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Russian Imperialism and the Medieval Past

118 pages
Amsterdam University Press

Vladimir Putin justifies his imperialist policy by use of the past. For him, Russia has always been an Empire and must remain so. The story of Russian imperialism has deep historical roots, and this book shows how Byzantium, the most powerful medieval and Christian empire, is repeatedly presented in Russian history as the source of the empire’s imperial legitimacy.

The author reflects on the role of art and the humanities (especially history and art history) within the power ambitions of regimes and political parties over the last two centuries as tools for the repeated reinvention of an empire’s identity; an identity built on a multitude of invented pasts. Within this self-referential narrative, Byzantium becomes the ultimate authority justifying the aggression of the Russian state, and Orthodox belief becomes the bridge linking the medieval past with the present. One of the paradoxes of this narrative is the use of the same past by regimes as different as those of the last Romanovs, Stalin, and Putin, leading to a fundamental question: does this propaganda image really underlie the core identity of Russia?

Author Bio
Ivan Foletti ============

Ivan Foletti is professor at Masaryk University, privatdozent at the University of Helsinki, and head of the Centre for Early Medieval Studies in Brno. He is director of the international journal Convivium (2014) and of the Hans Belting Library. He is also the author of eight monographs.