adversely affected the social situation in Kaliningrad oblast (real wages fell by around 10% in 2015 alone). The crisis has also brought about a deterioration of public sentiment manifested above all through dissatisfaction with the local socio-economic situation and freefalling evaluations of people’s own financial situation. This is reflected in the results of social surveys (for example, the percentage of those dissatisfied with the situation in the region increased by 12 percentage points between November 2014 and April 2015). Residents of the oblast also declare that they have noticed increased dissatisfaction with the government’s actions among the general public due to the increasing prices during the crisis. This has not lead to any outbreaks.For Kaliningrad Oblast, keeping a relatively open border with its neighbours is an important factor ameliorating social tension. This is a kind of a safety valve which enables, for example, for the shortages in the region’s supplies to be made up by shopping and medical tourism, mainly to Poland, and a certain limited development of entrepreneurship based on cross-border co-operation (mainly shuttle trade). The Russian government’s anti-Western propaganda campaign (aimed at constructing an image of Russia as a besieged fortress and an image of Western countries as enemies) appeals less to residents of Kaliningrad than to those of other regions of the Russian Federation. Social surveys reveal that residents of the oblast declare a positive attitude towards Poles and Lithuanians. On the other hand, Moscow’s fears that overly close relations between residents of Kaliningrad Oblast and their neighbours may result in anti-Kremlin sentiments have proven unfounded. The Kremlin’s activity continues to be evaluated very positively in Kaliningrad Oblast The annexation of Crimea met with massive approval (88%). The opinions are even better in those cities where the Baltic Fleet is stationed.Similarly, the Polish government’s decision to suspend small border traffic (in July 2016) between Poland and Russia, even though it is viewed as an inconvenience by residents of the oblast, has not provoked any marked emotion because they have relatively easy access to EU member states’ visas, and this allows them to maintain intensive external contacts (in the case of Russians less than 50% of border crossings with Poland were made on the grounds of the small border traffic cards).

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