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Author: James C. Pearce

When will a different future seem possible for Russia?

As Russia continues to adapt to its new isolated existence, it appears that nothing will change in the country’s domestic politics. Despite this, history has shown that opportunities to challenge Moscow’s seemingly impenetrable status quo can and will eventually appear.

April 26, 2024 - James C. Pearce

A Russia of apathy

People in the West have become used to the Kremlin’s pronouncements that all of Russia hopes for victory in Ukraine. While open opposition to this view remains marginal, most people find themselves on uneasy middle ground. For many, holding on to what they have right now is the most important thing.

March 5, 2024 - James C. Pearce

The icon and the sarcophagus: why the Golden Ring matters to the Kremlin in 2023

Vladimir Putin’s recent orders to return artefacts to “Golden Ring” cities around Moscow only further reveal the Kremlin’s attempts to tie present issues to the past. Possessing histories stretching back to the time of the Rus’, these cities are once again playing a highly important role in Russian identity.

“This is Trinity”, a religious icon painted in 1420 by Andrey Rublev, is about as high profile as icons come in Russia. The Russian president’s order in May to move it back to the Trinity Lavra Monastery in Sergiev Posad was neither accidental, nor anecdotal. Its connection to war, the idea of Russia and the bonds between church and state run much deeper than most realised. The defiance of the Tretyakov Gallery, which said it would not be moved, was symbolic in its own right – though not how one might assume.

September 11, 2023 - James C. Pearce

What was so little about “Little Russia”?

Despite earlier mentions, it was not until Peter the Great’s reign when “Little Russia” was officially co-opted and could be located on a map. The linguistic distinction of Great and Little Russia was also a key part of establishing a separate “Ukrainian” identity. By 1721, the distinctions between Rus’, Russia and all the “Russias” were confused.

Before the 1917 revolutions, “Russian” applied indiscriminately to Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians. They were defined respectively as Velikorosy, Malorosy and Belorusy (Great, Little and White Russians). The Soviet regime did away with this but retained and enhanced the traditional notion of “brotherly” relations, with Russians playing the elder brother role. However, in 2021, Vladimir Putin wrote a now famous article on the “shared history” of Russia and Ukraine. In it, he seemingly revived this pre-revolutionary thinking.

December 7, 2022 - James C. Pearce

Why Russians still regret the Soviet collapse

In 2019, a Levada Centre poll revealed that 66 per cent of Russians regretted the collapse of the Soviet Union while just a quarter did not. This represented an increase of 11 per cent in ten years. In the same time, Russia’s economy shrank by 23.2 per cent. The most stated, and consistent, reason for regret was the “destruction of a unified economic system”.

On December 25th 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev admitted defeat live on Russian television. The red flag came down from the Kremlin after more than 70 years. Thirty years later, Muscovites found themselves voting in a referendum on whether to restore Felix Dzerzhinsky’s statue to Lubyanka Square (headquarters of the FSB, formerly the KGB). Its toppling symbolised the rejection of Soviet socialism and a repudiation of the October 1917 revolution, which few initially believed in. Yet since 1991, a clear majority of Russians have consistently regretted the USSR’s collapse.

April 25, 2022 - James C. Pearce

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