Georgians Are The Biggest Stalinists

It’s no real secret that many Russians have a positive impression of Stalin; it was 49% in February 2013, insignificantly down from 53% in 2003. (This is not a view that I share). There are probably a few big reasons for this: (1) The mistaken notion that without him Russia would have remained in the age of plows, not rockets; (2) The relatively low corruption and perceived social justice in that time; (3) His role in securing victory in WW2, the latter of which carried away far, far more Russian lives than Stalinist repressions; (4) Last but not least, the liberal-promoted defamation of Stalin and associated efforts to equalize the Soviet Union with Nazi Germany; this is deeply repugnant to the majority of Russians – especially as while the majority did have someone die or go MIA in their families during 1941-45, many fewer had relatives sent to the Gulag for political crimes let alone shot – and as such there was a regrettable but entirely understandable angry reaction to such slanders in the 2000s.

What it is almost certainly not, however, is part and parcel of some “neo-Soviet revanchism” that seeks to forcibly reincorporate former territories into Russia (Russian nationalism today is primarily of the contemporary European kind that seeks to limit immigration in its moderate form, and expel ethnic minorities in its radical form). It’s certainly not because of some Putin imposed blackout on discussions of Stalin’s crimes; only retards who read neocon media would believe that. Nor is it something that is specific to Russians and the long-abused meme of their “yearning for a strong hand“. Because according to Levada polls, pro-Stalin sentiment in “democratic Georgia” is actually substantially higher than in Russia.

Russia Azerbaijan Armenia Georgia
Positive emotions 28 21 30 49
Negative emotions 23 37 35 19
+/- Ratio 1.2 0.57 0.86 2.6
Indifferent emotions 50 43 36 33

The table above shows the sum of positive emotions (adulation, respect, sympathy), negative emotions (dislike, fear, repugnance, hatred), and indifferent emotions (don’t know who was Stalin – 1% in Russia, 4% in Georgia, a remarkable 20% in Azerbaijan, refuse to answer) towards Stalin. Georgians have by far the most positive opinions towards him in net terms, and are also the least indifferent to him; while pro-Stalinists slightly outnumber anti-Stalinists in Russia, it also has the highest percentage of people who are indifferent to him.


“Stalin was a wise leader, who brought the USSR to greatness and prosperity” – 47% of Russians agree, 38% disagree; 69% of Georgians agree, 16% disagree.


“Stalin was a cruel and inhumane tyrant, guilty of the annihilation of millions of innocent people” – 66% of Russians agree, 20% disagree; 51% of Georgians agree, 26% disagree.


The strong hand theory: “Our people could never cope without a leader of Stalin’s calibre, who would come and restore order” – 30% of Russians agree, 52% disagree; 29% of Georgians agree, 47% disagree.


“Would you personally like to live and work under a national leader like Stalin?” – 18% of Russians want to, 67% don’t; 27% of Georgians want to, 60% don’t.


“Are the losses sustained by the Soviet peoples under Stalin justified by the great aims and results that were achieved in a short time period?” – 25% of Russians agree, 60% disagree; 28% of Georgians agree, 45% disagree.


Finally, a poll on how Ukrainians view Stalin: “Stalin was a great leader.” Not directly comparable with the polls in Russia and the Caucasus countries, but still, if you believe that Stalin was unequivocal ruin and evil, you are unlikely to say that he was a “great leader”; at the least, a positive answer implies some level of ambiguity. And as we can see a majority of Ukrainians in the east and south view him positively. Even from those from the center, who suffered most from the collectivization famines, more say he was a great leader than not. The only part of the country which definitely says he was not a “great leader” is the far west but of course it too has its own historical cockroaches.

Of course I have to stress that I don’t condemn Georgians for loving Stalin; the aim of this post is just to clear up some misconceptions that idiot Westerners have about how Russian Stalinophilia is somehow “exceptional” in the post-Soviet context and worthy of endless harping in the media. If I was a Georgian I too would probably love a countryman who administratively expanded the borders of Sakartvelo and subjugated those one hundred million Russkies up north under his heel. But it does also show the hilarious hypocrisy of Saakashvili who used to rant on about how Georgians are inherently more democratic-minded and historically responsible than Russians.


