38 percent of Russians show poor understanding of history

No less an authority than Alexander Solzhenitsyn understood that a considerable dissimilarity existed between Russia and the West. He lived in both, saw the good and bad in both and believed both had something to offer mankind.

What he wouldn’t have understood is that a sizeable percentage of Russians hold former Soviet dictator and mass murderer Joseph Stalin in high regard.

Russians have picked Stalin as the greatest figure in history, beating out President Vladimir Putin and poet Alexander Pushkin, according to a poll released today.

The poll, conducted in April by the Levada Centre, asked Russians to pick the greatest individuals of all time.

Stalin came out on top with 38 percent, while Putin shared second place on 34 percent with Pushkin, Russia’s beloved national poet.

Stalin’s predecessor Vladimir Lenin, Tsar Peter the Great and first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, came next in the list, with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in last place at 6 percent.

The list includes included just three foreigners: Napoleon Bonaparte, Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton.

Stalin is believed responsible for the deaths of as many as 25 million individuals, some executed during his political purges and many more dying in the Gulag, the vast prison camp systems, or through mass starvation such as the Holodomor.

Stalin was a monster on par with Hitler and Mao, and the fact that more than one-third of Russians consider him the greatest figure in history points out either great deficiencies in the Russian educational system, a voluntary myopia among many Russians regarding their past, or a combination of the two.

(Top: A cemetery for victims of the one of Stalin’s gulags in Vorkuta, in Russia’s Far North.)

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7 thoughts on “38 percent of Russians show poor understanding of history

    • Oh, Pol Pot is up there, but you have to draw the line somewhere. If you were to compile a Hall of Fame of mass-murdering tyrants there’s no doubt that you would include the likes of Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, Leopold II, Franco, Gaddafi, Tojo, along with Pol Pot and a handful of others. But for sheer numbers, it’s tough to match Stalin, Mao and Hitler.

  1. I wonder if the Russian educational system is as bad as ours? I once had a chat with a young US Navy veteran who admired Stalin but said he went “a little too far.” A little?

    • I have a feeling the Russian educational system is probably better in some respects – math and science – and much worse in others – history and political science. No one wants to face up the dark aspects to their country’s past.

  2. And for French schools history stopped at the Great War…..not a good idea to let people see that their leaders had feet of clay…or that they waded up to their knees in blood.

    • Well, would you want to try to explain the Vichy Regime? Not that you shouldn’t, but you can see how government officials would just want to skip that part of history. You can at least make some chicken salad out of the chicken feathers of World War I.

      • Difficult too, when so many collaborators turned up in positions of power once they got rid of de Gaulle after the war…and were still going strong years later. Just look at Mitterand himself and those he protected.

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