The All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTSIOM) has released the results of a study aimed at gauging the knowledge of Russian history. Respondents were also asked a number of history questions which make part of the Unified State Exam in Russia’s secondary schools. As it turned out, only 2 percent of adult Russians would receive an A in history if they take the exam. Moreover, the study found that most Russians could not care less for their own country’s history. Only 39 percent of Russians take some interest in history, with 7 percent of them showing a “great interest” in the subject – they read books, watch movies and visit museums relevant to national history. A third of the polled (32 percent) has an interest in history “from time to time.”
Russian history is a subject that holds no interest at all for 54 percent of respondents. Of the above group, 36 percent claim to have had a penchant for history in the past while going to school or college but nowadays they have neither time nor inclination for the subject. The study found that 18 percent of the polled had never showed any interest in history of Russia.
A mere 1 percent of Russians ranks their knowledge of Russian history as excellent; 18 percent claim to have good knowledge of the subject; nearly half (45 percent) claim to have fair or average knowledge; 26 percent admit that their knowledge of Russian history is rather poor.
Respondents were requested to give answers to eight questions of a demonstration version of the 2007 Unified State Exam in history for students of eleventh grade. Only 2 percent of respondents gave correct answers to all the questions; 4 percent gave correct answers to 7 questions; 8 percent gave correct answers to 6 questions, whereas 14 percent of respondents failed to answer any questions of the exam.
From 23 to 57 percent of the polled gave correct answers to one question or another. The higher is the level of education, the larger is the number of questions answered. The correct answers to the questions range from 15 to 46 percent for those whose education level is below secondary; the proportion is in a range between 33 and 66 percent for those of higher and incomplete higher education.
Russians are more familiar with the 20th century history of Russia; their knowledge of earlier periods is not so good. The results of the survey show that 28 percent of the polled know that Russia was declared an empire in the 18th century; 34 percent know that the abolition of serfdom took place under Russian Emperor Alexander II; 33 percent know that those advocating a doctrine of rejecting established laws, authority, and the basic institutions of society were referred to as “nihilists” in the 19th century; 53 percent know that the term “nationalization” stand for the process of bringing industry and land under the ownership and control of the Soviet government in 1917-1918; 57 percent know that privately owned peasants’ farms became history as a result of collectivization carried out in the 1930s; 35 percent know that the 1977 Soviet constitution included a provision declaring the so-called developed socialism a reality.
The nationwide survey was conducted by VTSIOM on September 1-2, 2007. The survey involved 1,600 respondents in 153 cities, towns and villages located in 46 regions of the Russian Federation. Statistical error is 3.4 percent at a maximum.
Translated by Guerman Grachev