Back to Yalta?

Stephen Cohen and the Ukrainian crisis

International instability seems to increase with every passing day of the Ukrainian crisis, ushering in a new era of international relations. Slamming Russian studies scholar Stephen Cohen for misrepresenting the crisis, Nikolay Koposov urges the West to devise a completely new way of dealing with Russia.

Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies at New York University and Princeton University, is often described as Vladimir Putin’s main American apologist.1 Cohen’s support for the Russian president is practically without limits. He claims to be aware of the pitfalls of Putin’s regime but excuses them as inevitable in a country like Russia. The radicalism of Cohen’s position is exceptional for an American intellectual. Similar ideas, though expressed in a more moderate form, are by no means uncommon in the United States, not to mention Europe where they are particularly widespread among far-right and ultra-left groups, as well as some segments of business.

Destroyed armoured car on a street in Mariupol, Ukraine, 9 May 2014. Photo:Zurbagan/ Source: Shutterstock

In recent publications and interviews,2 Cohen claims that Putin’s politics as regards Ukraine is but a defence of Russia’s legitimate national interests and that the responsibility for the Ukrainian crisis lies entirely with the United States for refusing to reckon with these interests: “Putin didn’t bring this on. […] It was the last thing he wanted. But now he’s reacting.” Cohen reproaches the American media for “a relentless demonization of Putin”, “the least authoritarian […] of Russian rulers in centuries.” According to Cohen, Putin’s “reasonable conviction” is that “the struggle for Ukraine is yet another chapter in the West’s ongoing, US-led march toward post-Soviet Russia” inspired by Washington’s “winner-take-all approach”. The United States appears as an aggressor who unwisely encroaches upon Russia’s rights and so brings the world to the brink of “not just the new Cold War […] but an actual war between US-led NATO and Russia”. For Cohen, the “rebels” in Donbas bear no responsibility for the civil war in Ukraine: “They did not begin the combat; their land is being invaded and assaulted” by an illegitimate government. Kyiv, and in the last resort Washington, but by no means Putin with his “little green men”, is politically responsible for every tragedy to have taken place in Ukraine – including the Malaysia Airlines Boeing crash.

Among Putin’s defenders, Cohen has probably the highest academic status as a scholar of Russian studies. He is also what the French call un intellectuel médiatique: he regularly appears in the media and publishes articles on Russia in the United States’ leading liberal magazine The Nation (of which his wife and occasional co-author, Katrina van den Heuvel, is editor-in-chief and a co-owner).

Cohen built his reputation as a leading scholar of Russian studies in the 1970s, and his interest in Soviet history was informed by his leftist political sympathies.3 Cohen’s focus has always been on the “lost alternatives” to Stalinism and the possibility of “socialism with a human face”.4 In the 1980s, he was an ardent supporter of Mikhail Gorbachev’s attempt to reform Soviet society. But the more hope he invested in perestroika, the bitterer his disappointment became in Boris Yeltsin’s “dismantling” of the USSR. Cohen considers Yeltsin’s reforms “the worst economic and social catastrophe ever suffered by a major nation in peacetime”,5 and even a case of the “de-modernization” of a highly developed society. Hence his sympathy for Putin, whom he refuses to accuse of “de-democratizing” Russia simply because what Yeltsin built had (according to Cohen) nothing to do with democracy. However, the United States wholeheartedly supported Yeltsin through its “ill-conceived and ultimately disastrous crusade to transform post-communist Russia into ‘the kind of Russia we want'”, or a society similar to the American one.6 But for Cohen, that was a purely messianic and unrealistic goal.

Cohen’s critics have suggested several explanations for his praise of Putin: a desire to always go against the flow, ardent anti-Yeltsinism, or a rejection of “American imperialism” that makes him blind to the problems associated with its opponents. Some even suspect him of anti-Americanism. For his part, Cohen presents himself as a “political realist” and an American patriot whose concern is the security of the United States, which according to him has been consistently undermined by US policymakers and experts whose incompetence and “Putinophobic follies” have deprived the United States of “the best potential partner we had anywhere in the world to pursue our national security”.

