The Levada Center is an internationally respected Russian survey research organisation. Independent and non-governmental, its history goes back to 1987, when the All Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM) was founded, under the leadership of Academician Tatyana Zaslavskaya. In 2003 pressure from the authorities prompted a number of VCIOM’s leading researchers, led by the sociologist Yuri Levada (1930—2006), to leave and launch their own organisation. The Levada Center, which has carried on research started by VCIOM in the ‘90s, conducts regular polls on all aspects of Russian society and politics. Among its many publications is the bi-monthly Herald of Russian Public Opinion.

The free city of Moscow: reflections on Russia’s protest movement

It is easy to write off the events of the last few months as a predictable prelude to bureaucratic revanchism. But the unanticipated protest movement also brought about a significant change, writes Alexei Levinson. This was the sense that Russians can now become members of an internalised free society. They are unlikely to give up this feeling any time soon. 

How Putin can become a moderniser

A majority of Russians – and not all of them opponents of Putin – demand modernisation. Yet the predominance of the bureaucratic classes and importance of informal favours in Putin’s Russia makes that a near impossible task. Paradoxically, the only way out for Putin may be to absorb his bureaucrats even further into the running of the country’s business affairs, argues Alexei Levinson.

The tandem: hope against hope dashed!

The presidential election is still 6 months away, but speculation about who would stand i.e become president had reached fever pitch. A section of society really hoped that Medvedev would continue his liberal policies, even though signs that this could happen were few and far between. Now there is clarity – and disappointment, says Alexei Levinson

The Great Terror’s long shadow

During the perestroika years there was much talk in Russia of the need for an act of repentance to assist people to come to terms with the Stalinist purges of 1936-7 and the ensuing years. There was no such act and a recent poll has revealed shifting perceptions of that period. But the victims are as much those left behind, marked for ever, as those who lost their lives, says Alexei Levinson

Russia: an opinion-poll democracy

On the eve of Presidential elections, Dmitry Medvedev has sprung to life and inserted political distance between himself and Putin. Polls show Russians would like both leaders to stand for election, and to choose between them, but such a democratic development would be highly unusual for Russia, writes Alexei Levinson.

Russian elections: who needs them?

In the course of twelve months, Russians will go to the polls twice – first, the parliamentary elections and then the big one: the presidential. Comparisons between Medvedev at this stage of his presidency and his predecessors are interesting, explains Alexei Levinson. Yet the Putin-Medvedev situation is unique and it’s difficult to see how it might develop.

When enemies are better than friends

Rather than emphasising friends and allies, today's Russian leaders prefer to single out their enemies, writes Alexei Levinson. It is an approach that plays on Russians' traditional psychological comfort zones, while at the same time allowing politicians to evade responsibility at home.

After the plane crash: Russian attitudes to Katyn

The NKVD’s mass execution in 1940 of Polish officers in Katyn Forest has complicated the often tense relations between Russia and Poland. But the plane crash on 10 April 2010 brought the countries closer together. Russia’s Levada Center has recently carried out a survey into Russian attitudes to Poland and Katyn in particular. The results were sometimes startling, as Alexei Levinson recounts.

Russia’s people: what is a just war?

Russia’s people do not bow to government opinion on the subject of war, a revealing survey of public attitudes by the Levada Center shows. The only ‘just war’ is one fought in defence of home and country, like the World War II. By this token, Russia’s wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya were unjust wars.

Uses and abuses of Stalin’s image

The Levada Center has been monitoring Russian attitudes to Stalin for years. Alexei Levinson, reviewing changing attitudes to this iconic figure following the Center's latest survey, finds that he remains popular, and that people are strangely forgiving of his crimes. But there is some resistance to the way the authorities exploit his image to their own ends

So what do Russia’s people think?

In the first of his regular monthly reports for odRussia, Alexei Levinson of Russia’s prestigious Levada Centre offers a round-up of Russian public opinion at the start of 2010. Even when the economic crisis lead people to judge their government, he notes, approval of Prime Minister Putin remained high. Nor do people seem particularly bothered by Russia’s imaginary elections
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