How Soviet Myths influence today’s Russia

Russians, even today, feel compelled to play a leading role in any confrontation with Nazism or fascism.

Russian political and social life is built on engaging performances and perceptions that shape powerful stereotypes. Most were developed during the Soviet era. At a time when the inability to offer consumer goods and luxurious means of living had to be replaced with narratives that filled the mind and rejuvenated the morale and the soul.

Since the years of Joseph Stalin, a great effort has been made to give credit for the success in World War II to the Soviet people, but mainly to his leading role in this effort of the Russian people. Stalin therefore elevated the leadership role of the Russians in the war effort by effectively giving them a leadership role in the “patriotic struggle”. This later wore off, especially during the Khrushchev and de-Stalinization period but also during the Brezhnev days.

Fearing the development of serious nationalist tendencies among the Russian population, efforts were intensified to attribute the successes against the Germans in the war to the Soviet people. It was then, during Khrushchev’s reign. of the Party and Podgorny chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, who gave Crimea to Ukraine from Russia. Thus was created the myth of the Soviet individual who would constitute a social model for the future.

However, the great initial efforts to highlight the role of national Russians in the general achievements of the USSR could not be overshadowed by the later efforts to give the primacy of heroic achievements mainly to the Soviet citizen. And Russian nationalism was significantly strengthened. In his recent book Jonathan Brunstedt (“The Soviet Myth of World War II: Patriotic Memory and the Russian Question in the USSR. Studies in the Social and Cultural History of Modern Warfare Series”, Cambridge University Press, 2021) thoroughly analyzes these phenomena and shows their effects on current trends prevailing in Russian society.

The Russocentrism that emerged in the first post-war years, presenting the Russians as the people who showed clear leadership characteristics in the difficult hours of the conflict with the German invaders, ahead of and above the other ethnicities that formed the core of the defending Soviet Union, was deeply imprinted on the soul of the people with the result that it easily comes to the surface in cases of conflicts or confrontations with some of them after the collapse of the Soviet system.

The people of the Soviet Union were completely inundated with information about the greatness and leadership abilities of the Russian people. Despite later attempts to highlight the role of the multi-ethnic Soviet people. In many books on Bolshevism, reputable scholars insist that the memory of the Great Patriotic War culminated in a war myth that preserved a Russocentric understanding of the victory over fascism.

It goes without saying that Russians, even today, feel compelled to play a leading role in any confrontation with Nazism or fascism. Hence their relatively easy mobilization under similar slogans and goals.

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