Virgiliu Bîrlădeanu: In Russia there is an authoritarian regime with totalitarian tendencies

The Russian Federation is turning into an authoritarian regime with totalitarian tendencies, which uses festive practices to strengthen the myth of the external enemy and the reunification of the Empire, historian Virgiliu Bîrlădeanu stated in IPN’s public debate “Festive practices and identity engineering in (post)totalitarian regimes”. According to him, in Russia we have a worrying authoritarian reality, and some Soviet practices and narratives are also found in Moldova.

The historian noted that the Soviet rhetoric, which is increasingly used in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, is gaining ground in Moldova as well. At the festive events held in Chisinau and Tiraspol on the occasion of May 9, the flag of the Soviet Union, Stalin’s portrait and images that present the West in a negative light reappear more often.

“Under authoritarian regimes, fine arts and cinema and other fields that are engaged in festive practices are similar. They are dominated by the same cults found in Nazi-era and Soviet-era cinema. We have a lot of parallels that are not accidental. These are the same mechanisms for manipulating and controlling the masses in the interests of a totalitarian regime. The fact that festive practices from the Soviet period are being recycled in the current period would not be such a big problem if it went only to the resumption of some practices. The problem is that together with these holidays and festive practices, old Soviet myths are being updated, Soviet and imperialist propaganda is being updated. In the Republic of Moldova, in Chisinau and Tiraspol, the USSR flag was initially used less often, later more daringly, and now we see it in all the festive practices. It turned out that this is a tendency, a trend. The image of Stalin appears more and more often. Slogans are used to reinforce the idea of the rebirth of the Soviet Union,” said PhD in history, associate professor Virgiliu Bîrlădeanu, head of the Contemporary History Department, Institute of History of the Moldova State University.

According to him, Russia is gradually transforming into an authoritarian regime based on propaganda similar to that of the Soviet period. Russia is increasingly aggressively using the rhetoric of the external enemy and the decay of the Western world. The myth of the savior who will restore world order is intensively used in Russia.

“There is nostalgia that can be seen in different forms and in different regions. It manifests itself most prominently in the Russian Federation and is engaged through propaganda. In the absence of opposition press, for more than a decade we have had a reality that we must understand as an authoritarian regime with totalitarian tendencies and appropriate instruments. We have propaganda that uses the myth of restoration of the Soviet Union, of “rebuilding of great Russia and the God-bearing people led by Vladimir Putin”, using the same tools to manipulate collective consciousness. In Russia, we have a reality similar to the interwar period in Nazi Germany,” stated the historian.

Virgiliu Bîrlădeanu said that the rhetoric of restoration of the Russian Empire has appeared on the public agenda in Russia since 2007, and the Kremlin administration uses propaganda to justify all its actions. In Moldova, they borrow festive practices from Russia, with images that idolize the Soviet period and mock the West.

“In Russia, since 2007 there have been symptomatic, worrying elements that clearly show that military hysteria externalized through festive practices and military parades has started. It is promoted the idea that Russia is reborn through its military force, which is the guarantor of the restoration of the former fame of the Russian Empire. It is not by chance that within this propaganda, the myth of the evil enemy, the image of a fortress besieged and surrounded by enemies reappeared. The anti-Western myth was also seen in Chisinau, at the May 9 celebrations, when the reborn Soviet symbols, but also anti-Western images such as the image of Obama in a monkey version appear,” explained Virgiliu Bîrlădeanu.

The public debate entitled “Festive practices and identity engineering in (post)totalitarian regimes” was the 37th edition of the series “Impact of the past on confidence and peace building processes”. The project is supported by the German Foundation “Hanns Seidel”.

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