BASEES Annual Conference 2022

The Cold War in Russia's Official Collective Memory and Identity

Fri8  Apr02:00pm(20 mins)
Teaching Room B


Vassily Klimentov


The Cold War is everywhere and nowhere in 2021. On one side, Russian and Western pundits summon Cold War analogies when analysing the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Ukrainian crisis and the sanctions on Russia, alleged Russian cyber-meddling in US elections, the reciprocal expulsions of Russian and Western diplomats, as well as when debating the policy toward China and the values and military alliances uniting the West. On the other, only the Russian elites seems intent on replaying the Cold War while the West mostly uses it as source of precedents and tacit legitimation. In this context, this paper explores how the official collective memory in Russia – its récit national – has integrated the Cold War and how it became constitutive of Russian state identity. It highlights, relying on a post-structuralist content and discourse analysis, that references to the Cold War, as different from simply the USSR, in Vladimir Putin (1999-2021) and Dmitri Medvedev’s (2008-2012) addresses are few and vague. Yet, many Russians believe that their country rightfully opposes the West in a new Cold War. In fact, Russians, the paper argues, have integrated the official collective memory about the Cold War and its continued relevance through popular culture – films, series, documentaries, and news on television –, textbooks, and commemorations. The Kremlin then mobilises this collective memory to support its opposition to the West without the need to explicitly make the Cold War analogy.