Nostalgia reigns as Russians vote for Peter the Greatest

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The Independent Online

Strong, decisive, sometimes brutal, willing to wage war, colonial in outlook, preferably aristocratic but above all effective.

Strong, decisive, sometimes brutal, willing to wage war, colonial in outlook, preferably aristocratic but above all effective.

Those are, it would seem, the qualities Russians most prize in their leaders if a new poll revealing the country's favourite strongmen and women is to be believed. A thousand years of history have given Russia some of the world's most brutal leaders from Ivan the Terrible to Joseph Stalin but the poll, conducted by daily newspaper Kommersant , forced people to choose their top 10.

It showed Russians clearly prefer their Tsars to the Communist Party bosses; they voted Emperor Peter the Great (who ruled from 1682-1725) the country's greatest leader in the past millennium.

Peter, a giant of a man at 6ft 7in, forged the Russian Empire, founded one of the world's most beautiful cities in St Petersburg, westernised Russia and dealt ruthlessly with anyone who opposed him.

"Peter the Great's victory in our poll can be interpreted as a sign of nostalgia for Imperial Russia and the time of "great deeds", said Kommersant which said that just less than 4,000 people had taken part in the survey. "It turns out that the ideal for our government is one that wages wars, is dictatorial, embarks upon great undertakings and embraces European wonders such as shaving, the smoking of tobacco and the appreciation of nude portraits." Another Tsar, Alexander II, (1855-1881) was voted the country's second best leader.

Though extremely autocratic he was actually a great reformer emancipating the country's serfs in 1861.

Catherine the Great, Empress of all Russia, (1762-1796), another imperial figure, camefourth and was the only woman to make it into the top 10. A strong but enlightened leader, she is best known for her apparently boundless and unusual sexual appetite and a colourful though baseless story that she died after having sex with a horse.

Of the Communists Joseph Stalin, born in Georgia, was by far the most brutal and the most admired and came third.

The Greatest Russians

Peter the Great

Alexander II

Josef Stalin

Catherine the Great

Leonid Breznev

Mikhail Gorbachev

Vladmir the Great

Vladimir Putin

Boris Yeltsin

Vladimir Lenin

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