The Official Historical Narrative as a Part of Identity Policy of the Russian State: From the 1990s to the 2000s

The Official Historical Narrative as a Part of Identity Policy of the Russian State: From the 1990s to the 2000s

Malinova O.Yu.,

Dr. Sci. (Philos.), Professor, Professor of the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE); Principal Researcher, Department of Political Science of the Institute of Scientific Information for Social Sciences, Russian Academy of Sciences,

elibrary_id: 197217 |

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2016.06.10
Rubric: Russia Today

For citation:

Malinova O.Yu. The Official Historical Narrative as a Part of Identity Policy of the Russian State: From the 1990s to the 2000s. – Polis. Political Studies. 2016. No. 6. P. 139-158. (In Russ.).


The article explores a particular aspect of the identity policy of the Russian state – an evolution of the official historical narrative describing a genealogy of the nation. It is highly important for legitimization of the political regime as an “explanation” of continuity between collective past, present and future. The research is based on the theoretical frame that conceptualizes a historical component of identity politics and reveals factors that influence its structure in the contemporary Russian context. The author argues that there were two large periods in the development of the official narrative based on different conceptions – that of “the new Russia” and of “the thousand-years-long Russia”. These periods roughly coincide with presidency of Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin – Dmitry Medvedev. The construction of the new narrative maintaining the Russian identity was complicated by a necessity to match two principally different cultural models of political work at the past – that of “coping with a difficult past / collective trauma” and aimed at consolidation of the nation / nation-building. There were different approaches to this political task in different periods. In the 1990s the official narrative had integrated discourse about “trauma and crime” as a part of legitimization of the post- Soviet transformation, but it could not manage to consolidate the nation. In the 2000s the choice was made for apologetic principle of work with collective past which resulted in the eclectic construction that marginalizes the topic of “trauma and crime”. In the 2010s we can see some attempts to make the official narrative more consistent which bring ambivalent results. On the one hand, in the context of the current international conflict the apologetic conception of the national past is securitized as a “weapon” against the foreign and domestic enemies. On the other hand, a new round of discussions about the national history opens some windows of opportunities for actors struggling for “coping with difficult past” agenda.

identity policy; identity politics; macro political (national) identity; memory politics; symbolic politics; official historical narrative; collective memory; myth; usable past; governing elite.

Content No. 6, 2016

See also:

Malinova O.Yu.,
Symbolic politics and the constructing of macro-political identity in post-soviet Russia. – Polis. Political Studies. 2010. No2

Morozova E.V., Miroshnichenko I.V., Semenenko I.S.,
Identity Policies in Rural Local Community Development in Russia. – Polis. Political Studies. 2020. No3

Zeveleva O.I.,
Migration policy and collective identity: the case of the russian-germans in Germany. – Polis. Political Studies. 2014. No6

Smorgunov L.V.,
Political identity and the concept of the political. – Polis. Political Studies. 2012. No6

Bereznyakov D.V., Kozlov S.V.,
Symbolic Politics in Post-Soviet Ukraine: Construction of the Legitimizing Narrative. – Polis. Political Studies. 2015. No4

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