The Long Hangover maps Putin's mission of filling the void left by the downfall in 1991 and the building of a new national consciousness and patriotism in Russia. In a long and complex Russian history there was only one event that had a narrative potential for unification of the country and could serve as the cornerstone for the new nation - something that would contribute to the process of embedding the feeling of national pride. That event was the victory in the World War II or the Great Homeland War, as they still called it in modern Russia. Pride of the victory over Nazism exceeded political affiliation, generational differences, or economic status, and all Soviet leaders used it to strengthen the legitimacy of the regime.
Putin will once more rely on war victories as the key to creating a consolidated, patriotic country. Only that Russia will be able to re-occupy its deserved place among the countries of the first order, Putin felt, and as the years of his reign in Russia progressed, the role of the war victory in official rhetoric has grown steadily. It was shown that the answer to the implosion in 1991 was the triumph of 1945. The ideology of victory will become a benchmark for Putin's regime - the anchor of national legitimacy in the ocean of historic uncertainty. Putin seems to have succeeded in Russia's consolidation, and has turned a weak and traumatized country into a key world player. But with what collateral damage?
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During that time, his old childhood judo partners, his former KGB pals, and the trusted associates he had parachuted into various governmental jobs had amassed fortunes and moved into vast palaces outside Moscow, hidden from the public behind high forest-green fences. Many of them badmouthed the West in public but purchased real estate in London, Miami, or the South of France.
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Even if protests against the current obscene levels of courruption become a serious threat for Putin, or one day even lead to a change of the government, the patriotic rethoric of his years in charge is likely to endure. These ideas have formed the basis for the upbringing of a whole new generation of Russians, and they will continue to influence the collective Russian psyche long after Putin finally departs from the Kremlin.
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In 1991, Russians experienced a triple loss. The political system imploded, the imperial periphery broke away to form new states, and the home country itself ceased to exist. There were few committed Communists left by 1991, but that did not make the collapse any less traumatic. Russians felt they had lost not an empire or an ideology, but the very essence of their identity. If they were no longer Soviet citizens, then who were they?
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Russia was like a party host who awoke the morning after, started making a cursory effort to clean up the mess all around, but after a while simply gave up and slunk back to bed to nurse its hangover.
- ISBN: 978-953-8075-58-2
- Dimensions: 142x205 mm
- Number of pages: 320
- Cover: paperback
- Year of the edition: 2019
- Original title: The Long Hangover: Putin's New Russia and the Ghosts of the Past
- Original language: English
- Translation: Višeslav Raos