Staunton, April 21 – Many have been shocked by recent polls showing that 70 percent of Russians now have a positive opinion about Joseph Stalin, Irina Pavlova says; but if Russians were queried about the fundamental strategies the Soviet dictator pursued, the share of Russians supporting those would be far greater, perhaps 90 percent.
Stalin as a name is polarizing even for Russians, but Stalinist values are widespread, the US-based Russian historian says, as would be obvious if Russian sociologists were to ask not whether respondents have a positive image of Stalin but rather whether they support what were his most central ideas (ivpavlova.blogspot.com/2019/04/blog-post.html).
Such questions would include ones like the following: “Do you share the idea of Russian great power status, that is, do you consider that the powers must ‘hold the country together,’ not allowing it to disintegrate and to assert its influence in the world by all available means, thus strengthening the status of the country as a great power?”
Other questions that would get at this might be: “Do you consider a strong Russia can exist only as a unitary state?” “Do you support a policy of nationalization or statification not only of the country’s natural resources but its industry as well?” “Do you think the state must have the decisive role in the development of industry, science, culture, the social sphere and health care?”
And still a third group might be formulated by Russian pollsters in the following way: “Are you a supporter of the development of military industry as a priority?” and “Do you allow for non-legal means of struggle with corruption in the pursuit of ‘the cleansing’ of the country of ‘crooks and thieves’?”
Were those the questions Russians were asked, Pavlova continues, “I assure you that you would get not 70 percent but 90 percent of Russians giving a positive assessment to Stalin as a state actor” because they are “the direct result of the special operation at his elevation which began in the mid-1990s” as part of the program to find a successor for Boris Yeltsin.
The Levada Center and its team of people who spring from the generation of the 1960s is far better positioned to discuss Stalin and Stalinism than is the new generation now in their 40s who in their rush to use Western terminology are inclined to insist that Russia today lives in “’a completely different political regime with completely different problems and challenges.’”
Those who think that way, Pavlova argues, ignore the continuities in Russian political life and argue that Russia has “a normal personalist regime little different from ones in other countries.” They think that its “hybrid” institutions are capable of “waking up” and becoming real, and they are certain that Russia has a civil society which only needs to be modernized.
This generation of 40-year-olds rejects any historical analogies, refuses to see in Russian history any cyclical patterns, and argues, just like the Putin regime does, that there is only “DEVELOPMENT” – and development just like the kind that is taking place in other countries around the world.
“Undoubtedly,” Pavlova continues, “such talk allows this generation to feel itself to be real progressives in comparison with ‘the Yury Levada generation’ and to look to the future of Russia with optimism,” something entirely understandable in human terms “but absolutely baseless from a scholarly point of view.”
“The true cause of such a position is not only in the inability to understand and analyze Russian reality but in the lack of any desire to do so.” Unlike the Levada Center, this generation isn’t capable of calling the Putin system what it is “modernized Stalinism” or understanding why such a system has reemerged in Russia today.