| Ending weeks of uncertainty, the researchers at the helm
polling agency VTsIOM have quit their jobs to set up their own independent
agency, VTsIOM director Yury Levada said Tuesday.
The future of the team had been in doubt after Levada, who is regarded
the country's leading sociologist, announced a month ago that the polling
firm he created 15 years ago was threatened by a government takeover.
VTsIOM was being revamped into a joint-stock company, and the researchers
were unsure whether they would be let go or lose their independence.
Levada said Tuesday that he and dozens of his staff have decided not
wait any longer and have set up a polling agency named Analytical Service
VTsIOM, or VTsIOM-A for short.
"This means that we have survived and will live on," Levada
cautiously optimistic in a telephone interview.
He expressed hope that those who trusted VTsIOM would stay on with the
researchers and continue to rely on their surveys.
He said VTsIOM-A has been registered as an autonomous noncommercial
organization and will keep the VTsIOM logo, which appears on everything
team publishes. VTsIOM-A will have to modify the web site where polls
Levada would not comment on whether the choice of name and logo for
agency might lead to a trademark dispute.
He said most of his 90 staffers have decided not to work under new VTsIOM
management and that they would try to get by on commercial contracts --
they had done at VTsIOM for more than a decade, having seen no government
"I can cautiously say that most of our team will come as well,"
Levada, who had sounded disillusioned and pessimistic about the prospect
setting up a new firm in an interview less than two weeks ago.
Levada said that he has tentatively arranged for a new office and his
staffers are packing up their things.
The researchers, however, will not be able to take a lot with them since
just about everything they have bought over the years, including computers
and furniture, is state property.
The Property Ministry, which is overhauling VTsIOM on behalf of the
government, welcomed the researchers' departure, saying it offered an
solution to a potentially tough problem.
"Now they can really become independent, step into the market and
according to the laws of the market, which include paying taxes and
competition," ministry spokesman Alexander Parshukov said Tuesday.
Parshukov said VTsIOM would be able to continue its activities without
"Are they the only sociologists in the country? What is it, are
universities left in the country that are training sociologists?"
He added that VTsIOM's new board of directors met for the first time
Friday. The board, which includes at least seven officials from various
ministries, discussed bureaucratic issues and made no decision about the
agency's future. He refused to say whether the board had leaned toward
retaining Levada or dismissing him.
Lilia Shevtsova, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center who amply
VTsIOM statistics in her recent book "Putin's Russia," said
she was pleased
Levada was trying to maintain the independence of his research.
"We can only welcome this fact because Russia is obviously in great
a sociological organization that is capable of giving an adequate picture
of the public mood," she said.
Shevtsova suggested that the Kremlin itself might at some point need
VTsIOM-A's services to obtain an objective picture that it cannot get
Defends VTsIOM Overhaul", By Oksana Yablokova, Moscow Times, September
Why Is the All-Russia
Public Opinion Research Centre Being Broken Up?, By Alexander Golov and
Orkhan Jemal, Novaya Gazeta, August 14, 2003