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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.

(PS. This article is machine-translated from Norwegian)

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.

Propaganda. 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.


  1. Thanks for the feedback, Arve Meisingset! I understand that you represent the other, left-wing Western wing that is sympathetic to Putin, while Bjørn Nistad thus represents the far-right wing. The fact that you rush in this way shows how the Putin propaganda reaches both the left-wing and the right-wing, and why both wings therefore read Nistad's Putin apologetics with interest and choose to trust it. My main point is thus to call for a greater degree of self-reflection and self-criticism in this area, by taking into account that it is a question of which narrative one chooses to use as a basis. The emphasis on Soviet de-Stalinization and the Soviet focus on scientific methodology, which I have studied, as well as the peculiar, increasingly general Soviet ironic relationship to ideology, is about the Soviets receiving much better training in this modern exercise than us on the anti-communist and often blindly idealistic side of the former Iron Curtain. Yes, the insight is also found in Western scientific theory and is linked to well-known names such as Thomas Kuhn, who with his book "The structure of scientific revolutions" in 1962 stood for the so-called "linguistic turn" in scientific theory, inspired by Ludwig Wittgenstein. Thus, society becomes relevant again, and the general basic assumptions from which we interpret the world, what Kuhn described as "paradigms". If you have knowledge of and respect for these modern insights, then you also understand that what you see and choose to believe in is not so much about how hard the evidence is, but how well it fits into the context you are in. We thus has a theoretical relationship to these insights, but I would argue that the Soviets have gone further, and through their massive ideology-critical activities throughout the post-war period have developed the necessary practical relationship to these insights, which enables them to have an active relationship with people's imaginary world, and exercise control and influence on it. We who lack the necessary practical critical relationship to our own imaginary world, become easy victims of this kind of propaganda activity. We are the prisoners in Plato's cave, who misunderstand the dancing shadows on the wall with reality itself. Putin's close adviser Vladislav Surkov, who is considered a mastermind behind much of what is going on, is in fact i.a. theater graduate: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladislav_Surkov

    So I read Nistad's Putin biography and your comment here as an expression that you are captives of two respective proputinist stories with a lot in common, at the same time as you show that the pro-Putin story is meant to be and succeed in embracing the whole of the West political spectrum from right to left. Everyone will be made a part of the Putin regime, which is not only Russia's, but also claims the role of the world's savior. This story governs what you choose to emphasize, trust, and what you choose to dismiss as "conspiracy theories." A more objective look at the case will make it clear that it is not true, as you and Nistad claim Meisingset, that there is no evidence for all the accusations against Putin. However, as the supreme power leader of a state with clear mafiotic features, Putin has the best opportunity to hide any conclusive evidence that could link him personally to all the crimes. It is the danger of misuse of evidence that gives the police the opportunity to detain suspects during the first critical investigation period. Neither arrest, detention nor impartial investigation can be carried out when the suspect is a head of state with extended powers as President Putin, but on the basis of claiming all suspicion against Putin personally for being a "conspiracy theory" does not hold. On the contrary, for leftists like you – and me, Meisingset, there is every reason to be critical of those in power like Putin, and let right-wing extremists like Nistad blame themselves for uncritical praise.

    Here I will give you and others some further links and tips for solid documentation about the Putin regime's crimes, which Dr. Nistad in his propaganda act funded by Norwegian rights holders thus allows to pass in silence as if they did not exist. Read the thorough British investigation into the murder of Alexander Litvinenko here: https://www.litvinenkoinquiry.org/. Also read the informative Wikipedia article about Litvinenko and Yuri Felshtinsky's book Blowing up Russia here, and reflect on the fact that not only was Litvinenko killed in a spectacular assassination attempt that was like a radioactive terrorist attack on London, but that their book so now is on a list of "extreme statements" in Putin's Russia that it is forbidden to publish or read. Why this persecution of this book about the role of the Putin regime in the apartment block bombings in the autumn of 1999 if there was no support in the documentation? Why does Nistad not mention this book or Litvinenko in one word? Because he relates to Russian law which thus marks the book as forbidden literature? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blowing_Up_Russia

    Here you can read an excerpt from Karen Davisha's well-informed and Putin-critical Putin`s Kleptocracy, which tells the story of how the Russian KGB in practice carried out a robbery of Soviet values, values ​​that actually belong to the entire post-Soviet people. Should it not also be the position of the left, that all the Soviet peoples received their share of the Soviet legacy, rather than support the re-establishment of Russian greedy imperialism: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Putins-Kleptocracy/Karen-Dawisha/9781476795201

    Take a look at what the Spanish prosecution has revealed about Putin's role in the Russian mafia's money laundering in Spain in the mid – 90s when he was an adviser to Mayor Anatoly Sobchak. This is also a well-documented relationship that Nistad of course ignores in silence. He rightly mentions that large sums of money disappeared in the food program he administered, but makes the biggest point of "saving" a sick Sobchak from accusations of corruption by getting him to safety abroad, as an expression of Putin's positive quality "loyalty". Loyalty is also a personal trait that is highly valued in criminal syndicates. In democracies, criticism of power should rise higher. Choose for yourself:

    Sigurd Lydersen

  2. People have been arrested and convicted for the killings of Politskovkaja and Nemtsov. No connection to Putin has been proven. Lydersen therefore makes himself a conspiracy theorist when he makes accusations against Putin. A rationalist must have facts to make accusations. The same applies to the Litvinenko case. There is no motive for Putin to let him live for three weeks after he was poisoned. But it is easy to suspect others. That is why the whole thing is a farce, where the main argument is that we suspect Putin of so much else, which we have not been able to prove; therefore, he must be guilty in this case as well. From the above, I uphold Nistad, and contradict Lydersen in these cases. I can list similar false accusations in the Western media about the Ukraine crisis.
    Like Obama, I do not believe that common values ​​and governance can be defined for all people at all times and circumstances. I believe that our norms are shaped by our experiences. I believe that governance must therefore be adapted to the circumstances. If not, we will have disasters like in Libya, Iraq, Syria, etc.
    I think Nistad mixes views on Russian and Norwegian politics. To me, he seems reactionary and confused. I also believe that Lydersen assesses Russia on the basis of Norwegian conditions, which is wrong.
    I wrote the following to friends in the UK and US:
    The reasons why Russia is different from Scandinavia are the physical environment, temperature, history, neighbors and enemies. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, many western advisers thought that Russia could be recreated like a western country, and they had no understanding of what made it different. During the 1990s, this caused a catastrophe to Russia.

    Scandinavia has more wellfare and freedom then Russia. Therefore, even Russians want to live in Scandinavia. BUT Russians do not want to have the same liberalism in Russia – because of the factors I have mentioned above. The Russians have seen how Yeltsin and Gorabchev have destroyed their country and welfare. They love Putin.
    Russians are traditionalists, conservative, militaristic and authoritarian (in their own country). When I ask Russians about the Russian spirit, they start talking about their wars, losses, courage and military. They never give in, and have defeated everyone.
    This is different from Norway. Norway is nature, not the people. It is considered to be a shame to talk about the military. But for Russians, it is their pride.
    Arve Meisingset

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