Press-releases

Memory and Pride

This survey was conducted September 25–30, 2020, among a representative sample of all Russian urban and rural residents. The sample was comprised of 1605 people aged 18 or older in 137 municipalities of 50 regions of the Russian Federation. The survey was conducted as a personal interview in respondents’ homes. The answer distribution is presented as percentages of the total number of participants along with data from previous surveys.

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

3.4% for indicators around 50%
2.9% for indicators around 25%/75%
2.0% for indicators around 10%/90%
1.5% for indicators around 5%/95%

Public discussions related to historical memory have not lost their relevance (in May 2020, a bill was introduced into the State Duma that proposed introducing criminal liability for the falsification of historical facts about the causes and the outcomes of the Second World War).  In September 2020, the Levada Center repeated a block of questions from the research program “Homo Soveticus” dedicated to the perception of historical events and periods, ideas about their significance, and the overall importance of history for Russians’ national identity.

The perception of Russian residents about “us” as a community is still mainly drawn from the past, and victory in the Great Patriotic War remains as the primary event of which Russians are proud (in 20 years of research, the proportion of people who are proud of it has not changed significantly).

In comparison with the previous survey in 2018, respondents have started choosing “our natural surroundings” more frequently as a response to the question about semantic associations with their “own” people (this could be the result of a new media agenda related to environmental problems, but further research is required).

An interesting trend is observed in the structure of collective shame for certain events in the life of the country: an increase in the share of Russians ashamed of the “collapse of the USSR”, which in 2020, for the first time, technically topped the list of options (statistically, this response shared first and second place with the position, “We are a great people and a rich country, but we permanently live in poverty and disorder”). In our previous research we indicated the prevalence of positive perception of the Soviet Union, which is currently mainly associated with social stability and certainty about the future.

Table 1.

WHAT IS THE FIRST THING THAT COMES TO MIND WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT YOUR PEOPLE? (respondents were presented with a card from which they could choose more than one answer or write in their own; ranked in descending order according to September 2020)*

  Aug 94 Mar 99 Aug 03 Aug 08 Oct 12 Jun 15 Aug 16 Nov 17 Dec 18 Sep 20
Our past, our history 37 48 48 43 41 37 46 46 53 55
Our land, the territory on which we live 25 26 32 34 34 44 42 38 35 39
Our natural surroundings 18 18 23 17 19 30 24 28 25 34
The place where I was born and grew up 41 35 43 39 43 41 40 39 33 26
My native language 19 17 19 23 25 25 21 21 19 24
The state where I live 17 19 22 32 28 25 26 17 22 20
Our military power 5 7 8 8 9 15 18 21 17 12
Great people from my ethnic group 10 14 14 14 16 20 21 23 12 11
My people’s spiritual qualities 16 19 15 14 9 16 16 18 12 9
Our religion, the faith of my forefathers 8 7 8 12 10 15 14 11 9 8
The flag, national coat of arms, national anthem 2 3 4 8 8 9 10 9 5 7
Our songs, holidays, and customs 17 19 16 14 13 17 12 14 9 7
Our ability to work hard and keep things in order 6 10 7 6 5 8 11 9 8 6
The graves of and monuments to our people 9 7 7 7 6 10 9 12 7 4
Other 1 <1 1 1 <1 <1 <1 1 2 1
It is difficult to say 8 4 3 3 3 3 3 1 2 2

*In 1994 and1999 the survey form had respondents fill answers in themselves.

Table 2.

WHICH EVENTS AND PHENOMENA IN THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY MAKE YOU PROUD? (respondents were presented with a card from which they could choose more than one answer and/or write in their own; ranked in descending order according to September 2020)

  Apr 99 July 03 Aug 08 Sep 12 Mar 14 Jun 15 Jan 17 Dec 18 Sep 20
Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45 86 87 89 82 82 85 83 87 89
The country’s leading role in space exploration 60 59 61 45 46 42 41 50 43
Annexation of Crimea -** 43 45 30
The great Russian literary tradition 46 48 49 35 39 37 36 40 29
The achievements of Russian science 52 51 46 35 34 30 32 37 27
Russia’s glorious military history 35 35 37 31 26 25 26 36 25
The transformation of Russia into a leading world industrial power during the Soviet era 42 32 37 32 35 36 35 32 24
The moral qualities of Russian people: their simplicity, patience, and steadfastness 45 44 35 32 24 27 23 32 17
Renowned Russian adventurers and pioneers 33 33 28 26 21 21 19 24 16
The country’s stabilization and economic growth under Putin 32 13 12 20 18 18 12
The struggle against the Tatar-Mongol yoke, protecting Europe against invasion from the East 22 25 21 17 13 13 14 16 7
Progressive social system, classless society during the Soviet Union 14 13 9 10 10 12 9 14 7
The spirit of Russian freemen, love of freedom 12 14 13 12 10 12 10 10 7
The selfless devotion of Russian saints 10 14 13 11 10 11 7 12 6
Perestroika, the beginning of market reforms 2 8 7 5 2 3 4 5 5
Moral authority of the Russian intelligentsia 12 11 11 10 9 10 7 8 4
Putin’s foreign policy achievements, the return of Great Power status -** 16
Other <1 <1 <1 1 <1 1 1 1 1
None of the above make me particularly proud 2 2 1 3 3 1 2 1 1
It is difficult to say 3 2 2 3 2 3 3 1 2

**This option was not included in the card with the list of answers.

Taking into account the decline of response rates from 2018 to 2020 (by 101 points) for almost all positions, we recalculated them to 100%.

