Economic hardships and a rising retirement age are helping shape how Russians see Stalin, one of the Soviet Union’s most brutal leaders.

The popularity of the Soviet era dictator, Josef Stalin, has drastically increased in Russia, with approval ratings even beating the country’s current leader Vladimir Putin, according to a poll conducted by the Moscow-based Levada Centre in March. 

A record 70 percent of Russians said that Stalin was good for the country, according to the institute’s poll, which was published in May. That’s a big jump from 2016 when 54 percent of Russians  saw him in a positive manner. 

Stalin, the Bolshevik ruler of the Soviet Union, was responsible for the mass murders of millions of Soviet citizens during his three-decade long rule, which ended with his death in 1953. Some historians have compared his brutality to Hitler’s, Germany’s Nazi era leader.

According to the study, Russia’s worsening economic conditions, such as lower incomes, and discontent over retirement age rises have increased Stalin’s popularity. 

46 percent of the respondents said that Stalin’s repressive policies were justified because the country attained the results it wanted, while 45 percent disagreed with the idea that economic growth under Stalin justified repressive policies. 

“Nostalgia over the collapse of the Soviet Union is at a peak this year,” said Karina Pipia, a researcher at the Levada Centre.

Current president Putin is still a very popular figure, having approval ratings of 66 percent, but that’s a drop from 90 percent five years ago. 

Many Russians also see Stalin as instrumental to victory in World War II. During the war, the Soviet Union lost more than 27 million citizens, but at its end, the country became a superpower, competing with the US for leadership of the world. 

On May 9, the country celebrated Victory Day, which marks the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.

Russia has had its fair share of notorious leaders, such as Ivan the Terrible, but in its recent history, Stalin stands apart in terms of his brutality, and the number of people whose deaths he ordered. 

Source: TRT World