The Case of the Soviet Union During the Brezhnev Era

in Russian History
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Can autocracies obtain accurate information on popular opinion? This article approaches this question by focusing on the Soviet Union during the Brezhnev period. Based on Soviet archival materials (primarily Fond 89, the Volkogonov papers, and the Rubinov collection), the article argues that the Soviet regime relied on three main channels to track popular preferences: the kgb, opinion polling, and the analysis of citizen complaint letters. Each of these channels provided a different type of information: the kgb tracked levels of political dissent; opinion polling assessed general levels of satisfaction with the regime; and citizen complaints produced detailed information on the redistributive preferences of the population. Individually, none of these channels provided sufficient information on public opinion. However, when taken as a whole, they supplied the leadership with surprisingly nuanced information on popular preferences.

The Case of the Soviet Union During the Brezhnev Era

in Russian History



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