THE LONG HANGOVER: PUTIN’S NEW RUSSIA AND THE GHOSTS OF THE PAST
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THE LONG HANGOVER: PUTIN’S NEW RUSSIA AND THE GHOSTS OF THE PAST
20 February @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
In his new book, The Long Hangover, Shaun Walker provides a deeply reported, bottom-up explanation of Russia’s resurgence under Vladimir Putin.
By cleverly exploiting the memory of the Soviet victory over fascism in World War II, Putin’s regime has made ordinary Russians feel that their country is great again. Walker will share new insights into Russia’s search for a new identity, telling the story through the country’s troubled relationship with its Soviet past. He will explain Putin’s goals and the government’s official manipulations of history; chart how Putin raised victory in World War II to the status of a national founding myth in the search for a unifying force to heal a divided country; and show how dangerous the ramifications of all of this have been.
By kind invitation of the Rt. Hon. the Lord Risby, The Henry Jackson Society is delighted to invite you to an event with Shaun Walker who will explore why Russia, unlike Germany, has failed to come to terms with the darkest pages of its past: Stalin’s purges, the Gulag, and the war deportations.
Shaun Walker is the Moscow correspondent for The Guardian. He studied Russian and Soviet history at Oxford University, and has worked as a journalist in Moscow for more than a decade. Previously, he was Moscow Correspondent for the Independent.
On Tuesday the 20th February the Henry Jackson Society hosted Shaun Walker, the Moscow correspondent for The Guardian and the author of The Long Hangover, in an event titled ‘The Long Hangover: Putin’s New Russia and the Ghosts of the Past’. The event, held at the House of Lords by kind invitation of the Rt. Hon Lord Risby, invited Shaun Walker to discuss his book and explore Russia’s Soviet past and the implications it holds for the country’s future.
Shaun began his talk by introducing the premise and format of his book, an exploratory piece which covered the 18 year period of Putin’s governance, travelling to breadth of the country to meet and understand how Russian’s perceived their own turbulent history and what affects such a history had on the contemporary national identity. He articulated Putin’s concerted efforts to overcome the ‘psychological trauma’ of the collapse of the Soviet Union by moulding a reinvigorated sense of Russian nationhood and re-establishing post-Soviet Russia to first tier status. Mr Walker elaborated on the Kremlin’s mobilisation of militaristic pride in the victories and sacrifices of Russian soldiers during WW2, or The Great Patriotic War, as a building block for this national identity. This ‘restorative nostalgia’ as Shaun put it, erased or diminished the crimes and horrors of Soviet Russia in WW2 and throughout the Soviet era, and instead mythologised history to fit into the valorous militaristic narrative being constructed for post-Soviet nation building. In doing so, Shaun argued, Putin was channelling the patriotic sentiments from historic war successes into the modern Russia’s socio-political narrative, where the rhetoric of winning and valour was applied to contemporary conflicts in Georgia and Ukraine, and enabled any criticism to be illustrated and censured as unpatriotic. Shaun concluded that while Putin had developed a quasi-national identity around the unifying support of WW2 victories and sacrifice, the focus on history and the past had stunted its economic and social development, denying Russian’s the opportunity to come to terms with its problematic past and truly move forward past the Soviet era.
After a round of applause thanking Shaun for his insight, Lord Risby invited questions from the audience on a variety of themes to further explore the topic. One questioner asked Shaun about the cult of personality built up around Putin, and his assessment as to whether his popularity was as infallible as was made out. Shaun responded, articulating that while Putin enjoyed high electoral support, and a large proportion of this did support Putin directly, a large percentile simply saw no other options across the Russia political landscape and supported him by default. Additionally, Shaun expressed how the Kremlin had consolidated power to either directly organise faux opposition to feign democratic competitions or invalidate any legitimate alternatives to make them seem unfeasible. Another question revolved on the influence of Russian cyber operations, in a nod to allegations of Russian interference in recent Western elections. Shaun responded that recent Western hysteria regarding Russian hacking had probably exaggerated their actual abilities, projecting fears and binary explanations where the truth is probably more nuanced.
The Henry Jackson Society would like to thank Mr Shaun Walker, Lord Risby and all those who attended to make the event such an informative and knowledgeable discussion.
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