There is surely a lot that can be said about American history books, so right off the cuff, I want to suggest that ‘our’ kitchen may not be clean. However, when you combine Putin’s call for greater patriotism and national pride, the recent psychiatric ‘hospitalization’ of the outspoken journalist Larissa Arap, along with the apparent and accelerating revision of modern day Russian history books, it does not make me breathe easily about Russia. The Figaro’s headlining article, 2 August 2007, entitled “Moscou réhabilite l’ère soviétique” is either an example of European media playing the role of scare monger (to help justify an increase French military budgets?) or is just plain scary. That there are positive things to say about Russia’s role, under Stalin, against the Germans in the WWII, there is no doubt. But, anything suggesting that Stalin himself be rehabilitated is an outrage. The inside article on page 2 refers to the banning of Professor Doloutski’s history books which refer to the liberal politician Iavlinski or worse yet the “shameful war with the Chechnya”. While I can understand the need to be proud, the need for freedom of press and intellectual criticism is vital — a lesson the US must heed as well. It would seem that the liberals and intellectuals in Russia are sending clear warning signals.

The Figaro article suggests that Putin is trying to increase his legitimacy by invoking a positive picture of the USSR Communist era. In light of the many changes happening in geo-politics, Putin’s actions speak of a move away from the West. To what extent the West continues to let Putin act freely will surely have a major influence on the outcome of the Middle Eastern imbroglio.

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