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The West is rewriting history – just like Putin

Putin: manipulating religious history. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty

“When autocrats want to change the course of their country’s future,” says Janet Daley in The Daily Telegraph, “they begin by taking control of the past.” Just look at Vladimir Putin. His “new imperialism” is underpinned by a national myth that handily omits the starvation of swathes of Ukrainians by Stalin and the mass murder committed in the Gulags. He glorifies the Orthodox Church, despite it being criminalised in Russia “within living memory” as a “ludicrous” remnant of Tsarist tyranny. The aim of this historical manipulation is to revive the medieval idea that Russia has a “unique moral obligation” to preserve its nativist integrity – to help its people understand why “those who share its blood bond (and particularly its language) must be united with their brethren in the Motherland”.

Contrast this with the West’s own historical distortions. We teach our young that they have “inherited the fruits of evil”, that our political and economic systems are “tainted”, and that their ineradicable genetic traits like skin colour convey “the need for endless self-abasement”. We deny our “tremendous contributions” to world history, such as spreading prosperity and personal freedom. Our story is one of “relentless conquest and exploitation from which no one outside the rich of those imperial nations ever benefited”. This is both “factually wrong and deeply pernicious”. While Russia is reviving a “myth of past glory”, the West is “mired in self-loathing” and rejects the idea that it is a model to which the developing world should aspire. “Where is that going to end, do you think?”