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Dynamics of the attitude of Ukrainians to Stalin during 2012-2023
The press release was prepared by the Executive Director of KIIS Anton Hrushetskyi
From May 26 to June 5, 2023, the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) conducted its own all-Ukrainian public opinion survey "Omnibus". Bythemethodofcomputer-assistedtelephoneinterviews(CATI) based on a random sample of mobile phone numbers (with random generation of phone numbers and subsequent statistical weighting), 984 respondents living in all regions of Ukraine (except the Autonomous Republic of Crimea) were interviewed. The survey was conducted with adult (aged 18 and older) citizens of Ukraine who, at the time of the survey, lived on the territory of Ukraine (within the boundaries controlled by the Ukrainian authorities until February 24, 2022). The sample did not include residents of territories that were not temporarily controlled by the authorities of Ukraine until February 24, 2022 (AR of Crimea, the city of Sevastopol, certain districts of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts), and the survey was not conducted with citizens who left the country after February 24, 2022.
Formally, under normal circumstances, the statistical error of such a sample (with a probability of 0.95 and taking into account the design effect of 1.1) did not exceed 3.4% for indicators close to 50%, 3.0% for indicators close to 25%, 2.1% - for indicators close to 10%, 1.5% - for indicators close to 5%.
Under conditions of war, in addition to the specified formal error, a certain systematic deviation is added. In particular, if in May 2022, among all the respondents we interviewed, 2.5-4% lived in the territories occupied after February 24 (and this corresponded to the percentage of those who live there, because the generation of telephone numbers was random), now due to the occupiers turning off the telephone connection, not a single respondent who currently lives in occupied settlements was included in the sample (along with this, out of a total of 984 respondents, 32 respondents lived in a settlement that is currently occupied until February 24, 2022). It is important to note that although the views of the respondents who lived in the occupation were somewhat different, the general trends were quite similar. That is, the impossibility of interviewing such respondents does not significantly affect the quality of the results. There are other factors that can affect the quality of results in "wartime" conditions (see Annex 2).
In general, we believe that the obtained results are still highly representative and allow a fairly reliable analysis of public mood of the population.
Dynamics of the attitude of Ukrainians to Stalin
KIIS regularly asks a question about the attitude towards Stalin in the form of "How do you personally feel about Stalin in general?". The respondent could choose one of the answers: "with admiration", "with respect", "with sympathy", "indifference", "with dislike, irritation", "with fear", "with disgust, hatred". The first three options actually correspond to a positive attitude towards Stalin, the last three to a negative one.
Even before the Revolution of Dignity, a minority of the population (23%) had a positive attitude towards Stalin. Although, at the same time, the negative attitude still did not dominate (37%). Until 2021, the situation did not change significantly, although the general trend was rather towards a decrease in the share of those who have a positive attitude towards Stalin.
After the full-scale invasion, the public opinion of the population crystallized - in the summer of 2022, 64% of respondents had a negative attitude towards Stalin, and the share of those who had a positive attitude was 5%. As of 2023, 61% of respondents have a negative attitude towards Stalin (some decrease due to an increase from 23% to 26% of those who have an indifferent attitude), only 4% are positive.
Graph 1. How do you personally feel about Stalin in general?
On graph 2, the data are shown in regional dimensions. On the one hand, we see a consensus that in all regions an absolute minority favors Stalin (from 1% in the West to 8% in the East). In addition, in all regions the share of those who have a negative attitude towards Stalin significantly outweighs those who have a positive attitude towards him. Compared to 2021, there is a significant increase in negative attitude toward Stalin (and a decrease in positive one) in all regions. On the eve of the large-scale invasion in the South and East, the share of those who had a positive and negative attitude was almost the same. Now, it is the negative attitude that dominates (with a very small share of those who maintain a positive attitude).
At the same time, on the other hand, there are still regional peculiarities of perception. If in the West and in the Center a clear majority has a negative attitude towards Stalin, then in the South and East - about half (plus a third have an indifferent attitude).
