ISA signs petition in support of Russian pollster Levada

October 17, 2016

Levada is considered to be the most reliable pollster in Russia and it has a very good reputation both within Russia and abroad. As you may know on 5 September 2016 the Russian Ministry of Justice branded Levada as a "foreign agent" and included it in its list of more than 140 such foreign agents (a list of NGOs). The reason given by the Ministry of Justice for branding Levada as a "foreign agent" was that it has been collaborating with several foreign universities and organisations. The Russian authorities - through Kremlin press-secretary, Dimitrii Peskov, and Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration, Vyacheslav Volodin - have stated that Levada may appeal the Ministry of Justice's decision. Further, Volodin has also stated that some organisations that have been branded "foreign agents" in the past, including the organisation Liberalnaia missia, have made successful appeals. Some time ago, Levada's director, Lev Gudkov, announced that Levada would appeal the Ministry of Justice's decision.

The EU and the Council of Europe have condemned the decision of the Ministry of Justice - as have the German authorities. More recently, most of the Russian pollsters - including the pro-authorities VTSIOM and FOM - signed an open letter in support of Levada. The German organisation Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Osteuropakunde has now launched a petition in support of Levada. In the name of the academic freedom, ISA Executive Committee signs the below petition in support of Levada:

Attack on Scientific Freedom: Solidarity with the Levada Centre

Berlin, 12/9/2016

The Russian Ministry of Justice declared the independent Levada Centre for Public Opinion Research a “foreign agent” on 5 September. The Ministry claims that the Centre receives “funding from abroad” and is engaged in “political activity” through its opinion polls. This decision represents a continuation of the 2013 measures taken by the Russian authorities against the Levada Centre.

We decidedly condemn the stigmatisation of the Levada Centre under the leadership of its director, Lev Gudkov, as a „foreign agent“. This action essentially prevents the Centre from functioning. Russia’s government is vilifying international scientific cooperation. It is thereby contradicting its own claim to be an equal partner in international research efforts. The Levada Centre enjoys worldwide renown. Whoever wishes to receive a precise picture of Russian society depends on the transparent work of the Centre. Not only is the Levada Centre threatened, but along with it any form of independent empirical research in the social sciences. The Russian authorities are attacking scientific freedom as well as the freedom of expression. This constitutes a violation of the Russian Constitution and of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Levada Centre is the 141st non-governmental organisation in Russia to be classified as a “foreign agent”. The foundation for this practice is the “Law on non-commercial organisations”, amended in 2012. It aims to intimidate and destroy those forces of civil society considered undesirable. Their defamation as “foreign agents” is a propaganda method which has its roots in Stalinism and was applied by the Soviet secret service against human rights activists and dissidents.

•     We call on the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation to retract the classification of the Levada Centre as a “foreign agent” and to end its stigmatisation.

•     We call on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to pass a resolution which condemns the stigmatisation of Russian NGOs as “foreign agents”.

•     We call on scientists and scholars worldwide, on those affiliated with the media and on all those for whom scientific freedom, the freedom of expression, and civil society are important, to demonstrate solidarity with the Levada Centre by attaching their signatures to this petition.



Please see also a statement by the Russian Society of Sociologists: