|Type||Research institute, independent nongovernmental organization|
|Purpose||opinion polls, social research, marketing research|
|Lev Gudkov, director|
Tatyana Zaslavskaya, honorary president
Alexei Grazhdankin, Boris Dubin, Marina Krasilnikova, Alexey Levinson and Yuri Poletayev, Lyudmila Khakhulina
The Levada Center is a Russian independent, nongovernmental polling and sociological research organization recognized as a foreign agent under the 2012 Russian foreign agent law. It is named after its founder, the first Russian professor of sociology Yuri Levada (1930--2006). The Center traces back its history to 1987 when the All-Union Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) was founded under the leadership of academician Tatyana Zaslavskaya. Being one of the largest Russian research companies, the Levada Center regularly conducts its own and commissioned polling and marketing research.
The Levada Center was formed in 1987-88 as the All-Union Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM, Russian: ), under the direction of Tatyana Zaslavskaya, Boris Grushin, Valery Rutgajzer and Yuri Levada. VTsIOM was the first organization to carry out representative mass surveys within the Russian population. Tatyana Zaslavskaya, now the honorary president of Levada Center, headed VTsIOM in 1987-1992, followed by Yuri Levada from 1992-2003.
In August 2003 the Ministry for Property Relations attempted to take control of the Center by placing government officials on the VTsIOM board of directors. All the employees of VTsIOM quit in response and continued their work under a new name, VTsIOM-A. After the Federal Antimonopoly Service forbid them to use this name, the new organization was renamed "Levada Analytical Center", (Levada Center).
The Levada Center has continued the research programs started by its collective in the 1990s-2000s. One of the largest projects is the study "The Soviet Person" study, or Homo Soveticus, Russian: ?, in which specialists used surveys to monitor and identify significant trends in the social development of Russia's society over the past 15 years.
The founding and development of the agency was intertwined with the career of its founder, Yuri Levada -- the first professor to teach sociology at Moscow State University. During the political thaw initiated by Nikita Khrushchev, Levada was allowed to carry out limited surveys of public opinion. In one lecture, Levada asserted that tanks could not change ideologies, a reference to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. However, his first conflict with those in power came from a survey asserting that few actually read Pravdas notoriously longwinded editorials; and Pravda quickly and bitterly denounced the sociologist. In 1972, his institute was closed down during a Brezhnev-era purge of some 200 sociologists from research institutes and universities.
Levada was reinstated by reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as glasnost was under way. He went on to establish the All-Union Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) in 1987, which was renamed All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion after the end of Soviet Union in 1991.
VTsIOM became widely respected for its objectivity and professionalism among academics and journalists in both the Soviet Union and the West. In the 1990s, the agency's polls gained a reputation for being very reliable.[a 1]
Although VTsIOM received no budget money and funded itself with private-sector polling contracts from the breakdown of Soviet Union in 1992 to 2003, Levada had not addressed the fact that the polling agency remained a state-owned agency on paper.
This allowed the state to employ a legal technicality and appoint a new board of directors in September 2003, composed mainly of its officials, to oversee the work of VTsIOM. None of VTsIOM's sociologists were among these government appointments. Before that, VTsIOM had conducted over 1,000 polls.
Levada stated that the Kremlin move was aimed in part at silencing growing public opposition to the Chechen war in the election season. (In recent years, the Kremlin has employed similar legal maneuvers to take over the independent NTV, TV-6 and TVS networks.)
After VTsIOM's management was forcibly changed, Levada and some of his colleagues quit their jobs (and, moreover, the equipment and resources that they had used for 15 years) to start up a new private polling agency, which they named Analytical Service VTsIOM (or VTsIOM-A). VTsIOM-A was renamed "Yuri Levada Analytical Center" (or "Levada Center") in March 2004. There is conflicting data about response from other Russian sociologists to the breakup of VTsIOM. Some sources report that every sociologist left with Levada. Others claims they were silent, except for Grushin.
The Property Ministry, which was reorganizing VTsIOM on behalf of the government, welcomed the researchers' departure. "Now they [VTsIOM-A] can really become independent, step into the market and live according to the laws of the market, which include paying taxes and competition", said a ministry spokesman.
The new director of VTsIOM is Valery Fedorov (? ?), then a political scientist in his late twenties with no experience in public opinion polls, formerly a director of Center of Political Trends ( ). Many sources refer to him as a member of the presidential administration, but this is not confirmed on his curriculum vitae. He has assembled a new VTsIOM staff, most of whom are little-known.