Graph2. Attitude towards Stalin in the regional dimension
Graph 3 shows data among population categories by language of communication at home. Although the attitude towards Stalin is somewhat better among Russian-speaking residents of Ukraine, in fact, negative attitudes prevail among all categories (in particular, among Russian-speaking citizens, 50% have a negative attitude and only 5% have a positive attitude).
There were only 32 respondents (out of 984) in the sample who continue to identify themselves by nationality as Russian. This amount is not enough for statistically reliable calculations. However, it is indicative that only 6 of them have a positive attitude. At the same time, 9 have an indifferent attitude, 9 - a negative attitude, 8 - undecided.
Graph3. Attitudes towards Stalin in terms of the language of communication at home
Among all age categories, the majority has a negative attitude towards Stalin. It can be noted that among older citizens the attitude is slightly better, and among younger citizens there are more people who have an indifferent attitude.
Graph4. Attitudes towards Stalin in terms of age categories
Comparison of attitudes towards Stalin in Ukraine and Russia
In the context of the full-scale invasion of Russia, it is symptomatic to compare the dynamics of attitudes towards Stalin among the population of Ukraine and Russia (according to the data of the Levada Center) over the past 10 years.
If in 2012 approximately the same proportion of the population in Ukraine and Russia had a positive attitude towards Stalin, then in Ukraine in general there were fewer sympathizers of the Soviet dictator, while in Russia, on the contrary, affection for him grew rapidly and now the majority of the population has a positive attitude. In Russia, between 2012 and 2023, the share of those who perceive Stalin positively increased from 28% to 63%.
It is noteworthy that in Ukraine both young people and older people have a distinctly critical attitude towards Stalin. In Russia, even among young people aged 18-24, 48% have a positive attitude towards Stalin (and only 8% have a negative attitude). Among the older population of Russia, the attitude towards Stalin is even better.
Graph5. Comparison of the positive attitude towards Stalin in Ukraine and Russia
* Data for the year 2022 are not available, so simulated results are shown for illustration purposes.
A. Hrushetskyi, comments on the survey results:
The attitude towards Stalin is a bright value marker that demonstrates the difference (chasm) between Ukrainians and Russians.
In fact, even when 10 years ago the attitude towards Stalin was not favorable, he was unequivocally condemned in Ukrainian society. For example, in one of the surveys before the Revolution of Dignity (which covered both Crimea and the entire Donbas), more than 80% of respondents believed that the Stalinist repressions of the 1930s could not be justified. Only about 5% were ready to justify them with "the need for industrialization and overcoming backwardness". That is, the thesis about the "effective manager" in Ukraine did not work and did not displace all the crimes of the Soviet dictator in the public consciousness. At the same time, this thesis worked successfully (and still works) in Russia, where the positive attitude towards Stalin grew by leaps and bounds. Ukrainian society reacted like a normal healthy society to more and more information about Stalin's crimes (perhaps a little slower than we would like, but still the dynamics were positive). Instead, Russian society turned out to be morally degraded, incapable of healthy reflection and incapable of a critical view under the pressure of propaganda that formed a positive image of the dictator.
After almost a year and a half of a large-scale invasion, the obvious war crimes committed by the Russians in Ukraine should become an incentive for the Russians to rethink various aspects of public life in a humanistic spirit. Instead, we see the persistence of positive attitudes toward one of the most terrifying and brutal tyrants in human history, even among young Russians. It is not surprising then that the majority of Russians approve of the war against Ukraine and Ukrainians.
Annex 1. Formulation of questions from the questionnaire
How do you personally feel about Stalin in general?
(% among all respondents)
How do you personally feel about Stalin in general?
(% among all respondents)
Annex 2. Methodological comments on the representativeness of telephone surveys conducted during the war
Even before the full-scale Russian invasion on February 24, 2022, there were a number of factors that negatively affected the representativeness of the polls (for example, the absence of a census for more than 20 years). A full-scale war, of course, greatly affects representativeness and complicates the work of sociologists, but does not make it impossible. Access to reliable data on the state of public moods remains relevant both for Ukrainians themselves and for our foreign partners (who, as the events of recent months have shown, often underestimated and did not understand Ukraine and Ukrainians).
