Memory Politics in Contemporary Russia Examined by Mariëlle Wijermars

The latest book by Dr Mariëlle Wijermars explores the the ways the Russian government is using the past to legitimise the present.

Since Vladimir Putin became president, the Russian central government has increasingly actively employed cultural memory to claim political legitimacy and discredit political opposition. The rhetorical use of the past has become a defining characteristic of Russian politics, creating a historical foundation for the regime’s emphasis on a strong state and centralised leadership. Yet the Russian government is not the only one who has used history to spread its ideas about how the Russian state ‘traditionally’ should be governed. Various societal, cultural and religious groups and organisations, have put forward their own historically framed visions on Russian statehood. In the book Memory Politics in Contemporary Russia: Television, Cinema and the State, recently published by Routledge, Mariëlle Wijermars examines this societal dynamics of memory politics in contemporary Russia in the period 2000-2012.

Exploring memory politics, the book analyses a wide range of actors, from the central government and the Russian Orthodox Church, to filmmaker and cultural heavyweight Nikita Mikhalkov and radical thinkers such as Aleksandr Dugin. In addition, in view of the steady decline in media freedom since 2000, it critically examines the role of cinema and television in shaping and spreading these narratives. Thus, it aims to gain a better understanding of the various means through which the Russian government practices its memory politics (e.g., the role of state media) and, on the other hand, to sufficiently value the existence of alternative and critical voices and criticism that existing studies tend to overlook.

Mariëlle Wijermars. Memory Politics in Contemporary Russia: Television, Cinema and the State. Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2019.