Regime Legitimation, not Nation-Building: Media Commemoration of the 1917 Revolution in Russia’s Neo-Authoritarian State

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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.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-353
JournalEuropean Journal of Cultural Studies
Issue number3
Early online date14 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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