“Even if the Russians didn’t want this war, they expect a convincing military victory from their president.”

Stand. “Do the Russians want war? Thus begins a famous Soviet song, which has become a symbol of pacifism in the country that suffered the greatest human losses during World War II. However, if Vladimir Putin’s conflict in Ukraine horrifies some Russians and prompts some to protest or flee abroad, many seem to support it.

What fibers of the Russian soul did the master of the Kremlin manage to touch to gain support for his bloody adventure? Since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Russian population has been bathed in fierce propaganda. Ukraine is ubiquitous in the field of Russian information and has been the object of scorn and hatred from countless commentators in recent years.

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Many Russians today only accept the story broadcast by national public broadcasters, even in light of testimonials from close relatives or videos of Russian prisoners in Ukraine, whom they consider to be victims or vectors of hostile propaganda. As for Russian propaganda, it plays on several sensitive strings.

The quest for lost greatness

First, the nostalgia for the USSR that has never really faded: thirty years after its disappearance, 63% of Russians still miss the Soviet Union; the majority blame the collapse on the “betrayal of the elites” and at the “betrayal of the West”† In order to maintain social peace, the Russian state has never officially condemned the communist party. Lenin still lies in his mausoleum in Red Square and Stalin remains the most admired historical figure.

There was no lustration in Russia and former KGB agents now hold all the reins. Historical memory has been worked on mainly in urban intellectual circles, notably by the recently dissolved Memorial Association. The Russian population is aging: of the 37 million pensioners, many remain deeply attached to the Soviet past and even manage to convert some of the young people into their quest for a lost era of national greatness.

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This magnitude also depends on the influence in the former Soviet republics, whose pursuit of sovereignty and rapprochement with Euro-Atlantic structures is not understood or accepted. Then a real cult of the “Great Patriotic War” (Soviet, then Russian, designation of the Second World War) established itself in Russia under Vladimir Putin.

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