This is not perhaps the most natural self-presentation for a leftist intellectual. However, it reflects the contradictory situation in which an “old-school leftist who has carried on the mental habits of decades of anti-anti-communism seamlessly into a new career of anti-anti-Putinism”7 can find himself. Indeed, Putin’s Russia, “a country of corrupt crony capitalism […] and a repressive state that increasingly leans on a subservient church as its source of moral authority” can only “stand for everything a leftist should detest”.8 The “fellow travellers” of the 1930s managed to overlook the gulag because their dreams of the “radiant future” were associated with the USSR. There are no similar dreams in the present-day world: “Russia is not the vessel for their [former Soviet fellow travellers’] ideological fantasies, but merely a placeholder for their accumulated discontent”, writes Jonathan Chait.”9

I value Cohen’s calls for critical re-examination of US foreign policy as well as Russian history. However, this re-examination need not lead us to support an openly anti-democratic regime and identify its interests with the legitimate interests of the country it runs. Cohen’s understanding of the Ukrainian crisis is based on methodologically untenable premises and factually incorrect assertions.

Opponents accuse Cohen of uncritically recycling Kremlin propaganda.10 Indeed, there is a striking similarity between Russian official rhetoric and Cohen’s writings. Putin “did not create this Ukrainian crisis”, claims Cohen. “The current situation in Ukraine has not been created by us”, echoes Russian ministry of foreign affairs.11 Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov almost quotes Cohen (or Cohen quotes him?) when he repeatedly disclaims “the winner takes it all” spirit that both consider typical of US post-Cold War politics.12 Cohen speaks of “Russia’s historical province of Crimea”. “Crimea is historically Russian land” – announces Putin.13 Cohen’s phrase “There is not one Ukraine or one ‘Ukrainian people'” sounds like a replica of Putin’s infamous “Ukraine is not even a state!” (I will return to this important phrase later).

This shared language betrays similar ways of thinking. No wonder that Cohen never questions evidence reported by Russian media outlets even though as a Russian historian, he must know how unreliable it can be.

Cohen’s critics have convincingly demonstrated inaccuracies in his use of evidence. He trusts the results of the Kremlin-staged “referenda” in Crimea and Donbas but ignores the sociological surveys according to which most of the population in both regions wanted these regions to remain Ukrainian. He downplays the results of the Ukrainian presidential elections in May 2014, when far-right candidates got two per cent of votes. He does not speak about the atrocities committed by the “rebels”, only about those of the Ukrainian army. He sees Molotov-cocktails in the hands of pro-Kiev activists storming the Trade Union Building in Odessa, but not in the hands of its pro-Russian defenders. He focuses on the ultra-nationalist component of the anti-Moscow protest movement in Kiev but ignores a comparable component in the anti-Kiev movement in Donbas as well as the decisive role of the “little green men” in its development. He tacitly assumes that the “rebels” in Donbas are mostly local activists and neglects abundant evidence testifying to the fact that there are almost no representatives of the local elites among their leaders: most of whom belong to a group of Russian nationalists and “Orthodox extremists”, often closely tied to the Russian security services. In the 1990s, many of them were trained in military patriotic clubs that were sponsored by Russian Orthodox Church. Some of them have participated in various armed conflicts in countries ranging from Yugoslavia and Chechnya to Syria. Many studied at Moscow Pedagogical University and were heavily involved in the historical reconstruction movement. Fans of the White Guard movement of the Russian Civil War period and, in particular, of its leader General Anton Denikin, they now “play” war in the same River Don region.14

An interesting coincidence: in May 2009, Putin laid flowers on Denikin’s grave in Donsky Monastery in Moscow where a monument to the general was erected on his initiative (the general’s remains were reburied there in 2005, together with those of Putin’s favourite philosopher, Ivan Ilyin). Denikin (as well as Ilyin) was a hardline Russian nationalist who ignored the aspirations of non-Russian groups, including Ukrainians (this being one of the reasons for his defeat by the Bolsheviks in 1920). During the ceremony at Donsky Monastery, Putin quoted Denikin’s words that Russia would not allow anybody to intervene in its relationships with Ukraine.15

All these “nuances” do not match the picture of a popular movement against the pro-Nazi Kyiv regime, and Cohen ignores them. Indeed, his facts are not solid enough.

