Monday, May 10, 2021

Putin’s Victory Day Speech Departed from Earlier Ones in Four Key Ways

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 9 – The Victory Day celebrations and the speeches leaders give generally conform to longstanding patterns. Until this year, Vladimir Putin followed those patterns, but this year, Sergey Dianov of the URA news agency says that he departed from those traditions, something that in and of itself highlights changes in his message to Russians and the world.

            First of all, the URA journalist says, his speech was longer than usual; and for him, it was the longest speech he has delivered on Victory Day since becoming president, almost ten percent longer than last year’s for example. The Kremlin leader had a lot to say, and he took his time doing so (

            Second, there was a dramatic change in rhetoric. In the past, and even in the wake of the Crimean Anschluss which sparked new tensions with the West, Putin used the speech to thank Western countries like the UK, France and the US “for their contribution to Victory.” This time, however, he stressed that “the Soviet Union had to oppose German aggression on its own.”

            Third, while in the past, Putin spoke among what he saw as present-day threats, he typically chose one challenge rather than catalogued a whole list. From 2002 to 2005, he focused on terrorism; in 2006 to 2007, he spoke on extremism; in 2012-2013, he talked about foreign interference; in 2015, he focused on efforts to create a unipolar world; and in 2019, he talked about distortions in the historical record.

            This time around, he spoke instead about “a multiplicity of problems,” something that contributed to his speech’s greater length but that in fact reflected a kind of summing up of all the issues he has complained about over the last 20 years.

            And fourth, after talking about foreign threats in the past, Putin “every time mentioned the readiness of Russia for international cooperation.” But this time, he didn’t. Instead, he laid stress on the need to defend Russia’s national interests on its own rather than seek to address problems by cooperating with others.

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