The Russian president marked National Unity Day by speaking at a gathering of historians Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a meeting with historians on National Unity Day, November 4, 2022. © Sputnik/Grigory Sysoev

Russian President Vladimir Putin honored National Unity Day by meeting with historians and dignitaries – including leaders of religious communities – and discussing the role of history in protecting national sovereignty, identity, and culture. Here are some key points from his speech and the subsequent discussion.

Conflict in Ukraine was “inevitable”
“Russia’s clash with the neo-Nazi regime that arose in Ukraine was inevitable, and had our country not undertaken the actions it did in February, nothing would have changed, only our position would have been far worse,” Putin said.

“Our so-called friends brought the situation in Ukraine to the stage where it was a mortal threat to Russia.” Putin compared the situation with what happened in 1941, when the USSR had ample warning about the upcoming Nazi invasion but did not take steps to defend itself, suggesting that this was one of the reasons millions of Soviet citizens died before victory over Nazism was achieved.

The West twisted Ukraine’s history
Western countries meddled in Ukraine’s internal affairs after the fall of the Soviet Union and “managed to instill such pseudo-values into the minds of millions of people, which led to the fact that anti-Russia was created on this territory, sowing hatred, violating the minds of people, depriving them of true history,” Putin said.

Ukraine has been turned into a grave danger for Russia, but also something suicidal for the Ukrainians themselves, he explained. “It is Ukraine, the Ukrainian people, that is the first and main victim of the deliberate sublimation of hatred towards the Russians and Russia. In Russia, everything is exactly the opposite – you know this very well: we have always treated the Ukrainian people with respect and warmth. It remains so, despite today’s tragic confrontation.”

A civil war, just like 1917 Speaking further about the current conflict in Ukraine, Putin drew parallels with the Russian Revolution over a hundred years ago. “In fact, the confrontation is going on within one people – just like it was after the upheavals of 1917.” Back then, “foreign powers warmed their hands on the tragedy of our people. They did not care about either the Whites or the Reds, they pursued their own interests, weakened and tore historical Russia to pieces.”

The West is doing the same in Ukraine today, Putin said, sacrificing the Ukrainian people to achieve their geopolitical goals, which he described as “weakening, disintegrating and destroying Russia.”

Weaponizing the distortion of history
Russians need to know the full past of their country, the president argued, without repeating the “mistakes of the Soviet period,” where academia worked to fit ideological patterns. “Something similar is happening now in some countries in the West, where much is determined by the current radical-liberal establishment. To please it, key historical events are presented in a completely distorted, inverted form, and the truth is canceled,” Putin said.

“When someone wishes to deprive the state of sovereignty and turn its citizens into vassals, they begin by twisting the country’s history, in order to deprive people of their roots, doom them to unconsciousness,” the Russian president explained, condemning this as a “deliberately perverted attitude to history.”

Pointing to Ukraine as an example of this, Putin said that “there have been similar attempts against Russia, and they do not stop, but we firmly and in time put up a solid barrier against them. “

The colonial era is over
While Russia is absolutely a part of European civilization, there is no denying that many major colonial empires in the West are now “medium-sized or small countries,” Putin said, comparing the population of Portugal with its former colony Brazil, the UK with India, and how China’s Guangdong province alone has 1.5 times the population of Germany. “European capitals were [once] the center of the universe – but this is already in the past,” the Russian president said.

Batman, or historical heroes?
Putin also opted to broach a slightly less political issue. During the question-and-answer session, he noted that academic work won’t be enough without teaming up with popular culture and merchandising.

Russian children “know of Batman but not of our own heroes,” Putin said, noting that historical education starts from an early age. “There should be cartoons, films, children’s literature… All of these things are needed. That’s why we’re here today, to nudge this process forward.” (RT)