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Performing Memory: Vladimir Putin and the Celebration of World War II in Russia

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By making World War II a personal event and also a sacred one, Vladimir Putin has created a myth and a ritual that elevates him personally, uniting Russia (at least theoretically) and showing him as the natural hero-leader, the warrior who is personally associated with defending the Motherland. Several settings illustrate this personal performance of memory: Putin's meetings with veterans, his narration of his own family's sufferings in the Leningrad blockade, his visits to churches associated with the war, his participation in parades and the creation of new uniforms, and his creation of a girls' school that continues the military tradition. In each of these settings Putin demonstrates a connection to the war and to Russia's greatness as dutiful son meeting with his elders, as legitimate son of Leningrad, and as father to a new generation of girls associated with the military. Each setting helps to reinforce a masculine image of Putin as a ruler who is both autocrat and a man of the people.


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