Friday, September 15, 2023

Use of Quotation Marks in Putin’s Russia to Denigrate Opponents a Potentially Dangerous Recrudescence of ‘Ritualized Bullying’ from the Soviet Past, Kukulin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 3 – Many who want to demonize opponents of the Putin regime are increasingly using one of the most widespread practices of Soviet times, the insertion of quotation marks around things connected with these opponents to suggest that their poems, plays, essays or other things are not real or deserving of respect, Ilya Kukulin says.

            That has happened most prominently in recent weeks in the new school history textbooks and in attacks on Israel for cancelling a tour by a Russian theater company, the Russian culturalist who was at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics but is now teaching at Amherst College in the United States (

            But those using this method aren’t succeeding as much as they hope, Kukulin argues. On the one hand, they forget that quotation marks were only a small part of Soviet ritualized bullying and that many Russians today view them with suspicion especially as they aren’t yet backed by the power of the state.

            And on the other, in many cases, those who use quotation marks use them too liberally and thus undercut their message. This may change, the scholar suggests, but for the moment, the increasing spread of quotation marks in such texts is more evidence of the weakness of the Putin regime than its strength.

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