Photo by Marjan Blan | @marjanblan on Unsplash

A new survey has looked at the attitude towards the former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. There are big differences between his legacy in Ukraine and Russia. 

Only a few people in Scandinavia have not heard of the former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, but, in contrast, it would be unlikely to find anyone in Russia or Ukraine, who does not know the former leader of the Soviet Union. During his more than 30 years in office, he led the Soviet Union to victory in the Second World War but was also responsible for Holodomor – the great famine in Ukraine, where around 3.5 million people lost their lives. 

A new survey made by Levada Center has tried to examine Joseph Stalin’s legacy among Ukrainians and Russians. They have talked to 1,620 Russians and 2,007 Ukrainians, and the difference between their opinions is remarkable. 

56 percent of Russians say that “Stalin was a great leader,” while only 16 percent of Ukrainians had the same view. More remarkable, the share of Russians who see Stalin as a great leader has grown twofold in only five years, but it unlikely why that is the case. 

A historical explanation

45 percent of the Russian participants said they respect Stalin, while 10 percent felt sympathetic with him, and 28 percent said they do not have any real opinion. In contrast, Ukrainians are more dominated by negative feelings towards Stalin. 34 percent do not have an opinion, while 17 percent hate him and another 16 percent dislike him. 

“Immediately after the collapse of the USSR, anti-Stalinist sentiments were strong in both Russia and Ukraine, which developed in the era of glasnost, when his crimes became widely known. Then, in Russia, the ideas of glasnost became out of place, and in Ukrainian society, on the contrary, more and more people did not want to forgive Stalin for the Holodomor,” explained Levada Center in their press release. 

“Therefore, Ukrainians now have more negative feelings towards him than Russians had twenty years ago. Then the Ukrainians changed their leaders one by one, while the Russians have been holding on to the same one all these years, and therefore they feel the demand for the figure of the “great leader” as a support in the past for the present. For Russians, his greatness elevates them in their own eyes, for Ukrainians this is not. The difference is that for today’s Russians, Stalin is the leader of their country.”

Stalin is the most popular

Levada Center previously tried to find out who Russians find as the most ‘notable’ historical figure. Joseph Stalin is the most popular. He is liked by 39 percent of Russians, while 30 percent likes Vladimir Lenin, who comes second. Poet Alexander Pushkin and tsar Peter the Great come third and fourth respectively with support of 23 percent and 19 percent.

The current Russian President Vladimir Putin comes fifth with support among 15 percent, which is much lower than the 34 percent reported in 2017. It is also the lowest support for the Russian President since 2003, according to Levada Center. 

Only three non-Russian figures made their way into the top 20. It is Albert Einstein who got ninth with nine percent. The former Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and French leader Napoleon Bonaparte both got five percent.