Putin and the Third Rome
Imperial-Eschatological Motives as a Usable Past
Niels Drost and Beatrice de Graaf
In this article we use the concept of ‘radicalization’ and ‘usable past’ to analyze how the Russian president Vladimir Putin crafted a specific narrative to legitimize the war against Ukraine. This narrative is the product of a series of ideologically, religiously and historically informed frames that Putin developed over the past 22 years. We outline how Putin made use of christian-imperial history as a ‘usable past’ for him to 1) formulate a new state ideology, 2) mobilize society behind the mission of the Holy Russian Empire, 3) demonize enemies and legitimize their planned destruction, and 4) embed this mission and ideology in an overarching apocalyptical, metaphysical scheme, in which death and war are noble goals for Russians to embrace, in order to obtain their place in heaven.
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