As Putin Zaps Lenin, Lavrov Hurriedly Rewrites History

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tags: Russia, Putin, Lavrov



Alexei Sobchenko is an independent analyst and a former U.S. Department of State employee.

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently blamed Vladimir Lenin for planting ideas that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was a telling statement in view of the upcoming centennial anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, which had an enormous impact on world history.

We still don’t know how the Kremlin will commemorate this date, but a recent article, “Historical Perspective of Russian Foreign Policy,” by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, provides us with a glimpse into how Russia’s current leaders perceive Russian history.

History is malleable in Russia. There is hardly any other country in the world whose national history was so utterly and repeatedly rewritten during the last hundred years.

After coming to power, the communists cursed the Russian tsars as decadent bloodsuckers who exploited Russian workers. General Secretary Joseph Stalin amended this picture by cherry-picking some tsars, like Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great, and princes, like Aleksandr Nevsky, as models for Russian patriots, while denigrating heroes of the Socialist Revolution and the Civil War, like Leon Trotsky and Nikolai Bukharin, as traitors and Western agents.

In turn, Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, declared Stalin a criminal who executed thousands of true and loyal communists. The next Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, accused Khrushchev of voluntarism. Mikhail Gorbachev deemed Brezhnev’s rule the period of stagnation. Russia’s first post-communist president, Boris Yeltsin, rejected communism altogether, but failed to adopt a new paradigm. Putin, who has ruled Russia for the last 17 years, uses his vision of Russian history for his purposes.

Lavrov’s article, which focused on “continuity,” was clearly a step toward spreading this version of history. His vision of Russian history encompassed all the great princes, tsars, emperors, secretary generals and presidents into a single line of leaders who, while changing ideological shells, pursued the same policy: to preserve Russia’s unique identity within the framework of Europe and its culture. ...




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