The practical meaning of this is obvious: unnecessary reminders of the past, combined with what is in the present, trigger the most uncomfortable questions, and the Russian government, far from being a model of political consistency, is least of all interested in society remembering what was happening a month or a year ago.
Even in relation to the most recent events: back in the spring, Russian propaganda celebrated the accomplishments of Wagner PMC, whereas now it prefers not to mention that organization anymore. General Surovikin was called the savior of Russia last fall – if the textbooks had been written six months ago, Surovikin would have been celebrated in them, whereas now, with rumors about his arrest
circulating, the pages with his portrait would be urgently replaced at printing houses or already in school libraries (like under Stalin, when the latest “enemy of the people” had to be erased from books), a circular about deleting the dangerous name having been sent out.Omissions instead of a concept
Russian propaganda really can do a lot. But to create a coherent narrative about any kind of long period of time, it must play around with omissions and deceptions.
A few years ago, the creators of the Putin cult became interested in the genre of big documentaries – at least a dozen films were shot, one of which was even directed by the famous American Oliver Stone. In each film, Vladimir Putin speaks about the years of his reign and, obviously, he chose the events that he considers key in those twenty-odd years.
For someone who follows Putin’s time not through the official chronicles of Russian TV, the choice of episodes may seem strange. In the hagiography of Vladimir Putin, there would definitely be a place for his trip to Dagestan during the hostilities of 1999, when at a meeting with officers in the headquarters tent, Putin raised a toast, but did not drink, saying that he would only after the terrorists were defeated. Certainly, there would be the meeting with oligarch Oleg Deripaska when Putin forced him to sign a paper to take on social obligations and then asked for his pen back. Such films always show the 2007 Munich speech, when Vladimir Putin at an international security conference unexpectedly spoke in favor of a “multipolar world” without mincing words.
As a rule, there are no episodes of real nationwide shocks in the films about Putin – neither the sinking of the Kursk submarine in 2000, nor the Nord-Ost siege in 2002 or Beslan in 2004 – when society held its breath, waiting for a tragic outcome, and Putin looked either bewildered or simply vanished from public view. These episodes are remembered either in passing or ignored altogether – Putin looks unfavorable there, so better to bring up the Munich speech again.
He cannot figure out his own political biography, he is not able to describe his 23 years in power without omissions and exaggerations – and you think he will be able to rewrite Russian history in his favor? The resources that Putin has now are enough to impose any historical concept on society, but nothing will help if, instead of history, it is a set of manipulative tricks focused on addressing his momentary political needs.