The GuardianThe Guardian

For Vladimir Putin, the sinister cult of victory is all that is left

By Kirill Martynov

09 May 2022 · 4 min read

Vladimir Putin was born seven years after the end of the second world war, and raised on the Brezhnev-era myth of the great victory. A man of no great education, he loved to quote Soviet films and old stories. The history books portrayed the “great patriotic war” as a magical fable in which the hero – the Russian people – vanquishes a monster, to the envy of the whole world. In this myth there was no room for many of the actual facts of war, such as the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact, the war with Finland, the occupation of the Baltics. The myth ignores the deportation of millions of Poles. It glosses over the Rzhev campaign of the winter of 1942-43, in which the Soviet army sustained terrible losses, preferring to dwell on the storied victories of Moscow and Stalingrad.

The myth, celebrated today on Russia’s Victory Day, has become the essential narrative underpinning Putin’s plan to rule Russia eternally.

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