To what extent is Stalin still loved and/or respected by Russians (and for extra points former USSR states)?

While articles like these

  1. news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7802485.stm
  2. news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7802485.stm

indicate there is a large proportion of the populace who still respect (if not actively adore) Stalin, this article (in Russian) indicates the voting was tampered with.

Are there any other studies that indicate weak or strong support for Stalin?

migrated from comments https://history.stackexchange.com/a/1710/682

  • Could you please try to modify this question so that it can be answered more concretely? We do not want to have questions that invite or require speculation for answers. StackExchange is about finding clear and concise answers, not opening dialogue or inviting debate. Apr 9, 2012 at 17:34
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    @StevenDrennon I'm struggling to make the question more concise, can you suggest any changes?
    – Ben Neill
    Apr 11, 2012 at 4:18
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    @BenNeill - I would suggest something like this: "What sources or documentation exists to indicate Stalin's level of popularity in Russia today?" The whole point is to make sure it can be answered clearly. When you ask "why", it becomes too subjective, and we can't allow those types to remain. To a certaine extent, you have already answered the question by providing links, but others might contribute more. Each person has to come to their own conclusions, but by providing sources, we can help them do so. Apr 11, 2012 at 13:47
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    I disagree that question "why" is not answerable.
    – Anixx
    Apr 12, 2012 at 3:52
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    @Anixx I think his point is it allows too much scope for speculation, at least in the context of this question. Excellent answer by the way.
    – Ben Neill
    Apr 13, 2012 at 0:24

3 Answers 3


I think Stalin is quite popular in Russia. It would be quite surprising if Stalin was not that popular. The popularity of Stalin today may be even greater than it was in 1970s and 1980s. There are multiple reasons.

  • First of all, Stalin is credited for winning the Great Patriotic War, the most bloody war in human history and the history of Russia. Many people are aware that should the USSR fail, the majority of the population would be exterminated. I think this alone is quite sufficient.

  • The Stalin's rule was marked with the height of Russia's power and worldwide influence, including the largest and the most powerful army in the world (and in the whole history up to this day), the creation of socialist system, the founding of the United Nations.

  • Stalin is often perceived as a good diplomat that could conduct successful negotiations with even ideological enemies as opposed to the latter leaders who either conceded positions without compensation "for friendship" or openly and dangerously conflicted. In this light very often excerpts (often fake) from Churchill's memoirs praising Stalin are cited as a proof that even rivals respected him.

  • The Stalin's era is marked with serious scientific and cultural achievements. The rate of economic growth in the pre-war USSR was greater than elsewhere in the world, including the modern China. This is positively contrasted with the epoch of Brezhnev's stagnation. He is credited for creating the Russian atomic bomb, aviation, the exploration of the Arctic, building Moscow metro. Russian cinematography, music and architecture also achieved heights under Stalin.

  • Stalin is often compared to the previous and later leaders. He is remembered for constantly decreasing prices after the war compared to the later Soviet periods when the prices often were rising. The quality of production under Stalin was much greater than in the later times, especially under Khrushchev when quantity was emphasized. This includes the food quality and house building. Stalin-era buildings in Moscow are currently priced much greater than those from post-Stalin epoch in retail market. Stalin-era ornate metro station design is remarkably different from purely functional deign of Khrushchev's

  • Stalin is often claimed to take necessary measures to strengthen the state internally and prevent its breakup. In this light the repressions are viewed as a positive preventive measures. This is often compared to the negative processes that surfaced after Krushchev's and Gorbachev's liberalizations that eventually led to the breakup of the USSR.

It should be noted that Stalin is often praised not only by Communists but also by various nationalists and monarchists who perceive Stalin as a kind of strong and just "Tsar". The monarchists for example, frequently believe that Stalin was in fact Orthodox Cristian and sought to protect the church. This is based on the fact of the war-time reconciliation with the church by the Stalin's government to appeal to the patriotic feelings o the population. They also sometimes praise Stalin for purging the leadership of the party of Jews who are considered unpatriotic and anti-Russian. They often oppose him to revolutionary destructors, which they allege were at power before him.

