Staunton, January 21 – The ideology of the Great Victory is being actively promoted by Vladimir Putin both as the foundation of his power and as the basis for the creation of a civic Russian nation, Galia Ackerman, the author of Le Régime immortel: la guerre sacrée de Poutine (Paris, 2019), says.
In an interview taken by Igor Eidman, the Russian sociologist who is the editor-in-chief of the M.News portal, the Franco-Russian historian argues that the introduction and elaboration of this new ideology has taken place “quite quickly” since 2014 (mnews.world/ru/vosstavshie-mertvetsy-2-0-istorik-galina-akkerman-o-kulte-pobedy-i-pobede-novogo-yazychestva-v-rossii).
It involves in the first instance “the rewriting of history” so as to suggest that there is nothing that Russians should not be proud of during the war and especially during “those two years when Stalin and Hitler were allies.” To that end, the Kremlin leader has made Poland Russia’s “chief enemy.”
Increasingly, Ackerman says, Putin’s Great Victory cult is taking on the characteristics of “a pagan religion,” including in particular the notion that the regime is promoting that each year on Victory Day, the dead come down to earth “walk with us the living” thus adding their presence to the idea that Russians are “one immortal people.”
“That the cult of Victory has become a new religion is also obvious from the fact that the Orthodox Church in recent years has been drawn into it” and forced to take a back sea to the state religion. In many ways, she says, this recalls what happened in Germany under Hitler to Christianity.
Hitler did not ban the church, “but the powers in the Third Reich remained pagan, and Votan was much more ‘their’ personage than Jesus. The Church never completely was removed from the scene but it was subordinated and fitted into the cult of Victory” that the Nazis wanted to be central.
The Kremlin faces a problem in this area, however. Its “cult presupposes the complete rehabilitation of the Soviet Union and the Soviet system. None of its mistakes is to be acknowledged.” The 1937 trials have already been justified, and ever more of its crimes are now being celebrated as triumphs.
But the church which has canonized as the new martyrs, many of the victims of the Soviet system, cannot go the whole way, Ackerman says. To do so would be to completely discredit itself. It does provide some institutional support but other groups like the Military Historical Society and the Young Army are more significant in that regard.
And it is worth noting that there still aren’t any icons of Stalin in Orthodox churches, at least not yet.
A major reason that the Cult of Victory could displace the Orthodox faith among Russians so quickly and easily, the Franco-Russian scholar continues, is that “70 years of atheism destroyed traditional religion and morality” for the overwhelming majority of the population.
“There are sincere believers, but they are only a handful. The rest like Putin go to church twice a year and stand with a candle. Thus it is easy for them to pass over to such syncretism. The majority only have as a need the return to an idealized USSR. The church is mere decoration and custom.”
Ackerman insists that what Russians at present want to see returned is the Soviet Union rather than the Russian Empire. “For the majority of Russians, the past that is close to them is the Soviet past. For the ordinary person, the closest thing in the new cult is the glorification of the USSR.”