Saturday, December 31, 2022

Five Takes on Nostalgia for the USSR in Putin’s Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 31 – Ever more Russians are expressing nostalgia for Soviet times, but exactly why and what it means remain matters of dispute. Marina Aronova of the SibReal portal reproduces the views of a sociologist, an historian, a psychologist, a political scientist and a legal affairs expert (

            Maksim Alyukov, a London-based Russian analyst, says that much of the nost” algia is the work of Putin’s propaganda machine. And he stresses that Putin can use it for a variety of purposes. “If Russia has to pull out its forces [from Ukraine] but Putin remains in power, then the Kremlin will use its defeat for revanchism” and launch more aggression.

            Historian Irina Karatsuba says Russian nostalgia for the USSR is about a past that never was, but the most serious aspect of this is that it reflects and encourages a focus on the past rather the present and future. Now, “we have no image of the future.” And it is that lack that opens the way for the growth of nostalgia even more than propaganda does.

            Psychologist Anastasiya Nikolskaya says that the identification with a strong Soviet past reflects an unspoken sense of current weakness both within Russia and between Russia and the world. Russians need to feel strong because unlike smaller nations which have ethnic identity, Russians have primarily an imperial one.

            Political scientist Fyodor Krasheninnikov says that neither Putin nor the Russian people are nostalgic for all the Soviet past: both he and they are interested in and attracted by only a small number of its aspects. Putin likes those parts which make a ruler irreplaceable; Russians like those which stress social justice and paternalism.

            And legal affairs expert Rodion Belkovich says that Russian interest in nostalgia for the Soviet past flows primarily from the increasing infantilization of the population, with ever more people wanting someone other than themselves to take responsibility for decisions and to ensure that the population is taken care of regardless of what happens.

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