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.
In an interview Yuri Levada refers to Tatyana Zaslavskaya (Татьяна Заславская) and Boris Grushin (Борис Грушин) as the founders of VCIOM in 1987. He states that he was invited by them to join VCIOM.
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.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, VCIOM 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 VCIOM. 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 VCIOM is Valeriy Fedorov (Валерий Федоров), then a political scientist in his late twenties with no experience in public opinion polls, formerly a director of Center of political trends(Центр политической конъюнктуры). 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 VCIOM 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.2
When asked about VCIOM 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.
1 A free-access, English-language assessment of the accuracy of poll ratings published by VCIOM throughout the 1996 presidential and parliamentary election year is offered by an Indiana University site at
2 Oksana Yablokova, " Levada Leaves VTsIOM for VTsIOM-,'" The Moscow Times, September 10, 2003. This article is cached by a Yabloko website at