The Russian state media conducted a poll looking at Russian attitudes toward past leaders. The results are interesting:
“Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin are Russia’s most unpopular leaders of the past century, according to a survey by Russia’s state-run VTsIOM pollster published on Thursday.
Only 14 percent of respondents named Soviet President Gorbachev and 17 percent mentioned his successor, first president of the Russian Federation Yeltsin, when asked whose policies in the past 100 years made Russia develop in the proper direction. Their results are largely similar to a VTsIOM survey held in 2007.
A total of 61 percent of Russians described Vladimir Putin’s policies during his two presidential terms in 2000-2008 as ‘generally positive’, down six percentage points from 2007. About 54 percent of respondents were positive about incumbent Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
Russia’s last Tsar Nicholas II received a positive assessment from 31 percent of respondents.
Leonid Brezhnev, who presided over the ‘stagnation period’ with a ruling group characterized as a ‘gerontocracy,’ was the most popular Soviet leader with the support of 39 percent of respondents.
Best-known Communist Leaders, 1917 October Revolution architect Vladimir Lenin and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, gained 28 percent each. Nikita Khrushchev, who steered Soviet Union through the Cold War’s peak, the Cuban Missile Crisis, received the support of 24 percent of respondents.
The survey, involving 1,600 respondents, was held on October 29-30, 2011 in 46 Russian regions. The margin of error is below 3.4 percent.”
The poll undermines Western stereotypes about Russian history. The poll is one in a long series of polls that shows that Russians view their history much differently that Westerners view Russian history. Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, who presided over the end of the Soviet Union, ranked the lowest in terms of the leadership, while people had a more favorable rating toward Lenin and Stalin. However, this poll should not be seen necessarily as an endorsement of socialism among Russians. The poll gave Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Medvedev, Leonid Brezhnev who was one of the leaders at the height of the Soviet imperialist period, Russia’s last Tsar Nicholas II, all more favorable ratings. The overall conclusion to draw from this poll is not that Russians are not longing for socialism per se. And they are not blaming Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin for its loss. The overall conclusion is that Russians are longing for a strong country, even an imperial country. And they blame Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin for the loss of the strong, imperial country.
This is the problem with polls about the past in Russia. Both socialists and some fascists champion the Soviet Union. However, they do so for different reasons.