It should be also noted that the popularity of Stalin rose considerably in post-Soviet years compared to that of the late USSR along with popular anti-Americanism due to evident crude influence of the USA and the West in Russian politics that detrimented the wealth of the people and strength of the state.


In this video a Russian philosopher and politologist Alexander Dugin explains his point of view on the reasons of popularity of Stalin: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URDsT6HXRhQ . In short his point of view is that Stalin is an image, archetype of a father of nation that is imbeeded in Russian mentality irrespective of what actually was historical Stalin and that this archetype is a constant to Russia. He claims that the people want a leader under which the elites will suffer and fear, and Stalin is exactly such leader. He also claims that the popularity of Stalin rises due to comparison with modern leaders.


P.S. I missed to mention two more serious reasons why Stalin may be popular today based on modern politics.

  • The first one is that the anti-Russian apartheid regimes in the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) and Ukrainian anti-Russian neo-Nazis use attacks on Stalin as a means to justify anti-Russian legislation. If you are against ban on Russian language, you are Stalinist, if you are for equal rights for Russians, you are Stalinist, if you disagree that Stalin was worse than Hitler, you are Stalinist, if you dislike the yearly SS veterans parades, you are Stalinist, if you disagree that anti-Hitler war veterans should be stripped of any pension, you are Stalinist, if you do not support territorial claims to Russia and demands for financial compensation, you are Stalinist. Russians are well aware of this and perceive that if their enemies do not like Stalin, they should do something the opposite.

  • The fact that the politicians who support many unpopular measures such as enforcement of copyright laws and joining controversial international agreements such as ACTA, cooperation with NATO and support for the US foreign policy, easing the anti-corruption laws and de-crimilalization of bribery often at the same time propose anti-Stalinist measures. For example, the recent "presidential commission for de-Stalinization" that was instituted in 2011, is headed by Michail Fedotov, who at the same time the chairman of the Russian Copyright Society, analog of the US RIAA.

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    +1. I don't agree with a lot of the reasoning, but its a great perspective to have here.
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 9, 2012 at 13:40
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    You failed to mention that almost all the points you make are false (-1). However, since, indeed, many Russians do believe this propaganda crap, this does answer why Stalin is so beloved (+1).
    – sds
    Sep 17, 2014 at 16:29
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    I strongly disagree with the first point you made in the P.S. section. -1 because you seem to agree with that piece of Russian propaganda.
    – Michael
    Dec 2, 2014 at 10:33
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    "The first one is that the anti-Russian apartheid regimes in the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) and Ukrainian anti-Russian neo-Nazis..." -1 for subjecting us to Putinist propaganda... this is a site for history, not whatever that is.
    – Ne Mo
    Dec 2, 2014 at 17:49
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    @Ne Mo how can you call it otherwise?
    – Anixx
    Dec 2, 2014 at 18:22

Pretty much everyone in Russia knows Stalin because history is a mandatory subject in school, and it is being taught from 5th grade all the way up through the 11th.

There are many reasons for him still being known in the country.


  1. He was the commander-in-chief during the Great Patriotic War (that how Russia calls World War II, the part between June 22, 1941 and May 9, 1945). His leadership led USSR to victory over Japan and fascist Germany.

  2. His leadership led to USSR restoring what was destroyed during WWII. Also, his leadership gave USSR the economic boost such that the country transformed into an industrial economy.

  3. During his time in power USSR created the nuclear weapons, made other significant advances in sciences, laid the foundation for sending men to space.

  4. Stalin's leadership laid the foundation for the countries of the so-called "socialist camp," such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Cuba, and so on. USSR was helping those countries a lot.

  5. Probably the most important reason why Stalin is popular among the folks who lived during his time is that while he was at power, the prices for the basic products (such as bread, butter, and so on) actually decreased.