At the same time, in order to maintain objectivity, it is necessary to understand what limitations the war imposes on the conduct of sociological surveys. First of all, we pay attention to large-scale population movements. As of May, 2023, the UN estimates the number of Ukrainian refugees at almost 8.3 million. Obviously, due to various reasons, it is difficult to consider these data unequivocally accurate, but in general, the quite significant scale of departure from the country is understandable. There is no exact data on how many of them are adult citizens, but, most likely, it is about half. Among about 30 million adult citizens (estimated at the time of the full-scale invasion), it can be roughly estimated that about 15-20% have left the country, and it is impossible to reliably survey these citizens using telephone interviews. Even more citizens have become internally displaced persons, but they have a much smaller impact on the quality of telephone surveys, since almost all of these citizens have mobile phones and are reachable to participate in the survey (in fact, 16% of the respondents of this survey are IDPs).
Another important problem is the accessibility for the survey of the population of the territories that were occupied after February 24, 2022, due to the conduct of intensive military operations or due to interruptions in telephone communication. Now there is practically no connection. In May 2022, 2.5-4% of respondents lived in these territories, now the sample does not include a single respondent who currently lives in an occupied settlement (together with this, out of a total of 984 respondents, 32 respondents lived in a settlement that is currently occupied until February 24, 2022; now these respondents live in one of the settlements on the territory controlled by the Government of Ukraine). According to our estimates, the territories that were occupied by Russia as of the beginning of September 2022 (occupied after February 24, 2022) accounted for about 9% of the total adult population. Taking into account the mass exodus of the population from these territories (most likely, we are talking about at least half of the population), as well as the fact that significant territories of Kharkiv and Kherson regions were liberated from this period, we estimate that no more than 3-5% of the total adult population of Ukraine were unavailable due to communication problems.
In our opinion, a more significant impact on representativeness can be either a generally lower willingness of citizens with "pro-Russian" attitudes to participate in surveys, or the insincerity of those who did take part in the survey (taking into account the obvious facts and prevailing opinions in the media regarding the Russian invasion , some citizens will not want to say what they really think "in public"). If to talk about the general willingness of respondents to participate in the survey, then in recent surveys we see either the same indicators or somewhat lower (although it should be borne in mind that the lower willingness to participate of "pro-Russian" citizens can be compensated by the higher willingness to participate of "pro-Ukrainian"-minded citizens).
We conducted a methodical experiment in May, which shows that the citizens who are currently participating in the surveys in terms of demographic characteristics and meaningful attitudes are close to those who participated in the surveys until February 24, 2022. Preliminarily, we see some shift in the direction of "pro-Ukrainian"-minded citizens, which is reflected in up to 4-6% deviations for individual questions (in the direction of more frequent selection of answers that correspond to the "pro-Ukrainian" interpretation of events). In our opinion, in the current conditions, this is a rather optimistic indicator.
However, this experiment does not give an answer as to how sincere the respondents are now in their answers. To assess the sincerity of responses to sensitive questions, in July we conducted another experiment using the "imagined acquaintance" method. The results showed that the respondents generally answered the survey questions honestly. That is, we have reason to say that during the interview, the respondents really answer our questions sincerely.
 The region is determined by where the respondent lived until February 24, i.e. IDPs who, for example, lived in the Donetsk oblast until February 24, but now live in another oblast, are considered residents of the East for the analysis.
 The composition of the macroregions is as follows: Western macroregion – Volyn, Rivne, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ternopil, Zakarpattia, Khmelnytskyi, Chernivtsi oblasts; Central macroregion – Vinnytsia, Zhytomyr, Sumy, Chernihiv, Poltava, Kirovohrad, Cherkasy, Kyiv oblasts, Kyiv city, Southern macroregion – Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv, Kherson, Odesa oblasts, Eastern macroregion – Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv oblasts.