Russian messages via Palmyra concert, Victory Parade
The international community incorrectly interprets everything that comes from Russia as global messages
The international community incorrectly interprets everything that comes from Russia as global messages. The Victory Parade, which commemorates victory in World War II, is seen by the West as belligerent Russian saber-rattling. The parade, which includes the newest weaponry, certainly delivers messages, but most of them are domestic. World War II, which claimed some 30 million Russian lives, is a key event in Russian history.
Every family in the country has a hero from that war. My great grandfather was severely wounded several times while serving in the army. My grandfather survived the blockade of Leningrad (now Saint-Petersburg), which claimed over 1 million lives from starvation. The spirit of the commemoration can be described in three words: peace, memory, pride. The demonstration of weaponry is a message of protection.
The government is greatly concerned about national pride. In the 1990s, Russians were not proud of their country - there were too few things to be proud of. The best way to distract them from problems, such as the economic crisis due to sanctions and low oil prices, is a vivid show of power that raises patriotic feelings and national pride, and enables the manipulation and control of the public.
The image of the nation as a liberator following World War II is being used again, but this time the morality of this approach is questionableMaria Dubovikova
The indirect message to the international community is that Russia and its people will no longer be humiliated, as they have been since the fall of the Soviet Union. To them, the years of pacifism, passivity and flexibility are synonymous with failure and weakness. It is natural for a country that has gone through hell to commemorate victory and show that it can respond to aggression. It can be argued that this can lead to an arms race, but Russia is keen on balance.
This is illustrated by the Palmyra concert, which divided the international community. Russia tries to deliver various messages via soft power, albeit not always successfully and often clumsily. For example, the real problem of the concert was an address by Russia’s president on a big screen on the stage of the ancient theater. This inevitably led to perceptions of Russian propaganda over the blood of Syrians, and the privatization of the liberation of Palmyra.
The concert would have otherwise had a much stronger impact. It could have been an international festival with Syrian orchestras and those from countries fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This would have delivered a message of unity. However, it appeared as propaganda aimed at raising Russian pride over liberating Palmyra from ISIS.
The image of the nation as a liberator following World War II is being used again, but this time the morality of this approach is questionable. Russian foreign policy is used mostly for domestic politics and manipulation.
Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and CEO of MEPFoundation. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations [University] of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia), now she is a PhD Candidate there. Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East, Euro-Arab dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the Mediterranean, France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and open diplomacy. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme
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