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The use of history in Putin's Russia

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posted on 2023-08-30, 16:24 authored by James C. Pearce
This thesis is an examination of the past’s current situation in Russia and analysis of how the Russian state uses history to create a broad coalition of consensus and forge a new national identity. History is central to issues of governance and national identity, and is therefore used for the purpose of state building and reviving Russia’s national consciousness in the twenty first century. In assessing how history mediates the complex relationship between state and population, this thesis analyses the selection process of constructing a preferred historical narrative in Russia to create loyal patriotic citizens and aid modernisation. This research critically analyses history in different spheres of Russian life, such as culture, politics, education and anniversaries. The research involves an in depth analysis of these spaces where the past is used for modernisation. An analysis of speeches, official documents and the media is conducted. This thesis also uses original semi-structured interviews conducted in the Russian Federation with history teachers. This includes the first with trainee teachers as well as an assessment of newer school textbooks, exams, homework tasks, historical monuments, public celebrations and events. Many paradoxes exist with history in contemporary Russia. While the majority of the population favour a patriotic past, the narrative is often passively rejected. The ‘preferred’ narrative is packed with inconsistencies, yet the aim is to prevent falsifications. While the past is used it to promote national unity, many episodes expose deep divisions in society. It must be equally rigid, attractive and malleable to the needs of a growing civil society to stand the test of time. History is not only a state matter, but it is a top socio-political issue to tackle in order to modernise the country as a whole.



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