Mythmaking in the New Russia
Politics and Memory in the Yeltsin Era
After the collapse of Communist rule in 1991, those loyal to the old regime tried to salvage their political dreams by rejecting some aspects of their history and embracing others. Yeltsin and the democrats, although initially hesitant to rely on the patriotic mythmaking they associated with Communist propaganda, also turned to the national past in times of crisis, realizing they needed not only to create new institutions, but also to encourage popular support for them.
Kathleen E. Smith examines the use of collective memories in Russian politics during the Yeltsin years, surveying the various issues that became battlegrounds for contending notions of what it means to be Russian. Both the new establishment and its opponents have struggled to shape versions of past events into symbolic political capital. What parts of the Communist past, Smith asks, have proved useful for interpreting political options? Which versions of their history have Russians chosen to cling to, and which Soviet memories have they deliberately tried to forget? What symbols do they hold up as truly Russian? Which will help define the attitudes shaping Russian policy for decades to come?
Smith illustrates the potency of memory debates across a broad range of fields—law, politics, art, and architecture. Her case studies include the changing interpretations of the attempted coups of 1991 and 1993, the recasting of the holiday calendar, the controversy over the national anthem, the status of "trophy art" brought to Russia at the end of World War II, and the partisan use of historical symbols in elections.