Staunton, June 22 – According to a new Levada Center poll, 60 percent of Russians approve of Stalin, his highest rating ever, significantly fewer blame his repressive policies for the Soviet Union’s initial defeats when Hitler invaded, and far more give a positive rating to the Soviet dictator than they do to Vladimir Putin, a change in fortunes over the past four years.
Sixty percent of Russians have a positive attitude toward Stalin, and only 11 percent have a negative or fearful one, the polling agency found. But intriguingly given recent propaganda about the war, 28 percent of the same said it was “indifferent” to the Soviet leader (levada.ru/2021/06/23/otnoshenie-k-stalinu-rossiya-i-ukraina/).
According to the Levada Center, Stalin’s positive rating now is the highest it has been since Levada began asking questions about this in 2001. In 2012, Stalin was rated in a positive way by only 28 percent of Russians; and as recently as 2019, only 51 percent said they had positive feelings about him (newizv.ru/news/society/22-06-2021/potomki-veteranov-perestali-vinit-repressii-stalina-v-voennyh-neudachah-sssr).
The center also found Russians now are much less inclined to blame Stalin for the defeats the Soviet Union suffered during the first months of the war. In 2005, 40 percent of Russians said those defeats were the result of the impact of Stalin’s purges on the country’s defense capacity. Today, only 17 percent say that (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2021/06/22/levada-dolia-rossiian-vozlagaiushchikh-otvetstvennost-za-porazhenie-sssr-v-nachale-voiny-na-stalinskie-repressii-sokratilas-v-dva-raza).
But another survey the Levada Center conducted in which Russians were asked to name the ten most outstanding figures of all times and peoples featured results which say a great deal about Russia today. Repeating a poll it took in 2017, the center found that Stalin’s rating had stayed at the top of the list with 39 percent now compared to 38 percent then identifying him as such (svpressa.ru/society/article/301995/).
Putin’s rating, however fell sharply over this period from 34 percent in 2017 to 15 percent now. Almost all the other figures on the list were Russians, including Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev who received 10 percent now as opposed to eight percent four years ago, rather than philosophers or scientists or political and military leaders from other countries.
The presence of Soviet leaders is no surprise, Andrey Ivanov of Svobodnaya pressa says. It reflects the longstanding Russian commitment to social justice. But what is surprising is that few earlier Russian leaders make the list. Peter the Great is an exception, but Aleksandr Nevsky, despite the hype about him this year, isn’t among the top ten.
Putin’s decline reflects the fact that he is the only one on the list who is still alive and in office and that Russians are suffering from a variety of crises which they inevitably link with the person in charge. As conditions in Russia have deteriorated for various reasons, Putin gets the blame both where he deserves it and where he doesn’t.
Lev Gudkov of the Levada Center notes that “the structure of this pantheon is almost unchanging: Soviet names and symbols, beginning with Lenin and Stalin … and ending with the most well-known military commander, Zhukov, are weakening, but new names are not taking their places.” In fact, since 1989, no new names have been added to the top 20.