Fewer Russians Want Stalin-Like Leader

Stalin steering the USSR "from victory to victory." Source: Uncyclopedia.wikia.comAlmost a third of Russians would like a politician similar to Josef Stalin to be their head of state, according to a new poll by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center.

The 29 percent of respondents who answered positively to the proposal is actually down from 2005, when 42 percent of Russians wanted to see a leader like Stalin ruling the country.

Accordingly, opponents of Stalinist methods of governing also rose to 58 percent from 52 percent four years ago.

However, the number of Russians who had difficulty deciding how to respond (13 percent up from 7 percent in 2005) and those who were apathetic towards the dictator (28 percent up from 13 percent in 2001) both rose significantly.

More Russians responded positively than negatively to Stalin on the whole, 37 percent versus 24 percent.

A similar majority approved of Stalin’s leadership skills, with 31 percent judging them as “average,” 19 percent as “above average,” and only 14 percent as “below average.”

Thirty-five percent of Russians supported the characterization of Stalin as a cruel tyrant who annihilated millions of people, while just as many lauded his prominent role in achieving victory in World War II.

There was a rise in the number of Russians who considered Stalin to be a “wise manager,” up to 21 percent from 16 percent in 1998.

The poll comes at a time of increased conflict over the legacy of Stalin in Russian society. In what became an exchange that demonstrated polarization on Stalin’s legacy among Russians, President Dmitri Medvedev condemned the dictator in an October 30 statement: “I’m convinced that no development of the country and none of its successes or ambitions can be reached at the price of human grief and loss, and there is no justification for oppression.”

Just weeks later, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin responded to what he called the “subtlety” of the question of whether he considered Stalin’s activities to be positive or negative by saying: “One cannot, in my view, make a judgment on the whole.” Putin then proceeded to praise Stalin for successfully changing Russia from an agricultural to an industrial country and said that victory in World War II was Stalin’s achievement.

At the same time, he continued, these positives “were nevertheless reached at an unacceptable price.”

At the end of summer 2009, a recently refurbished metro station in central Moscow shocked residents with the restoration of two lines from an old version of the Soviet hymn engraved near the ceiling: “Stalin brought us up on loyalty to the people / He inspired us to labor and to heroism!” The move was condemned by rights advocates and praised by communists and others, and responded to by authorities by adding an additional couplet from the hymn overnight in late October: “Through tempests shined on us the sun of freedom / And the great Lenin lit us the way.”