Ever since the Millennium Message, Putin's first presidential speech on January 1, 2000, the Kremlin's political architects have cultivated a narrative of Russia as a unique nation on a righteous path toward restored greatness. The process of myth-making is intertwined with the policies involved in remaking Russia as a global power, as the regime builds legitimacy through careful messaging on Russian nationhood, history, morality, and geopolitical strength, using law and policy to embed those concepts as institutions and persuade citizens that Russia needs autocracy to survive. This talk traces the Kremlin's cooptation of culture and history to tell a certain story about Russia and its citizens, and examines public opinion polls to assess the degree to which the strategy is working, as well as street protests and radical performance art that attempts to claim spaces of agency for citizens who don't fit into the mythic mold.
Alice E.M. Underwood is a Pre-Doctoral Fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law and a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature at Stanford University. She is a Weiland Fellow at Stanford and a former Title VIII Fellow at the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and has published with Intersection, The Russia File, Russian Life, and Harvard International Review.