According to a recent poll conducted by the Public Opinion Fund, a frequently cited independent Russian research organization, 80 percent of the Russian population “regret the breakup of the Soviet Union.”

The Soviet Union officially ceased to exist Dec. 25, 1991.

According to Aleksandr Oslon, director of the Public Opinion Fund, polls taken over the last five years have also indicated that the same percent of Russians want the Soviet Union’s successor entity, the Commonwealth of Independent States, to be “strengthened.”

The CIS consists of 12 of the 15 former Soviet republics; the Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have refused to join.

Reflecting Russian fatigue with the chaos following the collapse of the USSR, Oslon stated that his surveys found the Russian populace views as positive “any union of political leaders” or of former Soviet republics.

The survey results and Oslon’s remarks were reported by the Voice of Russia World Service, the official broadcasting service of the Russian government.

Oslon described the Russian people as having a “cautious desire” that Russia “may reunite” with Soviet republics, although most believe that restoration of the USSR is “impossible.” There is notable disagreement among respondents as to which specific partners should “reunite” with Russia.

While 50 percent of those polled favored reintegration with neo-communist Belarus, only 25 percent wanted Ukraine to reunite with Russia. The Central Asian former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan was the least favored partner for Russia, gaining only 2 percent of those surveyed.

The polling results appear to reflect the current reality in Russian relations with the former Soviet republics.

Russia and Belarus established in December 1999 a Union State that will eventually include a common legislature, currency and legal system. Belarus’ president – an admirer of Josef Stalin – Alexander Lukashenko, presently serves as the executive head of the Union State.

At the other end of the spectrum, Turkmenistan, a poor nation despite vast reserves of natural gas, currently languishes under the iron rule of its president, Saparmurat Niyazov.

Described in some Western media as “Soviet-style,” Niyazov is known at home by the title Turkmenbashi – Father of All Turkmen. In 1990, he received over 98 percent of the vote in an unopposed election, and his popularity increased further when in 1994, 99.9 percent of the voters extended his rule to 2003.

Niyazov, as well as his deceased mother and father, has received the designation “hero of Turkmenistan.”

Amidst the uncertain desire for a revival of Soviet-era unity among the Russian population, Oslon is urging the Russian leadership to counter what he calls “the myths about imperial ambitions of Russia” that exist among the post-Soviet republics.

These “myths” have been present in the former Soviet republics “since the 1980s,” according to Oslon, and he is calling upon “the Russian elite” to counter them.

“The responsibility of the Russian elite is not only to realize, formulate and support national interests, but also to destroy such myths,” Oslon declared.

“These myths are especially strong in western Ukraine,” said Oslon.

“This can be achieved by an appropriate cultural policy,” which is “no less important than the economy,” stated Oslon.

The western half of Ukraine, at one time occupied by Poland, is traditionally more oriented toward Western Europe than the eastern half, which has always come under the influence of Russia.

Ukrainian nationalism has always been most pronounced in the west of the nation, where the Ukrainian language and literature have been particularly treasured.

In recent years, Moscow has emphasized the opening and expansion of Russian cultural centers throughout the territories of the former Soviet republics.

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