Table 2a. Recalculation to 100%

  Apr 99 July 03 Aug 08 Sep 12 Mar 14 Jun 15 Jan 17 Dec 18 Sep 20
Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45 18 18 18 20 22 22 20 19 24
The country’s leading role in space exploration 13 12 12 11 12 11 9 11 12
Annexation of Crimea 9 10 8
The great Russian literary tradition 10 10 10 9 10 10 8 9 8
The achievements of Russian science 11 11 9 9 9 8 7 8 7
Russia’s glorious military history 7 7 8 8 7 6 5 8 7
The transformation of Russia into a leading world industrial power during the Soviet era 9 7 8 8 9 9 7 7 7
The moral qualities of Russian people: their simplicity, patience, and steadfastness 9 9 7 8 6 7 5 7 5
Renowned Russian adventurers and pioneers 7 7 6 6 6 5 4 5 4
The country’s stabilization and economic growth under Putin 7 3 3 5 4 4 3
The struggle against the Tatar-Mongol yoke, protecting Europe against invasion from the East 5 5 4 4 3 3 3 3 2
Progressive social system, classless society during the Soviet Union 3 3 2 2 3 3 2 3 2
The spirit of Russian freemen, love of freedom 3 3 3 3 3 3 2 2 2
The selfless devotion of Russian saints 2 3 3 3 3 3 1 3 2
Perestroika, the beginning of market reforms <1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Moral authority of the Russian intelligentsia 3 2 2 2 2 3 1 2 1
Putin’s foreign policy achievements, the return of Great Power status 4
Other <1 <1 <1 <1 <1 <1 <1 <1 <1
None of the above make me particularly proud <1 <1 <1 1 1 <1 <1 <1 <1
It is difficult to say 1 <1 <1 1 1 1 1 <1 1

Table 3.

WHAT ARE YOU ASHAMED OF? WHAT CAUSES YOU SHAME OR UPSETS YOU WHEN YOU REFLECT ON RUSSIAN HISTORY IN THE 20TH CENTURY? (respondents were presented with a card from which they could choose more than one answer and/or write in their own; ranked in descending order according to September 2020)

  Apr 99 July 03 Aug 08 Sep 12 Jun 15 Jan 17 Dec 18 Sep 20
Collapse of the USSR 48 41 38 32 28 33 45 49
We are a great people and a rich country, but we permanently live in poverty and disorder 79 78 69 56 56 54 61 48
Rudeness, impertinence, and people’s lack of respect toward each other 45 52 49 35 31 24 37 33
Repression, terror, and forced population transfer from the 1920s to the 1950s 34 39 35 25 25 22 21 23
Always lagging behind the West 31 32 22 25 20 20 24 22
The persecution of the Church 21 18 27 16 12 11 16 16
Our stagnation, inertness, laziness 24 34 27 18 20 14 18 14
The legacy of serfdom, the spirit of slavery, and people’s habit of forced labor 17 23 19 12 10 8 13 12
The narrow-minded, incompetent, and self-serving government 28 20 20 12 12 11 16 11
The desire to force our social system on other countries and peoples 15 9 8 6 5 4 9 8
National arrogance 7 5 7 5 3 3 7 7
Russia’s military defeats 16 16 11 8 4 5 6 6
Other 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 1
None of the above make me particularly ashamed 1 2 3 9 6 8 6 8
It is difficult to say 5 3 5 6 4 5 2 3

Table 3a. Recalculation to 100%

  Apr 99 July 03 Aug 08 Sep 12 Jun 15 Jan 17 Dec 18 Sep 20
Collapse of the USSR 13 11 11 11 11 14 14 19
We are a great people and a rich country, but we permanently live in poverty and disorder 21 21 20 20 22 22 19 18
Rudeness, impertinence, and people’s lack of respect toward each other 12 14 14 12 12 10 12 13
Repression, terror, and forced population transfer from the 1920s to the 1950s 9 10 10 9 10 9 7 9
Always lagging behind the West 8 9 6 9 8 8 8 8
The persecution of the Church 6 5 8 6 5 5 5 6
Our stagnation, inertness, laziness 6 9 8 6 8 6 6 5
The legacy of serfdom, the spirit of slavery, and people’s habit of forced labor 5 6 6 4 4 3 4 5
The narrow-minded, incompetent, and self-serving government 8 5 6 4 5 5 5 4
The desire to force our social system on other countries and peoples 4 2 2 2 2 2 3 3
National arrogance 2 1 2 2 1 1 2 3
Russia’s military defeats 4 4 3 3 2 2 2 2
Other <1 <1 <1 <1 <1 <1 1 <1
None of the above make me particularly ashamed <1 1 1 3 2 3 2 3
It is difficult to say 1 1 1 2 2 2 1 1

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.