“Vladimir Putin is waging a war of civilization”, says the essayist Michel Eltchaninoff

A specialist in Russian philosophy, Michel Eltchaninoff is also editor-in-chief at magazine philosophy. He notably published Lenin walked on the moon. The crazy story of Russian cosmists and transhumanists (Solin-Actes Sud, 256 pages, 21 euros) and has just reissued an expanded and updated version of Inside the mind of Vladimir Putin (Actes Sud, “Babel”, 208 pages, 7.50 euros), a work in which he analyzes the “intellectual substrate” of the Russian president who considers himself “a philosopher of Russia’s civilizational mission, and also as a historian”.

What ideological reasons pushed Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine?

The independence of Ukraine is experienced by Vladimir Putin as ” a tragedy “. She is “the result of the deliberate work of forces which have always tended to break our unity”he says, in the wake of Ivan Ilyin [1883-1954], this philosopher who already imagined a “national dictatorship” as a remedy for the separatist chaos that would follow the end of communism and which is one of his great intellectual references. Vladimir Putin has long claimed that “kyiv is the mother of Russian cities”according to a formula attributed to Prince Oleg in the Xand century, and claims to restore “the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians”.

His conviction is based on a biased view of history, written in the imperial era, in the 19and century, which establishes a link of continuity between the Principality of kyiv [IXe-XIIIe siècle] and the origin of contemporary Russia, which is set up from the 13thand with the Kingdom of Muscovy. However, Kievan Rus’ is a multi-ethnic empire and not a Slavic entity. Thus, Vladimir Putin’s vision is an imperial reconstruction.

Ukraine rediscovers its identity in the 19th centuryand century and even became an independent Republic in 1919. The famines of 1932-1933, the repression of dissidents and of its culture will feed its desire for independence from the Soviet Union, obtained in 1991 after a massive vote in his favor.

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From the Orange Revolution of 2004 to the Maidan of 2013-2014, Ukraine’s desire for political independence has continued to assert itself – the Russian-speaking regions also adhere fully to kyiv. The common imperial history does not preclude the desire for sovereignty. On February 21, three days before invading Ukraine, Putin gave a history lesson on Russian television going back to the 1922 debate between Lenin – which he said “a nuclear bomb” under the USSR by giving the republics the right to self-determination – and Stalin, who wanted to include them in a large state entity and whose side he takes on this specific point.

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