A poll asked 1,600 Russians to name the most outstanding person from any country, dead or alive and respondents chose communist strongman Joseph Stalin. From the Washington Post:
Without prompting, 38 percent named Stalin, followed by Putin at 34 percent, in a tie with Alexander Pushkin, the renowned 19th-century poet often referred to as “the Shakespeare of Russia.”…
Stalin in Russia is increasingly portrayed not as the murderous architect of the Gulag, forced collectivization, mass starvation and political purges that claimed millions of his citizens’ lives, but as the steely architect of the Soviet victory in World War II — called the Great Patriotic War here…
In the fourth of his interviews with American director Oliver Stone, Putin characterizes Stalin as a “complex figure” and acknowledges “the horrors of Stalinism,” but also goes on to say that “excessive demonization of Stalin is one of the ways Russia’s enemies attack it.”
Several Russian cities have unveiled monuments to Stalin in recent months. A Levada poll in May found that the number of Russians who consider Stalin’s repressions to be “political crimes” has diminished from 51 percent in 2012 to 39 percent. The number of Russians who did not know anything about the repressions doubled over the same time from 6 percent to 13 percent.
Earlier this year the Post published a story noting that admiration for Stalin among Russians had peaked:
A total of 46 percent of Russians expressed some kind of positive view of Stalin in Levada’s poll, the highest percentage of positive answers since Levada began asking the question in 2001. Thirty-two percent said they had “respect” for Stalin, while an additional 10 percent said they had “sympathy,” and 4 percent said they had “admiration.”
Stalin is generally thought to be responsible for about 20 million deaths, including those he ordered killed, people sent to the gulag and those who died as part of his forced collectivization schemes. It seems a bit worrisome that Putin is considered the runner-up in this same poll. It suggests that there is potential support for a lot of Stalin-esque behavior so long as the leader is considered strong on the world stage. In Putin’s case, his polling has been above 80% since he seized Crimea in 2014.