The Present Past: the use of history in contemporary Russia by Dr. James Pearce

Tuesday 6th June 2023, 19:00 - 20:30 Swedenborg Hall, Swedenborg House, 20/21 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH and via Zoom

Vernon Press wants to invite you to the talk on James Pearce's book "The Use of History in Putin's Russia" that will be held on 6th June 2023, 19:00 - 20:30 in Swedenborg Hall, Swedenborg House, 20/21 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH and via Zoom.

The Use of History in Putin's Russia

The talk

Russia has been described as a country walking forwards facing backwards. The past is very present in the halls of the Kremlin, and surrounds the Russian public from their bus stops, through school, bookshops, parks and all the way home to their television screens. Russia’s national history is inseparable from the politics of Putinism, often serving as a policy and a unification tool in society. In the Russian state’s view, patriotism goes hand in hand with accepting the ‘right’ historical narrative, and should, ideally, form the basis of society’s worldview. More recently, Russia’s past became the backdrop for invading Ukraine. 

However, using the past to project a bright future and secure legitimacy is the historical norm in Russia – and much of today’s narrative is recycled. In his talk Dr James Pearce will look at the use of history in contemporary Russia under the reign of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. He will consider whether history has become a replacement for ideology and public politics in lieu of a vision for Russia’s future. He will unpack what the ‘right' narratives are in contrast to the suppressed and past alternatives, and assess its impact in civil society. Finally, Dr Pearce will consider what the implications of the invasion mean for the future of a ‘shared history’ with the former Soviet republics.

More on the book

History is not just a study of past events, but a product and an idea for the modernisation and consolidation of the nation. ‘The Use of History in Putin’s Russia’ examines how the past is perceived in contemporary Russia and analyses the ways in which the Russian state uses history to create a broad coalition of consensus and forge a new national identity. Central to issues of governance and national identity, the Russian state utilises history for the purpose of state-building and reviving Russia’s national consciousness in the twenty-first century.

Assessing how history mediates the complex relationship between state and population, this book analyses the selection process of constructing and recycling a preferred historical narrative to create loyal, patriotic citizens, ultimately aiding its modernisation. Different historical spheres of Russian life are analysed in-depth including areas of culture, politics, education, and anniversaries. The past is not just a state matter, a socio-political issue linked to the modernisation process, containing many paradoxes. This book has wide-ranging appeal, not only for professors and students specialising in Russia and the former Soviet Space in the fields of History and Memory, International Relations, Educational Studies, and Intercultural Communication but also for policymakers and think-tanks.

Who is James Pearce?

James C. Pearce completed his PhD in 2018 at Anglia Ruskin University. Pearce has conducted research in the Russian Federation since 2015 on matters related to historical memory in the public space and education, the discipline of history as well as Russian foreign policy in the twenty-first century. He has taught Political Science, History, and International Relations at three institutions in the United Kingdom and Russia, and presented his research at multiple international conferences in two languages. James currently teaches in Moscow and is developing his research on the role of historical memory in Russian elections, and Russian students’ attitudes towards the new historical narratives.   

How can you attend the talk?

You can attend either in person on 6th June 2023 in Bloomsbury Way, London, or via Zoom. To book your place, please fill in the form here

Title The Use of History in Putin's Russia [Hardback]
Edition 1st
ISBN 978-1-62273-892-2
Published in October 2020

Page last updated on April 13th 2023. All information correct at the time, but subject to change.