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Putin says life was better under ‘great state’ of USSR

Russian President Vladimir Putin (U.S. Department of State/Flickr)
October 19, 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin made headlines this week for a surprising remark on the former USSR.

Putin described the USSR as a “great state” of which former Soviet Republic people regret losing, according to a Yahoo News report citing AFP.

Former soviets “interpret it in their own way, but all the same they believe that life in the Soviet Union was more secure, calmer, they felt surer of themselves,” he said. “There were more opportunities in one great, united, powerful state.”

Putin has previously expressed regretful remarks over the USSR’s collapse, having called it “the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century” back in 2005.

In March 2018, Putin said the one event in history he would change was the collapse of the USSR, Radio Free Europe reported at the time. “You see, all my ancestors in the past were peasant serfs, while I am the president,” he explained.

However, Putin was also asked which period of time he would choose to live in, to which he responded that he would choose the present day, indicating he may not necessarily agree with everything from the Soviet era.

Putin’s comments reflect the older population of Russians who hold favorable views toward the Soviet era, and are even nostalgic about it. A 2015-2016 Pew Research poll showed a that 69 percent of surveyed Russians viewed the collapse of the Soviet Union as “a bad thing.” Among respondents aged 35 and older, that number was 78 percent.

A further surprise was that the view is shared by those from other countries in Central and East Europe.

In Armenia, 79 percent of respondents had a negative view of the collapse of the Soviet Union. In Belarus, the number was 54 percent, while in Moldova, it was 70 percent.

Respondents’ view of Josef Stalin is similar. At least 58 percent of Russians viewed Stalin in a “very” or “mostly” positive regard.

Russians’ nostalgia may be connected to their current views on quality of life and economy. Just 15 percent of Russians believed they had a better quality of life in 2016 compared to a previous poll four years prior when the number was 30 percent, according to The Guardian.

European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) chief economist Sergei Guriev attributed the dismal numbers to job loss and economic policies. “Right now in most of our countries the majority doesn’t seem to prefer democracy over authoritarian rule, whereas in Germany 80% do,” Guriev said.