As for Cohen’s methodology, he speaks of national interests as being objectively given. Russia has “natural” interests, and Putin’s politics is a function of those interests. No doubt there are constant geographical or economic factors that any government has to take into consideration. However, Cohen ignores the cultural dimension of international relations. The nature of national interests largely depends on who is interpreting them. This interpretation involves various cultural factors. Cohen avoids discussing these and sticks to a “normalizing” geopolitical approach.

The Ukrainian crisis cannot be understood outside the context of Putin’s cultural policy, particularly in the domain of historical memory. This policy centres on the cult of World War II (or the Great Patriotic War, as Russians call it) that has become a “foundational myth” of Putin’s Russia. This myth emphasizes the unity of the Soviet state and people in their struggle against external enemies, and was invented in the 1960s. Its purpose was to bury another memory, that of Stalin’s repressions, or the state’s crimes against the people. The cult of the war lost its relevance under Gorbachev and Yeltsin, but was restored in the 2000s. It came to replace a much more democratic (though inconsistent) politics of memory prevalent during the 1990s that highlighted Russia’s cultural achievements in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and, above all, the memory of the great poet Alexander Pushkin – the founder of modern Russian literature that many Russians consider one of their country’s greatest achievements.16

The cult of the war was aggressively supported by the state’s propaganda machine and had several advantages for Putin’s regime. It leveraged an enormous Soviet infrastructure of museums, associations of veterans, movies and so on, to create a widely shared ideological consensus. Not least, it had a strong mobilizing potential. It revitalized Stalin’s black-and-white formula: whoever is against communism (now Russia), is for fascism.17 This choice of a war instead of a culture as the symbol of national identity reveals the roots of the Crimean crisis. It explains why the Russian media and even diplomats call the Ukrainian revolution a fascist movement: this is the lens through which they view history. No wonder the Stalinist optic produces a completely, and often intentionally, distorted picture of the today’s politics.
The myth of the war praises the USSR/Russia as the champion of peace and the saviour of the world in the face of the fascist threat. According to sociological surveys, most Russians see “their” victory over Hitler’s Germany as the twentieth century’s most important event, which gives Russia a right to universal recognition – and to those parts of eastern Europe that Stalin occupied with the consent of his western allies. Characteristically, the Holocaust is not a part of this narrative. Russians, not Jews, are seen as Hitler’s main victims. The USSR’s ambiguous role in the unleashing of World War II is ignored. The Soviet occupation of eastern Europe is praised as its liberation. This is the framework within which eastern Europe, including Ukraine, appears as Russia’s “natural” sphere of interest. Cohen argues in favour of Russia having “legitimate national interests […] on its borders”. However, he does not specify what exactly he means by Russian borders. Ukraine stretches from east to west for more than 800 miles. And it borders Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova… Where does Russia’s legitimate sphere of interest end?

The Russian myth of the war is not specifically anti-western. It even sanctions Russia’s rapprochement with the West, provided that the latter recognizes the Yalta system (ironically, Yalta is – the most beautiful – city in Crimea). But should the West not accept this system, the Russian myth can easily become anti-western.

Here lies the key factor relevant to our topic: the myth of the war denies subjectivity to the eastern European countries and invites the West to do the same, as already happened in 1945. Cohen supports this position: “We, not Putin, have managed to move the divide of the new Cold War from Berlin, where it was semi-safe, right to Russia’s borders.” How can one interpret this phrase if not as a call to give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s?

Hopefully, a Yalta-style dialogue between Russia and the West is no longer possible in today’s more complex and morally concerned world. Many new states, including the eastern European ones, came into being during or after the 1940s. Their voices cannot be ignored, which limits the great powers’ capacity to follow the rules of Realpolitik (even if they wished to do so).

