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war or peace

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Thus, the year that ends will be marked by a date, an ominous date that future generations will soon learn in school: February 24, 2022, the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine and the return of war to the European continent. A mad war, a dirty war, a huge war full of tanks, bombs and crimes against the unfortunate civilian population, started by order of a man who was not just joking, on the same day in 2016 when he resumed on his account the official motto of the Russian paratroopers: The borders of Russia do not end anywhere. »

Obviously, this man is Vladimir Putin, about whom miles have been written all year. Geopoliticians, military strategists, psychiatrists, and even novelists have tried to understand what is going on in his head. And everyone can face the difficulty that the West finds in deciphering the intentions of this impenetrable tsar.

sequel after announcement

Another approach is necessary, however. Because the will to power that drives Putin is nothing new. To bring to light the profound nature of his imperial logic and to identify the messianism on which it is based, we must go in search of lost time, with the idea so dear to Faulkner that “The past is in the present”. Such is the ambition of our year-end dossier, which unfolds over fifty pages, into some thirty histories designed to recall a thousand years of Russian history.

This millennial is incredibly rich. How could a small city-state inhabited by Vikings become the largest federation in the world, currently at 17 million square kilometres? What country was the birthplace of Ivan the Terrible, the beauty of St. Petersburg, Dostoevsky’s epileptic masterpieces and the 1917 revolution? From the conquest of the immensity of Siberia to the formation of the African leaders of the XXe century, and from the time of Catherine II to the reign of Joseph Stalin, Russian history is a gigantic epic full of sound and fury, battles and prayers, splendor and misery, and of which Putin, in his own way, is the heir.

Of course, this does not mean reducing Russia to paranoid dreams of grandeur. Imperialism is unfortunately not just a Slavic passion, and in this area, humanity has no more lessons to learn from the Kremlin than it has to offer. From ancient Rome to the United States via China, and from the First Crusades to colonial France via Louis XIV or Napoleon, the spirit of conquest has always been, unfortunately, one of the main blast drivers of the story.

But the past, like geography, is sometimes used to wage war. Could it also help make peace? It all depends on what we take away from it, the way we tell ourselves, and the lessons we want to take away from it. Obviously, Vladimir Putin, for him the end of the Soviet Union The greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth centurye hundred yearsdoes not hesitate to rewrite his country’s national narrative to consolidate his power, with the idea that his people are of a different, if not superior, essence.

This belief is always dangerous. To go back in time to make an archeology out of it means to indulge in, but also defuse, whatever can fuel it, rather than fatally invoke the identity of the “Russian soul” that Chekhov might have said, in all respects, is important. Thing: “No matter how hard you look, you will not find anything. This famous Russian spirit does not exist. The only tangible things are alcohol, nostalgia and the taste of horse racing. No more, I assure you. »

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