Winner of the Pushkin House Book Prize 2020
Russia’s relationship with its neighbours and with the West has worsened dramatically in recent years. Under Vladimir Putin’s leadership, the country has annexed Crimea, begun a war in Eastern Ukraine, used chemical weapons on the streets of the UK and created an army of Internet trolls to meddle in the US presidential elections. How should we understand this apparent relapse into aggressive imperialism and militarism?
In this book, Sergei Medvedev argues that this new wave of Russian nationalism is the result of mentalities that have long been embedded within the Russian psyche. Whereas in the West, the turbulent social changes of the 1960s and a rising awareness of the legacy of colonialism have modernized attitudes, Russia has been stymied by an enduring sense of superiority over its neighbours alongside a painful nostalgia for empire. It is this infantilized and irrational worldview that Putin and others have exploited, as seen most clearly in Russia’s recent foreign policy decisions, including the annexation of Crimea.
This sharp and insightful book, full of irony and humour, shows how the archaic forces of imperial revanchism have been brought back to life, shaking Russian society and threatening the outside world. It will be of great interest to anyone trying to understand the forces shaping Russian politics and society today.