It is hard to say whether in embracing the cult of the war in the early 2000s, Vladimir Putin’s government, preoccupied as it was with consolidating its domestic support, foresaw the reaction of the eastern European countries. This reaction was more than predictable, though. These countries’ historical experience has left them “reasonably convinced” that Russia is a potential (if at times not a real) danger. In the 1990s, they used their chance to “fly westwards” as far as they could, in terms of international alliances. They saw the West as both a model for imitation and a shield. The Ukrainian crisis has once again shown that their suspicions were fully justified and that Russia has not renounced its Stalinist heritage. Cohen blames Bill Clinton for beginning “NATO’s eastward expansion”, which hurt Russia. Is he suggesting Clinton’s only legitimate concern should have been Russia’s security, as opposed to say Estonia’s? Did Russians occupy Estonia in 1940, or did Estonians occupy Russia? Who has better grounds for feeling insecure? Or is it the case that only nuclear giants may have legitimate concerns about their national security? “Why would we ask Ukrainians if Russia is upset?” asks Julia Ioffe ironically, thus summarizing Cohen’s position.18

Cohen notes that “many repugnant Kremlin policies” of today find “their origins […] in Yeltsin’s Russia”. But this is no reason to portray Russia as a country that has always been authoritarian and ignore Putin’s decisive contribution to its recent departure from democracy. For all Yeltsin’s imperfections, Russia had a moment of relative freedom (especially freedom of expression) in the 1990s, which did not end until the formation of Putin’s regime. In a similar way, conflicts between Yeltsin’s Russia and its eastern European partners over the interpretation of history were rare. The memory wars so typical of the 2000s did not come until Putin’s government embraced a neo-imperial rhetoric.

The Russian-Ukrainian memory war reached its peak between 2005 and 2010, during the presidency of Viktor Yushchenko (whose politics of memory was quite manipulative as well). It centred largely on the problem of the Holodomor, or organized hunger, of 1932-33 that was the key moment of Stalin’s collectivization of agriculture. One of the most tragic events in Soviet history, the Holodomor cost the lives of no less than three million Ukrainians. In response to Ukrainian complaints about the Holodomor, the Russian media persistently developed an image of Ukraine – and especially western Ukraine – as a country of Banderivtsy (the followers of Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) and “Nazi allies”. Today, Russia declares that it has to defend from Banderivtsy those Russians who live in (mostly eastern) Ukraine.

Let me make myself crystal clear on a sensitive topic: there is no doubt that Nazis found collaborators in eastern Europe (including both Ukraine and Russia), some of whom participated in the Holocaust. Today, some eastern European politicians cultivate aggressive nationalist memories that are typologically similar to the Russian cult of the war (and different from the western memory focused on the Holocaust and cultural heritage). Nationalists, including far-right activists, have played their role in the Ukrainian revolution. But they were clearly a minority (though a highly visible one). Most Ukrainians simply wanted democracy and integration into the European Union, which has nothing to do with fascism. We have to be cautious not to follow those Russian nationalists who see any Ukrainian attempt at self-determination as nationalist (if not fascist) by definition. Movements for national liberation do not have to be nationalist movements, though nationalists normally support them.

Can we reduce the Ukrainian revolution to its nationalist component? It makes more sense to consider recent events in Ukraine in the context of the new wave of democratic movements, from the “colour revolutions” of 2004 to the Arab Spring and Bolotnaya movement in Russia (protests against the falsified elections of 2011, which resulted in clashes with police on Bolotnaya square in Moscow in May 2012). These often have religious and/or nationalist components. This is a distinctive – and regrettable – sign of our times, which are characterized by the decay of universal values. Conservative, populist and democratic politics alike often share this feature. The far-right danger in Ukraine has been grossly exaggerated by Russian propaganda. But it should by no means be ignored.

