More Russians See a Cult of Personality Around Putin

Vladimir Putin. Source: AFPUpdate 07/10/10: Several misprinted figures have been corrected.

The number of Russian citizens who see signs of a cult of personality surrounding Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been growing consistently over the past several years. According to the results from a survey by the Levada Center research institute, 27% of Russians feel that “yes, all the signs of a cult of personality are there,” and another 28% say that “there still isn’t one, but there are more and more preconditions for one.” Researchers believe that the growth comes as a result of the fact that Russians no longer have a negative view of the idea of a cult of personality itself.

A full third of respondents, 33%, said that “no, there are no signs of such a cult,” while 12% were unsure.

Just four years ago, only 10% of Russians noted a cult of personality around Vladimir Putin at all. “The growth is definitely impressive,” said Boris Dubin, head of the socio-political department at the Levada Center, in remarks to the online news site

According to survey results from the past several years, more and more people each year believe that Putin has a cult of personality. In March 2006, 10% believed that “all the sign of one are there;” in October 2007 – 22%; two years later – 23%, and now, less than a year after that, the figure has grown to 27%. During that same overall period of time, the number of Russians who don’t see a cult of personality fell from 57% to 33%.

“The fact of the matter is that the understanding of a cult of personality itself is no longer as negative as it was after the denouncement of Stalin. Now, most likely, it is viewed positively, the view of people who don’t see anything terrible about a cult of personality,” Dubin told

“During the years of Putin’s rule, a majority of the Russian population has been formed that on the whole welcomes the currently established order and is sure that it is precisely Putin who guarantees this order and stability,” Dubin explained. This majority is made up mostly of relatively prosperous, middle-aged Russian citizens who remain politically active and reside in small to mid-size cities, he said. This is precisely the demographic that believes that the concentration of power in Putin’s hands and his cult of personality are helpful for Russia.

Indeed, more than half of Russian citizens believe that the concentration of all the power in the country in the hands of the prime minister “is for the good” of Russia. Only 22% think that Putin’s absolute power “does not promise anything good for Russia.”

More than half of respondents said that Russia needs a manager – “a strong hand.”

As for when this hand is needed, 27% of respondents said that Russia needs it “constantly,” while another 28% said that “such situations occur (for example, now) when total power needs to be concentrated in one set of hands.” At the same time, both of these figures are down from previous years – 40% and 31% respectively in October 2009.  A full third, 33%, voted against the idea of giving total power to one single person in the current survey.

While Russia’s political opposition decries the existence of a cult of personality surrounding Vladimir Putin, only 11% of survey respondents felt that Russia “definitely” has an opposition at all. Another 38% believe that it “more likely” exists than not. 30% doubt that the opposition exists, and 8% feel that it definitely does not exist. The results are not surprising given that more than two-thirds of respondents – 68% – only learned about the existence of the opposition’s largest campaign, Strategy 31, during the course of the survey.

Only 3% of survey respondents said they were well acquainted with the essence of Strategy 31, knew that the series of rallies are consistently banned by the authorities, and knew that the police violently disperse participants. Very few Russians strongly opposed the campaign – only 4% were totally against it, and 11% were likely against it. That said, more than two-thirds of survey respondents felt that Russia needs a political opposition – 23% “definitely yes,” and 44% – “most likely yes.”

A press release from the Levada Center with the survey results is available in Russian by clicking here.