Saturday, March 28, 2020

Russian Attitudes toward Soviet Past Show Both Continuity and Change in Putin Era

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 24 – A Levada Center poll finding that 75 percent of Russians now have a positive view of the Soviet past has attracted enormous attention, but other results of this survey suggest there has been significant continuity under Putin in Russian attitudes about the Soviet past.

            For example, the current poll found that 65 percent regret the demise of the USSR but 75 percent did so in 2000. And the share who think that the demise of the Soviet Union could have been avoided is virtually the same now as then, 63 percent compared to 62 percent (

            And perhaps especially intriguingly, Russians said they reached their conclusions not on the basis of television (15 percent), Putin’s main delivery vehicle, or the Internet (11 percent), which often features alternative views, but on the basis of their personal experience (61 percent) or from relatives and friends who did (51 percent).

            But in presenting the findings of the latest poll, Karina Pipiya of the Levada Center says that they show that Russians do have a more positive attitude toward the USSR than they did earlier and that they name Stalin more often than other Soviet leaders and in a more positive way, both Putin themes.

            She says that as expected nostalgia for the past is greater among older people than younger ones but that many younger people have come to share the views of their elders, that this “nostalgia” reflects three things – the loss of superpower status, the destruction of a single economic system, and the loss of social cohesion.

            But Pipiya concludes that “the romanticization of the Soviet past among two-thirds of the population of the country is not leading to a desire to restore the Soviet system in present-day
Russia either among those who lived in Soviet times or the post-Soviet youth, among whom the Soviet path has given way to ‘a special Russian path’ and the European model of development.”

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