Thursday, February 4, 2016

Russia’s ‘Nostalgia’ for Soviet Past ‘Not a Desire to Return There but Only a Form of Criticism of the Authorities,’ Gudkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 4 – Lev Gudkov, the head of the independent Levada Center polling agency, says that the increasingly positive attitudes Russians express about the Soviet past in no way reflects “a desire to return” to those times but rather is “a form of criticism” of the current authorities.

            In a preview of his center’s most recent findings offered by RBC, Gudkov notes that “over the past year, Russians have fallen into depression, begun to experience envy and anger at those around them, but are informed by sympathy for the Soviet political system (

            “The level of depressed attitudes has achieved the highest point” since Levada began surveying Russians on this point.  The last peak was in 2009 when they began to feel “the consequences of the economic crisis.”  At the same time, Russians displayed ever fewer “positive emotions.” 

            Moreover, Gudkov continues, Russians “have begun to think that they and their families have lost from the changes which have occurred in the country since 1992.” Such feelings reached their peak in December 2014 and were at that time roughly the same as at the end of 1999.

At the end of the 1990s, he suggests in the words of RBC, Russians were certain that they had lost as a result of perestroika, the disintegration of the USR and liberal reforms.”  They again felt that way in 2008 and now. In addition, ever more Russians are convinced that “Russia is not a European country.”

As a result, the share of Russians who express sympathy for the Soviet political system increased from July 2015 to January 2016 and now is at a level like that pollsters found in 2009.  And with those increases, the share of Russians who support “the Western model of democracy and the current political system” has fallen since mid-2015.

 In Gudkov’s opinion, “the aggressive anti-Ukrainian campaign on Russian television and in state media has crushed any idea of reform and modernization.” Indeed, he suggests that “this campaign by itself was directed at the discrediting within the country of the values of democracy and honest elections” by presenting the Russian opposition as “foreign agents.”

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