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To Understand Putin, You Must Understand Russian History

May 13, 2018 College of Arts and Humanities | History | Russian


History Ph.D. student Ala Creciun Graff weighs in on Putin's use of symbolism and history.

By Ala Creciun Graff | The Baltimore Sun

"Last week, Vladimir Putin was inaugurated to his fourth presidential term in Russia. What will his next six years in office bring? This is a difficult question, not least because most Western readers learn about Russia in short and transient news bites. Often lacking in context and interpretation, these quick takes do not yield a systematic understanding of Russia’s long-term political direction. Yet, Vladimir Putin functions in long-term historical categories. In recent years, he has increasingly invoked them to achieve political goals. To grasp Russia’s political vector under Mr. Putin, we need to be more attuned to his use of history.

"In November, at the Livadia Palace, near Yalta, Crimea, Mr. Putin unveiled a monument to Russia’s Tsar Alexander III, who ruled from 1881 to his death in 1894. The monument is as symbolic as its location. The Livadia Palace had once been the summer residence of the Romanov dynasty — Russia’s ruling family. It was also the venue of the 1945 Yalta Conference, where U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin decided the fate of post-war Europe. In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula, provoking international condemnation. By unveiling a contemporary monument to a Russian tsar in Crimea, Moscow seeks to signal historical continuities with the peninsula."

Read the complete Op-Ed in the Baltimore Sun.