A special decree issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party opened the era of massive repressions in the USSR in the summer of 1937. The repressions were dubbed as Stalinist, in honor of “the leader and teacher of all nations” Joseph Stalin, who ordered to exterminate millions of Soviet citizens. Repressions existed before 1937 too, but that year became a symbol of Stalinism.
The year 1937 and the era of Stalinism seem to be the matter of distant past nowadays, although they may still raise disputes and discussions in the Russian society. The memory of Stalin is still strong in Russia, according to the results of a recent opinion poll conducted by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center.
The year 1937 still remains the symbol of Stalin’s terror many decades and generations after. The majority of the polled Russians said that they associate the year 1937 with terror and massive repressions. About 44 percent of the polled said they did not know what happened in the Soviet Union in 1937. Some of them said that it was the time of national starvation and the rising of fascism.
The poll clearly shows that the repressions of the 1930s touched upon the vast majority of the Russian population of those years. Many people, presumably elderly individuals, still remember their relatives who were either killed or jailed in Stalin’s concentration camps back in those years – 29 percent. The percentage of those remembering their repressed relatives is smaller with the youth – 15%.
The precise number of people subjected to Stalinist repressions is still unknown. However, it obviously goes about millions of people. Many of the polled said that the repressions were basically aimed against intellectuals – cultural activists, scientists and artists. Others recollected outstanding military men who also fell victims of Stalinism. About 20 percent said that common Russians suffered most in the terror of the 1930s: priests, Jews, Latvians, other national minorities, peasants, workers and party officials.
A half of the polled said that the repressed were not guilty of anything. Many of the victims were honest citizens who either stood in the opposition to Stalin’s regime or were slandered by others. A bit more than 30 percent of respondents said that a certain part of the repressed could be guilty of something.
Advocates of Stalinism – 1.5 percent - say that Stalin made a correct and necessary decision to start the repressions in 1937. More than 30 percent say that it was not Stalin who caused the repressions, but his entire political system. Eighteen percent said that that Stalin deliberately committed the crime against the entire nation.
The majority of the polled (almost 70 percent) stated that the extermination of top military officials in the USSR was the one of the main reasons that triggered serious losses and defeats during the first months of the Great Patriotic War.
The attitude to Stalin and his era in the national history still remains negative with most Russians. Fifteen percent of the polled believe that Stalin played a positive role in Russia’s history, whereas 32 percent of respondents share the opposite opinion.
The poll shows that modern generations of Russian people prefer to give ambiguous estimations to Stalin’s era. Joseph Stalin as a historical persona still raises a great amount of interest in Russia. However, it goes about the mythical side of Stalinism. Many people recall Comrade Stalin’s tough hand from time to time against the background of corruption and social instability in today’s Russia. Some of them say that Russia needs the new Stalin.