Scholars predicted that official Russian commemorations of the centenary of the 1917 revolutions would prioritise ‘reconciliation and accord’ between pro- and anti-communists. Such a frame might help construct a new post-Soviet Russian identity. Yet, in 2017, state-affiliated political and media actors gave accounts that contrasted with their previous narratives and with each other. Domestic state-aligned media were unprecedentedly negative about the revolutions’ events and enduring legacies; whilst Russia’s international broadcaster, RT, emphasised the revolution's positive international legacies. We explain this paradox by arguing that regimes of commemoration are directly related to political systems: in neo-authoritarian regimes such as contemporary Russia, history is not used primarily for nation-building, but to build legitimacy for the ruling regime. Referencing similar practices in other neo-authoritarian regimes, we show how state-affiliated actors selectively co-opt interpretations of historical events that circulate in the global media ecology, to ‘arrest’ the ‘memory of the multitude’. Simultaneously, they reinforce core messages that legitimise the existing government.