Record Numbers of Russians Have Positive View of Stalin, Levada Center Finds

File Photo of Soviet Gulag at Belbaltlag, adapted from image at nps.gov

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, April 16, 2019)

On the centenary of the establishment of the GULAG that he did so much to expand (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5CB56680ECD4C), the Levada Center polling agency released the results of a survey showing 70 percent of Russians have a positive attitude toward the Soviet dictator, the highest share ever (rbc.ru/politics/16/04/2019/5cb0bb979a794780a4592d0c). Joseph Stalin file photoNot surprisingly, this report has provoked a widespread discussion as to how this situation came to be, given that at various points over the last decades, Russians have been told about the massive crimes and failures that Stalin was responsible for. Obviously, for Russians today, these are less important than other things.

Among the various explanations offered today about the results are the following:

  • Commentator Andrey Fursov says that the positive assessment of Stalin is a way Russians now can indicate how much they disapprove and dislike the current Russian regime (nakanune.ru/articles/115069/).
  • Ethnic expert Sergey Markedonov suggests that those who have a positive view of Stalin don’t know much about him but have made him a symbol of ordin, stability, and justice, “paternalism if you like” (facebook.com/sergey.markedonov/posts/2658097367596110).
  • Moscow commentator Sergey Chernyakhovsky says that Stalin’s rating reflects the desire of Russians for new great goals and great results without concern as to how these are achieved (regnum.ru/news/society/2612821.html).
  • Kremlin and RiverPro-Putin commentator Anatoly Vasserman says that Stalin is gaining increasing support because Russians have learned to dismiss Western propaganda about the Soviet past as dishonest or worse (regnum.ru/news/society/2612807.html).
  • Commentator Mikhail Roslyaov says that Stalin remains the symbol of “a strong hand” who destroyed the enemies of Russia and the working class. Support for him is thus support for the country and for social justice (publizist.ru/blogs/111086/30544/-).
  • Sociologist Leonty Byzov says support for Stalin reflects the politicization of society which leads to “more radical assessments of history,” a process that the Kremlin has promoted and one in which Russians associate Stalin with the defense of the downtrodden (cont.ws/@Beria/1297425).

File Photo of Prison in Russia with Wall, Barbed Wire, Guard Tower

But probably the most thoughtful and significant comment about the poll results was offered by Yakov Dzhugashvili, the grandson of the Soviet dictator, who said that people who approve the policies of his ancestor are “degenerates” who think that the end justifies the means no matter how petty the ends or how horrific the means (govoritmoskva.ru/news/194957/).

[Article also appeared at windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/04/record-numbers-of-russians-have.html]