Russian political elites have long been aware of the power of myths to forge national unity. However, the past six or seven years have seen core myths increasingly situated within a highly selective narrative of Russian history. This narrative is accepted as contextual information for policy discussion, and so sets cognitive parameters for evaluations of Russia's history, identity and role. This standard narrative of Russian history prioritises the state, supports gradualism and continuity, and dramatically reduces the potential for re-conceptualising Russia's role in contemporary international relations. © 2013 Political Studies Association.