  1. Dear Anatoly,

    I will preface my comment by saying that I really enjoy reading your blog posts. You provide a refreshing break from the typically biased-against-Russia press. Having said that, I think you are totally wrong on this subject.

    To start, you are conflating two different ideas: the feeling of love/admiration people have for Stalin and the political/ideological strand known as Stalinism. Based on the few survey questions from Levada that you’ve posted here, those who were surveyed were only asked about their general feelings toward Stalin and not whether they agree with specific policies associated with Stalinism, i.e. rapid industrialization, collectivized agriculture, as it is typically defined. Therefore, you cannot make any conclusions about who is or is not a “Stalinist” in each of these countries. One can admire Stalin as a historical figure without adhering to his specific policies, just as one can espouse Stalinist ideas while thinking that Stalin himself was not a great leader. I am sure you understand the difference in these two concepts, but I have to question your tact when you’ve titled this post “Georgians are the biggest Stalinists.”

    Along those lines, I have not seen what Levada’s interpretation of the results are, but I think the survey is inherently flawed. Aside from Russia, the only other countries represented are relatively much small ones (in size and population) who arguably were very under-represented throughout the history of the Russian Empire and later Soviet Union. You cannot deny that at least Georgians, and potentially Azerbaijanis and Armenians as well (though I don’t know how strongly these groups feel a sense of Caucasian identity) like Stalin because he was “one of them.” Especially since these people only made up a small population in a much larger and Russian-dominated empire. It’s much easier to look past someone’s flaws if you have a connection with that person. Admiring Stalin as a great historical leader who accomplished a lot for the Soviet Union, for better or for worse, does not make someone a Stalinist.

    I’m sure you have a valid point that Russians are not nearly as inclined to bow to a powerful, repressive leader as many in the West believe. But simply shifting the attention to other nations who may be more “Stalinist” than Russians does not help your argument.

    Look forward to your response,


    • Hi Jeremy,

      First off, the title was more tongue in cheek than anything else. Your interpretation is of course nuanced and correct, especially the point about Georgians liking Stalin because he was one of them.

      However the intended audience to be swayed (or trolled) by this post are the inveterate neocon / Edward Lucas-fan types who view Russia as a bastion of “historical revisionist” / “neo-Soviet revanchism” / “apologists for Stalinism” and view its neighbors as newly freed “captive nations” who have nothing to do with Stalin and no sentimental associations with Stalin whatsoever and who are forced to resist the aggressions of the northern Stalinist bear.

      • Dear Jeremy,

        If you go past the title and read Anatoly’s article through carefully it is quite clear that he is not making the conflation to which you refer. The opposite is actually the case.

  2. You have a dead link there where it says “far, far more”.

  3. The Russian polls were more precise in terms of identifying opinions than was the Ukrainian poll. I would lean towards ambiguity in the Ukrainian poll, as “великим” doesn’t necessarily mean “great” as in “very good” but could also mean great as in “mighty” or “grand.” One might hate Stalin and still consider him to have been mighty, powerful, etc.

    I suspect that, for historical reasons, Stalin may be more popular in eastern Ukraine than he is in Russia.

  4. Dear Anatoly,

    Now that I have my sight properly back I am catching up with your articles.

    I think your discussion of contemporary Russian attitudes to Stalin is spot on. The number of genuine Stalinists or Stalinist revanchists or reactionaries is microscopically small. Even those are in almost all cases completely deluded about what Stalinism was really like or about. What is happening is that for most Russians Stalin is quite simply receding into history. Most Russians today increasingly see him as a historical and not as a contemporary political figure with any resonance on today’s politics. Given that he died 60 years ago and given the extent to which Russia has changed since his death (see the film on YouTube of his funeral to see the extent of that change) it would be completely bizarre if it was otherwise. Before long he will have become like Napoleon is today for the French, still a personality about whom people hold sharply different views but hardly someone who provokes any sense of nostalgia.