Saturday, September 10, 2022

Alternative Fantasy Histories Multiply in Russia Even as Putin Tries to Impose Single Version

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 6 – Vladimir Putin is seeking to impose a single officially defined version of Russian history on the population, but the Russian people appear increasingly interested not so much in variants of history prepared by professionals that challenge the official one but rather in alternative histories that consider what might have happened “if only.”

            Moscow’s Diletant publishing house has just issued its third graphic novel of this kind, one that explores what might happened if Admiral Kolchak had won rather than lost in the Russian civil war. Earlier ones were devoted to the Tsarevich Dmitry and the Tsarevich Aleksey (

            As the SibReal portal notes, “alternative history is a popular genre of mass culture” and is nothing new in Russia. Long before films and comic books, many historical personages from the Russian past were the subject of articles, books and tales that made them more living than the living. Now, the number of such books is swelling.

            On the one hand, these fantasy books don’t so much challenge the official line as ignore it; but on the other, precisely because they do, they may play a much more powerful role in undermining any attempts by Putin or anyone else to impose a single position on all historical questions.

            After all, Russians young and old are far more likely to read fantasy graphic novels or comics than they are to pore over official teachings about the past; and to the extent that happens, they will be immunized at least in part to the single stream of Russian history Putin favors. Instead, they will imagine a very different past – and thus a very different future as well.


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