Wednesday, April 24, 2019

More Russians Now have Negative rather than Positive View of Perestroika, Levada Center Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 24 – Given the significant majority of Russians who have a positive view of Stalin, it is no surprise more have a negative view of perestroika than a positive one, 48 percent as against to 39 percent, a more negative balance than the Levada Center found in 2008 but one less dramatic perhaps because Russians admit they did get some positive things from it.

            Indeed, while they were critical of perestroika as such, those the Center surveyed said that “in comparison with Soviet times, now it has become easier to say what you think, to join any organization you like, or take part in politics, all things that perestroika made possible (

            Accompanying its presentation of the poll results, the Nakanune news agency offered the judgments of three experts as to why Russians have these mutually contradictory views (

            Sociologist and commentator Boris Kagarliltsky said that the survey had not asked enough questions to get at these contradictions and so people could give one answer for a period as a whole and quite a different one concerning its subsequent impact on their lives.

            Moreover, he says, most Russians look back at the Soviet period as a positive one and blame almost all their current problems not on it or even on what has happened since 1991 but on perestroika which they blame for the demise of the Soviet system and the disintegration of the USSR – even when they welcome specific positive things that have occurred.

            Andrey Gudkov, an independent specialist on social policy says that things were much worse in Soviet times. Now one can say what one thinks without risk of prison. Now, you may be killed “but on the other hand, it will be done quietly.”

            And commentator Dmitry Agranovsky stressed that “freedom” is a very elastic category that means different things to different people at different times.  Thus comparing it over time is difficult if not impossible.  At the very least, polls about changes in these things over time are anything but objective.

            In certain ways, he says, “freedoms really have become more. You want to drink, you drink; you want to die, die, you want to change jobs, you can on you own because no one needs you.”  But these aren’t the only freedoms that matter, especially as they leave the individual alone and abandoned.

            “All declared ‘freedoms,’” Agranovsky says, “are restricted to within specific limits and one can be punished more harshly than in the Soviet period.” That explains the comments of deputy Elena Mizulina that “rights are the main limitations on freedom and that bans are a form of freedom. The main thing now is ‘not to interfere with the strong of this world.”

            According to Agranovsky, “the most real human rights, the most real freedoms are the right to labor, freedom from fear of tomorrow – all these things, of course, have been liquidated.” As a result, he concludes, today “we simply live in hell in comparison with Soviet times.”

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