Is the far-right danger in Ukraine a real concern for the Russian government? I do not think so, for the Russian government supports nationalists, including ultra-nationalists, both at home and abroad, and is often supported by them. The party in power, United Russia, presents Putin as a model “conservative” leader admired by conservatives all over the world.19 In turn, such far-right leaders as Marine Le Pen in France, Heinz-Christian Strache in Austria or Geert Wilders in the Netherlands express their sympathy for Putin and their support for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. For Marine Le Pen, Putin is a defender of “values of the European civilization”.20 “Kremlin officials realize that the traditional liberal and conservative parties in Europe are gradually losing ground and that now is the time to cautiously align themselves with new forces – the far-right nationalists”, writes Elena Servettaz.

Elena Servettaz,21

Stalin did the same in the 1930s.

The more persistently Russian media portray the new Ukrainian government as a fascist junta, the clearer it becomes that Russian arrows, shot at the Maidan, aim at the Bolotnaya. Relatively few people in the world would be convinced by this anti-Ukrainian propaganda. But its target audience is essentially domestic. Everyone who is against Putin’s regime and its allies has to look a little bit like a Nazi in the eyes of Russia’s loyal subjects.

The democratic protest of 2011-12 against Putin’s regime made a strong impression on the Russian leadership. A new period in the history of the regime began in spring 2012. Putinism Mark II is above all the politics of radical cultural conservatism as manifested in the handling of issues ranging from the Pussy Riot affair to anti-gay legislation. This politics has replaced past manoeuvres between hardline nationalists and liberal modernizers. In order to marginalize the “creative class” (the main force of the Bolotnaya movement), the regime attempted to deepen the gap between the two Russias, the liberal and the traditionalist. Faced with the prospect of economic depression, Putin’s government has little to offer in terms of social and economic politics. Radical cultural conservatism is its last resort.

The program of cultural conservatism includes a quest for stability and hatred of change, especially revolutions; an emphasis on traditional values and an alliance with the Orthodox Church; the revival of a Soviet-style anti-intellectualism and a crusade against “deviant behaviour” (including what is called “non-traditional” sexual behaviour). This politics is complemented by repression and new legislation that has considerably increased police control over Russian society. In particular, in May 2014, Putin signed a “memory law” that criminalizes the “dissemination of knowingly false information on the activities of the USSR during the Second World War.”22 Hatred toward the West, which is portrayed as inherently immoral and anti-Russian, is a common denominator in all these tendencies. Never before have denunciations of “Nazi allies” been as vocal in Russia as they are today.

In a very profound sense, the annexation of Crimea is also an expression of cultural conservatism, with its pre-modern land-hunger and predilection for tangible symbols of power. Cultural conservatism, authoritarianism and aggressive foreign policy often go hand in hand.

Putin’s politics of memory is more than an innocent expression of his countrymen’s “normal” feelings about the past or even the pragmatic exploitation of these feelings. It is a profoundly internalized worldview that informs his vision of national security and his foreign policy. The Ukrainian case shows this unambiguously.

In April 2005, Putin called “the collapse of the Soviet Union” “a major geopolitical disaster of the century.”23 Three years later, in April 2008, he was reported to have angrily protested against NATO’s potential alliance with Ukraine: “Ukraine is not even a state. What is Ukraine? Part of its territory is in eastern Europe, but the greater part is a gift from us.”24 Currently, the “gift” is being taken back. A memory of the Russian Empire seen as the only historical reality in the post-Soviet space nourishes an aggressive foreign policy. Speaking about “at least two Ukraines”, Cohen exhibits a similar sense of historical reality, one that few people in eastern Europe would share.

What has for decades been crucial about Ukraine is that most Ukrainians acknowledged their differences, but wanted to live together. This was a structural foundation of Ukrainian democracy (and one that made Ukraine so different from “monocentric” Russia but similar to countries such as Canada and the UK, among others). One can try to impose a vision of a “profoundly divided country” and even help “the two Ukraines” start to fight each other. This is a scenario that Putin certainly welcomes. But even if Russia keeps Crimea and occupies Donetsk, it will definitively loose the rest of Ukraine, as well as eastern Europe as a whole, which now feels itself to be in Ukrainian shoes too. Let me ask Cohen: is it in Russia’s best interests to be a country without friends, except for a couple of other dictatorships?

