More than half of Russians believe Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was a wise leader, a new poll by independent polling agency Levada Center showed on Friday.
Levada found 57 percent of Russians said they entirely or generally agreed that Stalin was a “wise leader who made the USSR powerful and prosperous.”
Levada said the figure was at a “maximum level” for its polls, up by 10 percent from four years ago.
The pollsters also found that 71 percent of Russians agreed that “whatever mistakes or sins are attributed to Stalin, the most important thing is that he led our people to victory in World War II.”
That figure was up by 11 percent from 2012, with Levada linking increased levels of positive feeling about Stalin’s role in World War II to Russia’s current involvement in armed conflict.
“In our view, negativity towards [Stalin] falls in periods of armed conflicts with Russia’s involvement when historical memory about ‘enemies,’ victory and defense becomes more vivid,” Levada researchers said in the analysis of the poll.
It cited 2008-2009, when Russia was in conflict with Georgia and “the events in eastern Ukraine,” despite Russia’s official denial that it is fighting with separatists in Ukraine.
Asked whether they agreed with the view that Stalin was a “brutal tyrant” who killed millions, 62 percent said “yes,” while 23 percent disagreed.
The figures had changed slightly since 2008, from 68 and 19 percent respectively.
The seeming contradiction reflects the contradictory government policy on Stalin and his legacy, said Yan Rachinsky, one of the founders of rights group Memorial, which has chronicled the purges and works to commemorate their victims.
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