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The official Russian propaganda narrative fits into the crisis of the Western cold war narrative, which we question too little by

Putin made the living room for western homes – a more grateful task than it may immediately seem.


Bjørn Nistad:
The rescuer of Russia – a political biography of Vladimir Putin
The publisher, 2016

Bjørn Nistad is known from the Norwegian public as a faith defender of Russia in general and the Putin regime in particular. With a doctorate from the University of Oslo in a dissertation on Russian political history of ideas from 2008, he can assert current academic authority, and with that a shine of objectivity. Russia's rescuer - a political biography of Vladimir Putin is Nistad's fifth book, and provides an 330 page chronological overview of Putin's life and political work to this day.

Putin coverCold War story. On the one hand, it is good for the discussion that Nistad clearly takes a stand for his study object, and does not hide his partiality. But in order for Nistad to assert the objectivity he invokes as a "doctor of Russian history", he must bear in mind that in the field of big politics, ideology, identity, terror and power struggle he is talking about different rival realities of reality. In the introductory chapter, he writes that "one of the main purposes of the biography is to explain why 70 percent of the Russian population has supported Putin since he came to power in 2000". From this position it seems natural that Putin's autobiography is Nistad's main source of production, along with Putin's speeches, articles and television appearances. "Forbidden" Putin-critical literature shines with its absence.

There is reason to ask why a Norwegian Russian scientist assumes the role of uncritical Putin voter, and why the Nonfiction Fund chooses to sponsor such propaganda in Norwegian. Nistad's book goes a long way to answering this: Nistad's errand works, first and foremost, to make it clear that the Russian official propaganda narrative fits into the crisis-stricken Western Cold War narrative, which we question too little.

Rejects charges. With the euphemism "Nistad" makes "the new right" Putin's position to his own, characterized by skepticism about "globalization, the EU, immigration, excessive belief in the market, degradation of traditional values ​​and multiculturalism". Nistad's Putin is a determined and effective leader who, from personal experience, sees that some steps were needed to unify Russia after Yeltsin's disloyalty and extremist ravages. With this, Nistads Putin has "a fair cause" and fulfills his role in the best possible way, with personal qualities such as "vocational awareness", objectivity, ability to recruit and collaborate with the right people, loyalty and thoughtfulness in combination with determination and great work capacity .

To make Putin stubborn, Nistad's most pressing task is to deal with and dismiss some of the biggest charges against his hero. The list of such charges is long, and includes everything from allegations of corruption in St. Petersburg, persecution and killing of political opponents, the Kursk affair, military aggression against neighboring states, including annexation of parts of neighboring territories, as well as, evil tongues claim, use of terror and propaganda for political influence.

Nistad sees Soviet Stalinization as the work of the intelligentsia and an accident for Russia.

Gorbachev and the intelligentsia. The most serious accusation against Putin, in competition with the aggression against Ukraine, concerns Putin's brutal war against the Chechens with up to 100 civilian casualties. Nistad gives us the official justification: "After the peace agreement in 000, which almost made the republic an independent state, Chechnya had developed into a 'black hole' where crime and kidnappings flourished, and where the government of the relatively moderate nationalist leader Aslan Maskhadov was undermined. of armed Islamist groups. " Of course, Nistad sees no reason to go into or mention the well-documented allegations that the FSB itself was behind the bombs placed under apartment blocks in Russia in 1996, and collaborated with criminal jihadists in the Caucasus, to get a pretext for the war. Nor does he see any reason to mention the radioactive attack on the former FSB employee Aleksandr Litvinenko in London, most likely carried out by the same Russian security apparatus, for his openness about and criticism of this and other FSB operations. In Nistad's account, it is Mikhail Gorbachev who must bear the moral responsibility for the civilian losses during Putin's Chechnya war, for allowing the Soviet state to collapse. Accusation denied.

Nistad cannot help but face the accusations of murder of other regime critics, with journalist Anna Politkovskaya and politician Boris Nemtsov as the most significant. Nistad leans again to Putin's version: Politkovskaya was without influence in Russia, and it must therefore have been enemies of Russia behind the killing to hit the regime. Nistad simply makes it clear that the Putin regime can hardly stand behind such killings, as "credible accusations" of such killings would have done far more harm than the damage done by the regime critics. Charge rejected.

With Putin blameless and clean, Nistad comes with a fierce attack on the Russian intelligentsia: "In Russian history, the intelligentsia has been a negative phenomenon that has weakened the state, undermined confidence in established values ​​and triggered horrible disasters that have cost millions of people's lives, including not least the revolution in 1917. ” Nistad sees Soviet Stalinization as the work of the intelligentsia and an accident for Russia.

De-Stalinization. There is reason to assume that Putin, as the Nistad Soviet man portrays him, and the circle around him, has a completely different respect for the Soviet Stalinization movement than Nistad, and we with him, in the Cold War. We have ignored the fact that the Soviet authorities, as part of the Khalushchev stagnation, facilitated and encouraged recognition theoretical reflection through so-called methodological seminars at all institutes and at all levels of Soviet society. The Stalinisation not only characterized Soviet science, but characterized the entire Soviet post-war society by giving the Soviet population a practically critical relationship with official ideology. The official Marxist-Leninist ideology that was part of a kind of social contract, while at the same time few people genuinely believed it. We lack this Soviet ideological-critical and liberating social experience in the anti-communist Cold War West, while it underlies Putin's pragmatic propaganda war.

Advertising. Nistad demonstrates that the official Putin propaganda corresponds to at least two oversimplifications in the Western Cold War narrative: 1) Putin's Russia as a continuation of the Soviet Union, and 2) democracy as a Western matter. Premise 1) underlies the notion that Russia has a geopolitical interest in and demands for control over the entire former Soviet Union; premise 2) provides a basis for portraying the dissident movement in the Soviet Union and Russia as a harmful foreign element. With such simplified premises as the basis, the Western Cold War narrative stands defenseless against Putin's propaganda version, which Nistad reproduces. We have seen the consequences of this for a long time, since the forces of democracy and the situation of non-Russian, post-Soviet peoples such as the Chechens, Crimean Tatars or Ukrainians with newfound freedom since the fall of the Soviet Union have in fact met with half-hearted – if any – understanding and support in the West. official Russian propaganda production.

Nistad's propaganda act thus reveals the need for a new, unifying narrative that is set free from the Cold War's deficit of democracy. That Western scholars and the media in general have been unable to predict and have been surprised by the Soviet democratization process, the fall of the Soviet Union and all the democratic revolutions that have taken place since then makes this need even clearer.

See also case on Russian
propaganda page 6.

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