Record High 70% of Russians Call Impact of Stalin’s Rule ‘Positive,’ 46% Say Deaths ‘Justified’

By Dimitri Simes | April 18, 2019 | 9:25am EDT

According to a recent survey from the Levada Center, Russia’s foremost independent polling agency, 70 percent of Russians favorably regard the rule of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Moreover, the survey found that 46 percent believe that the loss of human life that occurred under Stalin was justifiable.

The Levada Center asked 1,638 Russians, “What role do you think Stalin played in the history of our country?” Among the respondents, 70 percent stated that the Soviet strongman played an “entirely positive” or “rather positive” role. The represents a 16-point increase from three years ago, when 54 percent gave the same answer.

Asked about their personal feelings towards Stalin, 51 percent of Russians said that they either admired, respected, or sympathized with him.

Russians now rate Stalin’s performance higher than that of current Russian President Vladimir Putin. A different Levada Center poll conducted during the same time period found that 64 percent of Russians approve of Putin’s job as president, a five-year low for the long-time Russian leader.

Nearly half of Russians said Stalin’s goals and accomplishments “justified” the loss of life suffered under his reign. When Russians were asked if they “think that the human casualties suffered during the Stalin era were justified by the great goals and results achieved in a short period of time,” 46 percent answered in the affirmative. In contrast, in 2012, only 25 percent of Russians felt the deaths under Stalin’s rule, estimated to number in the millions, were either “definitely” or “somewhat” justified.

Leontiy Byzov, the top researcher at the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told RBK that he attributes Stalin’s growing popularity partially to the public’s current dissatisfaction with the Kremlin:

“Stalin is viewed by society as a defender of the oppressed. The population now feels increasingly abandoned. Stalin's figure is beginning to be regarded as a symbol of justice and an alternative to the current government, which is evaluated as unfair, cruel and uncaring about people.”

Byzov added that many regard Stalin as “a tsar who beheaded hated nobles, and only killed innocents in isolated incidents.”

Joseph Stalin ruled the Soviet Union for nearly 30 years, from 1924 to 1953. He led the country through World War II and the beginning of the Cold War. On the domestic front, Stalin initiated a series of five year plans that aimed to collectivize agriculture and rapidly industrialize the Soviet Union.

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