Press-releases

Historical memory

This survey was conducted 20–26 February 2020 with a representative sample of the urban and rural Russian population. The sample comprised 1614 people aged 18 or older in 137 municipalities of 50 constituent entities of the Russian Federation. The survey was conducted as a personal interview in respondents’ homes. The distribution of answers is presented as a percentage of the total number of respondents.

The statistical error for studies with a sample of 1600 people (with a probability of 0.95) does not exceed:

3.4% for indicators close to 50%
2.9% for indicators close to 25%/75%
2.0% for indicators close to 10%/90%
and 1.5% for indicators close to 5%/95%.

IN SOVIET TIMES, MANY SUBJECTS WERE NOT ACCEPTABLE OR EVEN DANGEROUS TO DISCUSS. HOW DID YOU LEARN ABOUT THE REPRESSIONS BETWEEN 1930-1950? (one answer)

  Nov 89 Feb 20
Experienced or witnessed it myself (my family) 9 1
Heard of it from eyewitnesses 22 24
Read about it 58 55
Know little or nothing about it 13 20
No answer 1 1

HOW DID YOU LEARN ABOUT THE FIGHTING DURING THE GREAT PATRIOTIC WAR? (one answer)

  Nov 89 Feb 20
Experienced or witnessed it myself (my family) 17  1
Heard of it from eyewitnesses 41  43
Read about it 45  52
Know little or nothing about it 3  5
No answer 1  1

HOW DID YOU LEARN ABOUT THE HARDSHIP OF CIVILIANS DURING THE GREAT PATRIOTIC WAR? (one answer)

  Nov 89 Feb 20
Experienced or witnessed it myself (my family) 26 1
Heard of it from eyewitnesses 34 42
Read about it 33 45
Know little or nothing about it 9 12
No answer 1 1

  Age Groups Generational Groups*
18-24 25-39 40-54 55+ “Post-Soviet” “Perestroika Era” “Era of Stagnation” “The Thaw”
Number of respondents       143 491 407 574 342 621 591 60
HOW DID YOU LEARN ABOUT THE REPRESSIONS OF 1930-1950? 
Experienced or witnessed it myself       —       —       — 1       —       — <1 10
Heard of it from eyewitnesses 10 15 24 36 10 20 35 47
Read about it 48 53 62 52 48 61 55 26
Know little or nothing about it 41 31 14 10 41 19 10 17
No answer 1 1 1 1 1 <1 1       —
HOW DID YOU LEARN ABOUT THE FIGHTING DURING THE GREAT PATRIOTIC WAR?
Experienced or witnessed it myself       —       —       — 1       —       —       — 13
Heard of it from eyewitnesses 26 32 43 58 26 37 57 68
Read about it 64 62 55 37 66 58 39 20
Know little or nothing about it 11 7 3 3 8 4 3       —
No answer       — 0 0 1       — <1 1       —

HOW DID YOU LEARN ABOUT THE HARDSHIP OF CIVILIANS DURING THE GREAT PATRIOTIC WAR?

Experienced or witnessed it myself       —       —       — 3       —       —       — 32
Heard of it from eyewitnesses 20 29 42 58 20 37 58 51
Read about it 58 53 48 33 57 51 35 11
Know little or nothing about it 23 18 10 5 23 12 5 6
No answer       — <1       — 1 <1 <1 1       —

*Generations according to the approach proposed by Yu.A. Levada. For more details, see Yu.A. Levada’s article Generations of the 20th Century: Research Opportunities // Bulletin of Public Opinion Data. Analysis. Discussions. 2001. #5. Pgs. 8-13.

In this survey we also asked respondents about their attitudes concerning the Soviet period (the report was published earlier and is available at:  https://www.levada.ru/2020/03/24/struktura-i-vosproizvodstvo-pamyati-o-sovetskom-soyuze-v-rossijskom-obshhestvennom-mnenii/). In May 2020 the Kiev International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) presented a similar question to Ukrainian respondents. The distribution of responses in each country, across the whole sample, is provided below. The surveys were nationwide and representative of both countries, which allows for comparison

DO YOU REGRET THE COLLAPSE OF THE USSR? (one answer)

  Opinion of Russian respondents, February 2020, Levada Center (N=1614) Opinion of Ukrainian respondents, May 2020, KIIS (N=2000)
Yes 65 34
No 26 50
It is difficult to say 9 16

Opinions of respondents from both countries differ fundamentally: while in Russia such “nostalgic” sentiments dominate (the correlation of “regretting” and “non-regretting” is almost 3:1), Ukrainian respondents are less prone to regrets (the correlation being 1:1.5), and tend to distance themselves from the Soviet period (almost one fifth of the surveyed population found it difficult to give a definite answer).

In Russia, the only generation that did not romanticize Soviet times was the generation born after the collapse of the USSR (now, its 18–29-year-old representatives fall into the sample): the proportion of those “regretting” in this age group was smaller than those who do not regret (32% vs. 51% respectively). All other age groups starting with 30-year-old respondents demonstrated “nostalgic” sentiments and regrets about the collapse of the USSR more often than the absence of nostalgia or a neutral perception of this period.

In Ukraine, only respondents older than 60 years of age expressed similar regrets although the margin of those “regretting” was not so significant as that of older Russians (50% vs. 39% and 84% vs. 12% respectively). Ukrainian respondents from other (younger) age groups answered the question, “Do you regret the collapse of the USSR?” negatively.

We note that this is not the first time Russian public opinion is dramatically different from Ukrainian public opinion in the assessment of the Soviet Era and its figures. In 2018 the Levada Center and KIIS posed similar questions about both countries’ respondents’ attitudes towards Joseph Stalin, which varied significantly according to the survey. 40% of surveyed individuals in Russia expressed positive feelings towards him (responses included “admiration,” “respect,” and “fondness”) and 12% expressed negative feelings (responses included “dislike,” “fear,” and “disgust”), while among those surveyed in Ukraine, an inverse proportion was observed: 14% expressed positive feelings with 42% seeing him in a negative light. 

HOW DO YOU PERSONALLY PERCEIVE STALIN? (one answer)

  Opinion of Russian respondents, March 2018, Levada Center Opinion of Ukrainian respondents, February 2018, KIIS
Admiration 2 1
Respect 29 10
Affection, fondness 9 3
Indifference 31 30
Enmity, irritation 7 13
Fear 3 11
Revulsion, hatred 2 18
I don’t know who Stalin is 1 2
It is difficult to say/no answer 16 15

The variations of public opinion also demonstrate contradictory tendencies in the attitudes towards the Soviet leader’s actions: Russian respondents are less likely to accuse Stalin of repressions and terror while, conversely, Ukrainian respondents are more likely to do so (the report containing data comparison for 2018 is available here: https://www.levada.ru/2018/04/10/17896/).

Translated by Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (formerly Monterey Institute of International Studies).

The ANO Levada Center has been included in the registry of non-commercial organizations acting as foreign agents. Read the Director of the Levada Center’s statement of disagreement with this decision here.

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