I believe that it is in Russia’s national interest to become a democratic country. To which end, Russia has the potential, culturally and intellectually above all. To achieve this goal, it has to cooperate with other democracies, including its eastern European neighbours. Winning their friendship would be no easy task, but close cultural and personal interconnections could make it feasible. However, Russia has to accept the right of eastern European countries to be suspicious of it and avoid making them choose between Russia and the West. Whatever other countries’ misdeeds may be, Russia bears the lion’s share of historical responsibility for the issues it has with its neighbours, simply because they were ruled from Moscow, and Russia was not ruled from Kiev, Tallinn or Warsaw. Russia has an obligation to take the lead in peacefully overcoming these issues. I think this would be the only democratic way of defining Russia’s national interests “on its own borders”. President Yeltsin’s policy was at least for a while based upon this understanding.

Stephen Cohen complains: “If Russia under Yeltsin was presented [by US media] as having legitimate […] national interests, we are now made to believe that Putin’s Russia has none at all.” But this is fairly normal: democracies often cannot accept as legitimate what an authoritarian regime views as its rights.

Whatever reasons Stephen Cohen may have for siding with Putin, his account of Russia’s politics is profoundly distorted. In light of Putin’s politics of memory, there is no doubt that responsibility for the Ukrainian crisis lies primarily with Russia.

Unless Russia returns Crimea (which seems unlikely), any solution will remain provisional. So far, Putin has improved his approval ratings. But this effect of the annexation of Crimea will not last forever. Will Putin once again try to boost his popularity by means of another “small victorious war”? Russia is unlikely to stop destabilizing the situation “on its borders” (and probably in other places). The Ukrainian crisis is probably the birthplace of a far less stable and predictable world than the one we have enjoyed in recent decades.

Russian aggression against Ukraine has betrayed the general expectation of the major powers to pursue a responsible and, therefore, predictable politics, such that the world is spared major military conflicts. This is why the current crisis, no matter what its outcome may be, has already created a new international situation. We cannot at this point determine where exactly the “red line” lies for Russia and other authoritarian regimes that might yield to the temptation of following her example. Territorial integrity, reasonable restraint from the threat or use of force and other principles of the Helsinki Accords of 1975 no longer look inviolable. This situation destabilizes the whole system of international relations and calls into question many practices on which we have relied for many decades, including the “never again” mentality that emerged out of the tragic experiences of World War II and triumphed with détente, the human rights revolution of the 1970s and the fall of communism. Today – perhaps for the first time since the Cuban missile crisis, and certainly since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 – there seems to be a real danger of a world war.

This means that today’s world has entered a new period in its history. The previous period that began with the crisis of communism and the end of the Cold War is now definitely over. The “quantitative” changes that have been accumulating during the last years have finally produced a “qualitative” change. The West must devise a completely new strategy to deal with Russia under these new conditions.

Isaac Chotiner, "Meet Vladimir Putin's American apologist",; Cathy Young, "Meet Stephen F. Cohen, Vladimir Putin's best friend in the American media",; idem., "Putin's pal",; Julia Ioffe, "Putin's American toady at The Nation gets even toadier",; James Kirchick, "How the 'Realists' misjudged Ukraine",; Jonathan Chait, "The pathetic lives of Putin's American dupes",; Steven Pifer, "Kyiv's atrocities? A more nuanced look at the Ukraine crisis",

Stephen F. Cohen, "Demonizing Putin endangers America's security",; idem., "Distorting Russia: How the American media misrepresent Putin, Sochi and Ukraine";; idem., "Cold War again: Who's responsible?"; idem., "The silence of American hawks about Kiev's atrocities",; Katrina van den Heuvel and Stephen F. Cohen, "Cold War against Russia -- without debate",; idem., "Why is Washington risking war with Russia?"; Fareed Zakaria, "Ukrainians reacting to Russia's military movement in Crimea",; Zoë Schlanger, "The American who dared make Putin's case",, "'We are not beginning a new Cold War, we are well into it': Stephen Cohen on Russia-Ukraine crisis",

On Cohen's lifelong "affair" with Russia, see Cathy Young, "Meet Stephen F. Cohen", quoted in note 2.

