Josef Stalin enjoys greater respect in Russia now than he did just before the collapse of the Soviet Union. That is among the findings of a study released 1 March by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
In 1989, 12 percent of Russians considered the Soviet strongman a great historical figure. That number has steadily climbed, reaching 42 percent today.
The study, conducted in late 2012, surveyed opinions of Stalin in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, and Georgia.
Majorities or, in some cases, pluralities in each country agreed that “Stalin was a wise leader who brought the Soviet Union to might and prosperity.”
Support for the dictator was strongest in his native Georgia, where the lowest percentage of respondents, 45 percent, said Stalin’s acts of repression could not be justified. Twenty-six percent said they could and 29 percent professed ignorance or refused to answer.
Still, majorities in each country said they would not like to live in a country ruled by a person like Stalin and agreed that he was “a cruel, inhuman tyrant responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent people.”
“In the collective post-Soviet psyche, national greatness is inseparable from violence and brutal force,” writes Maria Lipman, a Russia specialist with the Carnegie Endowment, in an analysis of the study.
Lipman notes that Vladimir Putin has paid respects to the victims of Stalin’s crimes, and Russia’s legislature has blamed Stalin for the Katyn massacre of thousands of Polish prisoners of war. But Putin has also elevated officials of the unreconstructed security services, successors to the Stalinist KGB and NKVD, to the highest posts in government.
In Georgia, where some people are resurrecting Stalin statues, he “simply remains a strong personality whom the whole world held in fear. As such, he has turned into an object of local patriotism and popular devotion,” historian Lasha Bakradze writes.
Survey: Stalin’s star rises in the East