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Identity and historical memory of Russians in the context of confrontation with the "collective West"

Research Article

Raisa E. Barash Candidate of Political Science
Institute of Sociology of FCTAS RAS, Moscow, Russia
ORCID ID=0000-0002-5899-973X
Roman V. Petukhov Candidate of Law
Institute of Sociology of FCTAS RAS, Moscow, Russia
ORCID ID=0000-0003-0940-9315
Identity and historical memory of Russians in the context of confrontation with the "collective West".
Vestnik instituta sotziologii. 2023. Vol. 14. No. 4. P. 147-175

The research was carried out at the expense of the Fund of the Expert Institute for Social Research (EISR) "FMUS-2023-0023 Identity and historical memory of Russians in the conditions of confrontation with the collective West" at the Federal Research Sociological Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Дата поступления статьи: 10.09.2023
Topic: Contradictions and consolidation in Russian society

For citation:
Barash R. E., Petukhov R. V. Identity and historical memory of Russians in the context of confrontation with the "collective West". Vestnik instituta sotziologii. 2023. Vol. 14. No. 4. P. 147-175
DOI: https://doi.org/10.19181/vis.2023.14.4.9. EDN: OEMWVC


Basing on the data of long-term sociological research, the authors study the influence of the construct “collective West” on the civic identity and historical memory of modern Russian society and investigate the dynamics of these attitudes of public society under the influence of the international political situation. “Collective West” is considered as a stereotypical construct founded on Russian public opinion and political discourse. The authors identify three main approaches to the description of the “collective West”: socio-economic and political approaches, as well as the strategy of studying the organisation of private life. This allows us to correlate the features attributed to the discursively constructed “Other” with the ideas about the “collective West” actualized in the mass consciousness of modern Russians. The authors summarize that the Russian collective identity combines both traditional-self, Russian, and Western-liberal values. But Russians are unambiguous when it comes to the interpretation of historical memory: they acutely perceive the discrepancy between Russian and Western interpretations of the past.

The “collective West” has acted for Russia not only as a traditional socio-cultural and civilizational “Other”, but also as geopolitical competitor. Hence this is the peculiarity of interpretations of past events and historical memory in Russia and abroad. The “perestroika inertia” of attempts to reconcile different versions of the past was replaced in the 2000s by a sharp anti-communist discourse of a number of Eastern European states, their “turn” to the West and Russia’s growing external isolation. This revitalized the conflict between the national historical narratives of Russia and Western countries, and this is very painful for Russian society today. Negative interpretation of the events of Soviet history, especially of the memory of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, is absolutely unacceptable for the Russian historical memory. Russian people react to the attempts to revise the traditional interpretations of Russian history with the demand for reliable historical knowledge. People attitude to preserve the established interpretation of national history is related not to the fear of decentralization tendencies, as it was in the 1990s, but to their desire to protect the history of their families and family memory.


identity, historical memory, past, history, West

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