Stephen F. Cohen, Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography, 1888-1938, Alfred A. Knopf, 1973; idem., Rethinking the Soviet Experience: Politics and History Since 1917, Oxford University Press, 1986; idem., Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War, Columbia University Press, 2009

idem., Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives, 27

idem., Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia, Norton, 2001, xv

Jonathan Chait, article quoted in note 2

Cathy Young, "Meet Stephen F. Cohen", article quoted in note 2

Jonathan Chait, article quoted in note 2

See articles of Steven Pifer and Cathy Young quoted in note 2

"Statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation on the support group for Ukraine", 17 March 2014,

Sergey Lavrov, "65th Anniversary of the Great Victory", Diplomatic Yearbook 2009,; Interview of the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to Bloomberg TV, Moscow, 14 May 2014,

Nikolai Mitrokhin, "Nashestvie farsian", 19 May 2014, For a detailed English summary see "Kremlin playing with orthodox terrorism just as tsars did with Black Hundreds, Mitrokhin Says", 21 May 2014, See also Nikolay Mitrokhin, "Ukraine's separatists and their dubious leaders", 18 April 2014,

Yuri Zarakhovich, "Putin pays homage to Ilyin", Eurasia Daily Monitor 6/106, 3 June 2009,; Sophia Kishkovsky, "Echoes of Civil War in Reburial of Russian", New York Times, 3 October 2005,

Nina Tumarkin, The Living and the Dead: The Rise and Fall of the Cult of WWII in Russia (New York: Basic Books, 1994); Dina Khapaeva, "Historical Memory in Post-Soviet Gothic Society", Social Research 76, no. 1 (2009): 359-94; Pamiat' o voine 60 let spustia: Rossiia, Germaniia, Evropa, special issue of Neprikosnovennyi zapas: Debaty o politike i kul'ture 2-3 (2005): 40-41. See also my "The armored train of memory: The politics of history in post-Soviet Russia", Perspectives on History, January 2011,, and Pamiat' strogogo rezhima: Istoriia i politika v Posii, Novoe Literaturnoe obozrenie, 2011.

On this formula, see François Furet, The Passing of an Illusion: The Idea of Communism in the Twentieth Century, University of Chicago Press, 2000, 209-65.

Julia Ioffe, "Putin's American toady", quoted in note 2

See for example chief ideologist of the United Russia party and Duma vice-president Sergei Zhelezniak in interview on the First Channel, 20 January 2014:

"Marine Le Pen salue Vladimir Poutine avec qui elle défend des 'valeurs communes'",; "Marine Le Pen, leader of France's far-right National Front, blamed the European Union for declaring a new Cold War on Russia that would hurt all concerned",

"Putin's far-right friends in Europe", See also Ishaan Tharoor, "It's not just Ukraine: Putin's friends in Europe are gaining strength",; Andrew Higgins, "Far-right fever for a Europe tied to Russia",; Timothy Snyder, "Ukraine: The antidote to Europe's fascists?",; idem., "The Battle in Ukraine means everything: Fascism returns to the continent it once destroyed",

Law of the Russian Federation, 5 May 2014, N 128-FZ, Rosiiskaia gazeta, 7 May 2014, See my "Pamiat' v zakone",, and "Post-scriptum",

Vladimir Putin, "Annual address to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation", 25 April 2005,

"Blok NATO razoshelsia na blokpakety", 7 April 2008,

Published 5 September 2014
Original in English
First published by Eurozine

Contributed by Transit © Nikolay Koposov / IWM / Eurozine



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