“Putin’s Use and Abuse of History: Back to the 19th Century?”, Leo Goretti (IAI, Italy)

 “Ukraine is not just a neighbouring country for us. It is an inalienable part of our own history, culture and spiritual space.” This is how Putin introduced the “decisions being made” in his 55-minute address to the nation on 21 February 2022, which paved the way for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Several commentators noted how Putin’s speech was replete with historical references: as historian Benjamin Nathans pointed out, Vladimir Putin seems to be “quite obsessed with history. So part of our attention […] should be looking at how Putin is using history”. Indeed, almost one-quarter of Putin’s speech was devoted to a rather erratic and convoluted discussion of pre-1991 Russian and Soviet history, departing from the assumption that this was necessary “to explain the motives behind Russia’s actions and what we aim to achieve”.

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