Putin is closing in on Stalin as the greatest person in history according to Russians

Stalin still edges Putin out in the eyes of the Russian people.
Stalin still edges Putin out in the eyes of the Russian people.
Image: Reuters
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Since 2012, Russian president Vladimir Putin’s domestic approval rating has climbed from the 60s to more than 80%, according to the Levada Center, Russia’s last major independent polling firm. His place among the most vaunted people in history—in Russians’ eyes—has similarly leapt.

Five years ago, his people ranked him number five on a list of the “most outstanding” figures in history; 22% of respondents in a Levada poll called him the greatest (link in Russian). This year, another poll by Levada puts the Russian president joint second at 34%, alongside Russia’s national poet, Alexander Pushkin.

Soviet leader Josef Stalin topped both polls, with 42% in 2012 and 38% this year. Although near-unanimously reviled in the West for overseeing a regime that killed millions of its own people, Stalin has a deeply contested legacy in Russia and has slowly been rehabilitated since the end of the Soviet Union; his rating has risen steadily from just 12% in 1989. Lenin, on the other hand, has fallen from 72% in 1989 to just 32% in the latest poll.

The poll, which surveyed 1,600 people in 48 Russian regions, asked for the most outstanding person of any nationality, but Russians favor their own: The top-ranked foreigner was Napoleon, ranked 14th, with 9%. He was followed by Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton in joint 16th place.