September 26, 2008
Prince Nevsky leads ‘most popular’ poll
By Kirill Bessonov
12 leaders have been chosen in the national internet poll Name of Russia which is to determine whom Russians see as the most important and influential people in their history. Saint Prince Aleksander Nevsky holds the first place while Joseph Stalin, whose allegedly inflated popularity has caused the project to restart, slid to 12th place.
The Name of Russia project has been organized jointly by the Rossiya TV channel, the History Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Public Opinion polling center. The winner in the poll will be announced in the end of 2008 in a major talk show broadcasted live on the Rossiya channel.
On Wednesday the managers of the poll announced the 12 finalists. The first five places were occupied by 13th century prince Saint Aleksander Nevsky, 19th century poet Aleksander Pushkin, 19th century writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 18th century emperor Peter I, and Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin.
Communist dictator Joseph Stalin also made his way to the finals, but he was ranked only 12th, in contrast with the recent situation when Stalin was the unrivaled favorite in the polls. A few months ago the organizers said that the voting was not fair and blamed some internet groups for rigging the vote and even hacking the site of the project. Eventually, the project was restarted in August with all previous results corrected and necessary protection added.
Curiously, the new leader, while not as infamous as Stalin, is still quite a controversial figure and his popularity may mean that the Russian public still has some anti-Western sentiments. Grand Prince of the North Russian city-state of Great Novgorod, Aleksander Yaroslavovich is most famous for his victory over German crusaders - on the ice of the Chudskoye lake in 1242. Aleksander was a vassal to the Golden Horde and opposition to Germans and Roman Catholics was natural to him, but the Russian public mostly learned the story from the 1938 movie made by the famous director Sergei Eisenstein. The film has no mention of Mongols and the Livonian knights are portrayed as all-evil invaders from the West - important point as the Soviet Union readied itself to the war with Nazi Germany.
The fact that Aleksander Nevsky was sanctified by the Russian Orthodox Church for his achievements in repelling the spread of the Roman Catholicism is also worth some attention.
While many in Russia questioned the feasibility of the project that suggested to choose between all sorts of famous people - from leaders of the nation to poets and scientists, the producers of the poll defended their idea by saying that the main objective of the project was not to determine the nation's preferences but rather to introduce some opposition to the "glamour" icons of today.
Talking to press on Wednesday, Name of Russia's chief producer Aleksander Lyubimov said that the new results were calculated using a precise formula.
The final stage of the competition will allow voting by SMS and direct calls during the broadcast of the announcement, so the picture may still change, the organizers said.