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The Long Hangover

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The Long Hangover

Putin’s New Russia and the Ghosts of the Past

Oxford UP,

15 min read
8 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Everyday Russians are finding new unity and purpose by accepting a Kremlin-curated view of history.

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  • Eye Opening
  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging


Fake news has been around a long time, and leaders have long sold alternate versions of history to gain traction or drum up support. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin has been building new unity and national identity among Russians by rewriting current events and exploiting nostalgia for the Soviet era. To find out how Kremlin propaganda is shaping modern Russia, veteran foreign correspondent Shaun Walker traveled to the far corners of Russia to speak to everyday – and not so everyday – Russians. The result: a gritty, compelling portrait of the Russian psyche in the mid-2010s.


The 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union left many former citizens with a sense of loss and purposelessness.

When the USSR collapsed in 1991, 250 million Russians lost their political system and empire all at once. Chaos ensued: Criminals rose to positions of authority. Goods became scarce. Former CEOs and scientists found themselves driving taxis or operating market stalls. The impoverished population turned to prostitution, pirating, alcohol and hard drugs. A financial crisis toward the end of the decade struck another blow, wiping out whatever savings people had managed to hold onto.

Losses came in psychological forms, too. Russians lost their sense of identity, order and national pride. One Russian, expressing a common sentiment, said that when the Soviet Union imploded, “I turned into a nobody overnight.” Feelings of unease and purposelessness dogged millions of Russians. They saw the destruction of their homeland as a humiliation. These feelings affected men more than women, and seemed strongest among people in their forties. Russians looked back to the pre-collapse years with longing and expressed...

About the Author

Shaun Walker, a foreign correspondent for The Guardian, was the paper’s Moscow correspondent between 2013 and 2018. 

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