Public opinion poll on Russian history

A couple of weeks ago VTsIOM (the public opinion study center) asked Russian citizens whether they support the rehabilitation of the royal family and what political figures of the early 20th century they like and dislike. The full results of the poll are here (in Russian). The results are interesting, especially when compared with the similar poll held in 2005. I will give some excerpts below with comments.

"The Presidium of the Supreme court has recently rehabilitated Nikolay II and the members of his family. Do you agree with the decision?" 27% said that they agree completely. 42% mostly agree. 9% mostly disagree. 2% completely disagree. 19% gave no answer. But the most interesting part is the breakdown by political position of the respondents. 17% of communists completely agreed with the decision of the court and 36% more said that they mostly agree. It gives us the 53% support of the rehabilitation of Romanovs among communists! Supporters of other political parties gave even more positive answers, but the sheer number of the communists who are ready to make peace with Romanovs after all, is very interesting. On the one hand, it may demonstrate the common sense of modern communists, but on the other hand, it might be an indicator of the transformation of the communist party into something like national-socialist one. The downside of patriotism is that generally it's an effective brain inhibitor.

The last table is the most informative, IMHO. "What do you feel toward the following people:"

Name 2005 2008
Nikolay II:

The first thing that attracts attention is, of course, still considerable, but notably decreasing sympathy to Stalin and Lenin. The number of those who dislike them, however, remained almost the same.

The most striking change has happened in these three years to Kolchak and Makhno. The number of Kolchak's sympathizers has grown by half: from 20% to 32%. The number of those who dislike him has decreased by 25%: from 41% to 30%. The proportions of changes in public opinion of Nestor Makhno are about the same, but the absolute numbers are smaller. The most obvious causes of the changes were, of course, two movies: the series The Nine Lives of Nestor Makhno (2006) and this year's hit, sugar-sweet romantic story Admiral.

Another shift, but the one that doesn't strike the eye, is the significant decrease of the opponents of Kerensky and Denikin. To tell you the truth, I cannot explain it. A side-effect of that Admiral movie, could be?

Note also the large number of people who had no opinion on Bukharin and Milyukov. These two figures are the least known in the list.

Generally, I might call the results "inspiring" :).


Kolya said...

I find it incredible that Dzerzhinsky, a mass murderer, is liked by 40 percent of Russians and disliked by only 24 percent. There is something terribly wrong in this.

Anonymous said...

More amazing is that the over 60 year old group had the largest positive percentage rating of Stalin at 39%. That's astounding to me. It's surprising for a group that surely had a good percentage of victimized parents, grandparents or extended family. We are talking about mass murder in the tens of millions such as if 1/4 or more of the US population had disappeared in 20 years.

It's hard to fathom either(or both) the willful ignorance or absolute lack of human decency reflected with those respondents.

Germany moved on as a country because they faced up to their hideous past and publically repented. There was no nuance applied to Hitler, hence he will never be rehabilitated.

Russia will be a moral wasteland for some time to come.

Sublime Oblivion said...

Or perhaps the scale of Stalinist repressions are grossly inflated by interested parties for political reasons, and as such we should give more credence to Russians who lived through that time rather than to latter-day revisionist propagandists?

(I'm being intentionally provocative. Actually if I were participating in the poll I'd vote Dislike for Stalin, Lenin, Dzerzhinsky and pretty much everyone else on that list with the exception of Kerensky and Milyukov).

Dmitri Minaev said...

Probably, to both questions, about Dzerzhinsky and Stalin, there's one answer. A lot of older people don't feel themselves at home in modern Russia. They are nostalgic. Not about the USSR, really, but about their youth, but they hardly understand it and they think it's the USSR they miss. So, they tend to idealize the Soviet past.

Dzerzhinsky was a controversial figure. It was he who wrote the instruction to Cheka: "All those who perform searches and arrests should be more polite with the suspects than with the most close kin. Remember that the suspects are in our power and cannot protect themselves. Remember that you represent the Soviet power of workers and peasants and every his rudeness, indiscretion, impoliteness is a stain on the Soviet power." It was Dzerzhinsky who proposed on the 7th congress of the Soviets that Cheka should be deprived of the right to execute the criminals. It was Dzerzhinsky who often invited the arrested people for a cup of tea and, after a peaceful discussion, ordered to release them. And, of course, it was he who should be credited for the survival of thousands of homeless children after the civil war. And yes, it is he who wrote in 1920 that "the right to execute on spot is extremely important for Cheka", even "if the sword falls by chance on the heads of the innocent". Nikolay Berdyayev, who had been interrogated by Dzerzhinsky, wrote: "I had an impression that he was a sincere and dedicated man. I don't think he was a bad man, not even cruel. He was a fanatic. He had the eyes of an obsessed man. There was something fearsome in him."

Like Sublime Oblivion, I would undoubtedly vote "Dislike" in the poll, but there's some mystery in Dzerzhinsky. I wish I could talk to him to understand him better. But only on my territory :).

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Dmitri, I find your excuse for these Russian seniors weak and unconvincing. We are all nostalgic about our youth, but, the vast majority of us can put it in a context that wouldn't endorse Hitler or segregation as it was decades ago in America in a poll.

There is something morally flawed with anyone that could still admire a mass murderer like Stalin.

Their idealization of the USSR past is part of the reason Putin's neo-USSR, his coming trashing of the constitution without much resistance, will keep another generation trapped in an uncivil and corrupted society.

And, Sublime Oblivion, how apt a moniker, your attitude is as vacuous as always.

Dmitri Minaev said...

> I find your excuse for these Russian seniors weak and unconvincing.

Right you are, it's unconvincing. But it was not an excuse, it was an explanation. A possible one, that is. Just the psychology behind their reasoning (or, rather, feeling)

> We are all nostalgic about our youth

It's something different. You can go back to the places of your childhood. They cannot. They are exiles. Worse than that, exiles may hope to return home some day. Their country is no more. Like Atlantis.

Kolya said...

Dzerzhinsky was indeed a fanatic who lived a simple and spartan life. He is also directly responsible for the mistreatment and execution of thousands upon thousands of people. Many of them simply because they belonged to the wrong class. He believed in the implementation of Terror to solidify the hold of the Bolshevik regime. The fact that he could be courteous and concerned about the welfare of others, does not change the fact he committed great evil.

Imagine taking a time machine and going back some centuries to see a scholarly, dedicated and ascetic inquisitor concerned about the salvation of souls. For the sake of Christianity this person does not hesitate to torture as well as burn people to death. All for the greater good. There is a mad incongruity here, but at the end there is little doubt that this inquisitor is a monster.

Sublime Oblivion said...

The Inquisitor is a saintly character; he takes on the burden of freedom, for the sake of a humanity that much prefers slavery. He is condemned as a monster by those who, unlike Jesus, don't understand that slavery is actually freedom.

Dmitri Minaev said...

> Imagine taking a time machine and going back some centuries to see a scholarly, dedicated and ascetic inquisitor concerned about the salvation of souls.

BTW, when Dzerzhinsky was 16, he was a zealous Christian and even wanted to become a Jesuit priest.

> The fact that he could be courteous and concerned about the welfare of others, does not change the fact he committed great evil.

Absolutely. I just wanted to show his controversial character :)

Kolya said...

"BTW, when Dzerzhinsky was 16, he was a zealous Christian and even wanted to become a Jesuit priest."

Interesting! I didn't know that.