The percentage of Russians who have a positive view of Joseph Stalin, the notorious Soviet-era dictator, has reached its highest level in 16 years, according to a new poll released by polling firm Levada.
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."
On the negative end of the scale, 12 percent said they viewed Stalin with "distaste," while 7 percent said they feared him, and 2 percent said they hated him. A further 22 percent said they viewed the former Soviet leader with indifference, while 10 percent gave no answer to the question.
While Stalin is a widely reviled figure in the West, he has a more complicated legacy in Russia, where many remember him as being a strong figure in the country, especially during World War II. In recent years, Russian President Vladimir Putin has pushed for a revised view of Stalin's legacy that downplays his role in mass purges as simply mistakes made by a great leader.
Levada, an independent polling firm that offers some of the best snapshots of Russian opinion we can see, also asked similar questions to gauge the standing of other Russian and Soviet leaders. Positive views of Stalin were among the highest, topped only by views of Leonid Brezhnev, who led the Soviet Union from 1964 until his death in 1982, and by opinions of current Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The two Russian leaders with the lowest positive views are the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, and his successor, Boris Yeltsin, who served as president of the Russian Federation after the Soviet Union dissolved. Gorbachev and Yeltsin drew positive views from just 8 percent and 16 percent respectively. Both have notably high negative ratings as well, with more than 60 percent of Russians saying they have "distaste" or "hatred" for Gorbachev in particular.
Putin held the highest percentage of popular views, with 83 listing a positive view of the Russian president and less than 5 percent responding negatively to him. Levada's latest polling was conducted January 20-23, 2017, among 1,600 people age 18 years and older across the country.
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