Lilia Shevtsova, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center (established by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) who used VTsIOM statistics in her recent book Putin's Russia, said she was pleased Levada was trying to maintain the independence of his research.[a 2][clarification needed]
When asked about VTsIOM management change during his visit to Columbia University in the United States in September 2003, Russian president Vladimir Putin was supportive of the change in management. Levada reportedly claimed that Putin disrupted at least three attempts to convince him that his approval rating is considerably lower than widely reported.
In 2013 the Levada Center reported it received from 1.5% to 3% of its total budget from abroad. It was issued with a public warning that it would be eligible for listing as a 'foreign agent' under the recently passed Russian foreign agent law. Levada said it suspended foreign funding in 2013. After the Levada Center on 1 September 2016 published the results of a poll that had found a significant decline in support for the ruling United Russia party, the Russian Justice declared that the pollster was "performing the functions of a foreign agent". This barred it from work on the upcoming election. Levada's director stated that the designation may mean that Levada would be unable to continue its work as a pollster. "This manifests the increase in internal repressions carried out by the country's leadership," the center's director, Lev Gudkov, had told TV Dozhd, the New York Times reported, "If they won't cancel this decision, it will mean that the Levada Center will have to stop working, because you cannot conduct polls with such a stigma put on you."
A pro-Kremlin group, Anti-Maidan, had been seeking the Levada Center's blacklisting, the Moscow Times had reported on 11 July 2016, adding that in a statement at its website, Anti-Maidan had claimed that "commissioned by the U.S. military, this Russian investigative service [Levada] gathered information in Moscow and Russia's regions. ... Wisconsin University acted as an intermediary between the Pentagon and the Levada-Center".
The nongovernmental organization Levada Analytical Center was initially formed in 1987-1988 as the "All-Union Public Opinion Research Center" (VTsIOM). Due to some internal changes it was reestablished in 2003 as an independent nongovernmental organization.
The center carries out public opinion and research polls in fields such as sociology, economics, psychology and marketing. With approximately 50 people in the Moscow office, 80 fieldwork supervisors in regional branches and about 3000 trained interviewers, it is one of the largest full-service research agencies in Russia today.
The key personnel are the founders of the company who started their research programs at VTsIOM and continue in the Levada Center. From 2003 until 2006 the director was Yuri Levada, in December, 2006 he was succeeded by Lev Dmitrievitsch Gudkov.
The basic research departments and their directors are:
The Levada Center has partner relationships with various regional research centers in Russia, the CIS and the Baltic states. Their partners and customers are nonprofit Russian and international companies. The Center publishes the sociological journal The Russian Public Opinion Herald.
The Levada-Center is a member of the international associations ESOMAR and ?IR. Experts of the Levada-Center are frequent members at conferences and round-table discussions, such as the Liberal Mission Foundation (? « »), the Carnegie Moscow Center, The Gorbachev Foundation, Memorial, Public Lectures of the Polit.ru Project ( .), the Moscow Higher School of Social and Economic Sciences (? ? ? ? ?), the Public Center of A.D. Sakharov ( . ?. ?. ) and Khodorkovsky Readings ( ).
Articles, interviews and expert opinions published by the Levada-Center appear regularly in domestic and foreign media, such as Kommersant, Vedomosti, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, etc. Other publications in scientific and socially political press within Russia include Pro et Contra, Otechestvenie zapiski (? ?), Social Studies and the Present ( ? ?), The New Times, Ogoniok and Novaya Gazeta.
The Center continues to carry out research programs, they have developed in the framework of VTsIOM. The Center publishes the Journal of Public Opinion (from 1993 to 2003, the editorial staff of The Messenger created and published the journal "Monitoring of public opinion: the economic and social change" - named after one of the major research programs, developed under the supervision of the academician Tatyana Zaslavskaya).
The Levada-Center is included in the list of independent analytical centers of Europe published by Freedom House. Data published by the Levada-Center has been used for The Economist Special Report on Russia. In collaboration with the Levada-Center, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty weekly broadcasts the show Public Opinion ( ? ? ?).
In 1988, the research team at what later became the Levada-Center conducted the first study of consumer preferences in the USSR. At present, the Center conducts a wide range of marketing and sociological research using a variety of research techniques.