Wouldn't you like to know? Well, some Russians wanted to know too. As it happens, the knowledge may appear to be somewhat surprising for a foreign observer.
A non-commercial NGO Levada Center polled 1601 Russian citizens on a following question: "Your attitude to various Russian leaders from different periods". Follow the positive results, sorted in descending order:
- Leonid Brezhnev - 56%
- Vladimir Lenin - 55%
- Joseph Stalin - 50%
- Tsar Nikolay II - 48%
- Mikhail Gorbachev - 66%
- Boris Yeltsin - 64%
So, instead of analysis I shall present two polarized comments on the above results. The first one - from a relatively independent and sometimes dissident Grani.ru, by Vitaly Portnikov - Meeting the old age.
The fact that the Levada Center poll on the best ruler of Russia ended in triumph for dear Leonid Ilyich is not surprising. Of course, this triumph is conditional - only one point separates him from the other Ilyich*, and the no less dear Vissarionych(**) is perched in third place. But Lenin, Stalin - these are by now not people but symbols: how many people are left in Russia that remember how it was during their times? On the other hand Brezhnev - it gives you a feeling that can be considered a real victory of power over reality.
Not so long ago, "stagnation" era seemed wrong: we all remember the emptying shelves, Afghanistan***, and most importantly - the drama of the degradation of power and of the state, unfolding before our eyes, so that no one argued with the fact that the aging leadership of the country takes idiotic decisions. It was only degree of idiocy that was debated. Brezhnev lived in anecdotes, surely surpassing Petka and Vasily Ivanovich, Shtirlits and even the Jews and the Chukchi****. Because Brezhnev - it was truly ridiculous and funny.
And now it is no longer funny. Now, it looks solid and stable. This means that the government was able to instill in a sufficiently large part of the society the idea of the inevitability and positivity of "stagnation". It was able to prove that stupidity is good, that when nothing changes, nothing progresses, when all around us withers and decomposes - it is life.
(*) Vladimir Lenin and Leonid Brezhnev share the patronymic Ilyich.
(**) Stalin's patronymic was Vissarionovich - or Vissarionych for brevity.
(***) The author forgot Czechoslovakia for some reason. I wouldn't, no sir/madam.
(****) Too long to explain, just take it as mentions of more ubiquitous Soviet/Russian anecdotes.
This is where I have chosen to end the translation. I think that the gist of the article was reflected faithfully in this part. And now - to the other side. Here comes an absolute opposite of the above: a view expressed by a rabid loyalist and ultra-nationalist, one Alexandr Belov. It was difficult to find some material in English on this character, but here and here you can find enough to get an impression. His article is titled Not a Servile Nation and subtitled: The Levada Center data makes the viability of liberal project in Russia doubtful.
It turned out that our citizens live and think outside liberal propaganda's context. But in the 90s it [the liberal propaganda] was an absolute mainstream, and still retains much of the "strategic high ground" in the media space.
*** [here the author reports the poll results that appear in the beginning of the post]***
Thus, the absolutely preferred leader at the moment is Leonid Brezhnev. That is, the leader, who is associated with a sense of stability and confidence in the future and the power of the state. We should take into account that people remember well the Brezhnev's era*, so the years of demagogy about "lines for sausage" hadn't confused them.
Usually avid for various fresh "numbers", liberal journalists either kept silent or barely mentioned the results of the study**. Such a reaction was evidence of the shock experienced by the media pool, whose work has long focused on the demonization of bygone eras.
The cliché of the "Bloody Nicholas***" and "damn the tsars", defamation of historical Russia were replaced a quarter of a century ago by "exposing" the "Stalin's terror", the "Brezhnev's stagnation" and unbridled defamation of the entire Soviet period. As a result, the population of Russia could form their view of history as a "black hole", which has been replaced by the "triumph of democracy" in the nineties****.
Did not happen. It was not so easy to fool the people .
[I am skipping some of the cursing addressed at "liberal propaganda", going directly to conclusions]
These studies, which visitors to the site "Levada Center" have described as "unexpected", show two trends.
First, the citizens of Russia are no longer willing to play along with the endless juggling of their own history and are increasingly convinced that those who ruled the country until "perestroika" cared mostly about her welfare.
Second, a steady demand for sustainable, strong and dynamic nation was clearly formed. It is consistent with the view our fellow citizens have of themselves and of the positions that they ought to take in this world.
[More cursing of the "liberals" skipped. End of the piece]
(*) Mr Belov... oh, let's cut the crap - this schmuck was born in 1976 and definitely doesn't remember anything from the Brezhnev's "era" and wasn't standing in lines for milk, bread, not to mention sausage. I do. I did.
(**) Which is a barefaced lie. There are tons of material from the liberal side of the political map (in Russian) on the subject.
(***) Tsar's Nikolay II's nickname
(****) I wouldn't use the term "black hole" for a period that was so generously splashed by red. As for the author placing Stalin's terror and Brezhnev's stagnation in quotes, it's up to him, of course. Did I mention the word "schmuck"?
To conclude: the author achieved rather the opposite of what he intended to, at least in the title of his article (re servility).
Now the last bit of input for you, my dear reader(s): I have done my own poll, of a kind. I passed the results of the Levada Center poll to a few people (some of them Russian) living outside of Russia, but still very much in touch with it. The response was crushing in its uniformity: leaving out the non-parliamentary parts, the conclusion was: "These ... deserve the ... government they have and the ... future they have coming". I know that in many senses this is not a politically correct opinion, but here you are.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."