  6. He turned USSR into a "superpower," bringing other countries' respect.

  7. No corruption (no big-scale corruption).

  8. In the pre-WWII decade GNP grew multiple times. Some think that the numbers may be inflated, but nevertheless, before WWII USSR was one of the several countries in the world, which could manufacture everything.

  9. Low charges for utilities, public transpotation.

  10. Literacy of nearly 100% of population.

  11. Same rights for women as for men.

  12. Free apartments (for factory workers).

  13. Low crime rate.


  1. He is known for massive executions of people in USSR. Some families know him because their relatives were either executed or had to spend years in GULag .

  2. He is known for executing some of the best Soviet military commanders right before the WWII.

  3. He is known for many mysteries surrounding his time at power and his private life. There is still no 100% assurance in whether he died on his own or was poisoned (or else).

  4. All the economic achievements cost lives of people who suffered extreme conditions while getting the job done.

To sum up, Stalin's popularity is due to the fact that no actions of the current leaders are even close to compare with Stalin's measures to make the population happy.

  • I am more looking at reasons for his continued popularity within Russia rather than the reason people know about him. Is the curriculum pro-stalin for example?
    – Ben Neill
    Apr 8, 2012 at 6:03
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    I downvoted this answer because it seems to not explain why he is popular (for example it lists some negative activities of Stalin, which is irrelevant).
    – Anixx
    Apr 9, 2012 at 7:54
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    I think Hitler is popular with those who perceive negative information about him as somewhat positive.
    – Anixx
    Apr 9, 2012 at 10:22
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    I guess I provided the full picture on Stalin's popularity to describe what people prefer to oversee when they choose to favor this notable Russian leader.
    – Eugene
    Apr 9, 2012 at 10:36
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    @MichaelF there was extremely little corruption in the USSR compared to the capitalist countries mostly because there was no business, no conflict of interest and no money to pay bribes (even if somebody had, he would rise a suspicion where he got them). Corruption in the USSR was at level of presenting a box of candies to a doctor, not at the level of billions dollars as it is now. But I doubt this can be attributed solely to Stalin (although under Stalin any corruption would be harshly prosecuted indeed).
    – Anixx
    Apr 9, 2012 at 12:17

Fortunately, there has been some scientific polling done on this topic, which is much more reliable than the TV poll where Stalin was voted the third-best Russian. Stalin still commands considerable respect in Russia and the Caucasus states, but attitudes vary greatly with the framing of the question.

In 1993, Stalin's raw favorable/unfavorables were at 27/55 for net -28 favorability. That's pretty low, but what if you ask if Stalin gets enough admiration for his role in building socialism? Then you get 42% of Russians in 1997 saying he deserves more admiration for building socialism, versus 30% who say he gets enough.

In 2012, the Carnegie Endowment and Levada Center polled Russian, Azerbaijanis, Armenians, and Georgians about Stalin. This study reveals that by far, Stalin is most admired for his role in WWII: 60% of Russians, 69% of Armenians, 72% of Azerbaijanis, and 76% of Georgians agree that "For all Stalin's mistakes and misdeeds, the most important thing is that under his leadership the Soviet people won the Great Patriotic War."

The two-mindedness of attitudes toward Stalin is on display in the following graph, which shows that pluralities in all four nations simultaneously view him as "a wise leader" and "a cruel, inhuman tyrant."

enter image description here

But lest we think that citizens of former Soviet nations are actually pining for Stalin, only 15% of Azerbaijanis, 18% of Russians, 22% of Armenians, and 24% of Georgians would "like to live in a country ruled by a person like Stalin." The study also finds that younger generations have "a growing indifference to Stalin."

Unsurprisingly, Georgians consistently have a better view of the most notorious Georgian than do the three other nations.

Sources: The first two polls can be found at the Polling the Nations repository. The full Carnegie Endowment study can be found here. There's a lot more in it; it's worth checking out.

enter image description here enter image description here

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