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Global Poll Finds Strong Pro-Russian Sentiment In Armenia

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (right) and his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisian
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (right) and his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisian
YEREVAN -- Three in four people in Armenia approve of the track record of Russia's current leadership, making it the fifth-most pro-Russian country in the world, according to a recent Gallup opinion poll.

The poll -- conducted by Gallup in 104 countries last year -- shows that only 7 percent of Armenians are critical of the Kremlin's leadership, with another 17 percent being undecided. The remaining 75 percent positively assess policies pursued by President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the U.S. pollster said.

The poll showed that Moscow enjoys higher approval ratings in only four other countries surveyed: Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, and Uzbekistan.

The findings of the survey are in tune with strong pro-Russian sentiment that has traditionally existed in Armenia.

Despite increasingly favoring closer ties with the West, many Armenians continue to regard Russia as a guarantor of their country's security. The unresolved conflict over the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh and historically strained relations with neighboring Turkey are seen as key reasons for that.

The Gallup poll also found strong pro-Russian sympathies in much of the former Soviet Union, including Armenia's arch-foe Azerbaijan, where 54 percent of respondents thought well of the performance by Putin and Medvedev.

"Russia's sphere of influence continues to be most visible in former Soviet countries, where people are most likely to be familiar with the Kremlin's leadership and a median of 61 percent said they approved," the pollster said in an explanatory note.

Georgia is a rare exception to this rule due to Russian forces' occupation of the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. As much as 76 percent of those polled in Georgia disapproved of the Kremlin's leadership.

"The popularity that Russia's leadership enjoys in several countries in Central Asia and in the Caucasus has its roots in their shared history as former Soviet republics," said Gallup. "But the high approval also reflects how dependent many residents of these counties are on remittances from Russia."

"In Tajikistan, where approval of Russia's leadership is the highest, the International Monetary Fund estimates that these remittances accounted for 50 percent of the country's GDP in 2008," it added.

In Armenia, remittances made up some 13 percent of the country's GDP last year.

Government data shows that around 80 percent of the 2010 cash remittances totaling at least $1.3 billion came from Russia, which is home to hundreds of thousands of Armenian migrant workers.

There are also hundreds of thousands of Tajik, Uzbek, and Kyrgyz citizens working in Russia.

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