Just over 100 years ago, Russian Emperor Nicholas II abdicated his throne and his vast empire ceased to exist, setting off decades of world-shaking change. Yet this year, not a single Russian television station marked the anniversary. The decision to ignore the centennial arose from a meeting at the Kremlin last year, in which Russian President Vladimir Putin told his advisors that it would be unnecessary to commemorate it. Instead, the occasion should be discussed “only by experts,” he reportedly said. That is, let the experts, the historians, discuss the Revolution; the rest of Russia shouldn’t concern itself with such matters.
This order was then conveyed by Sergei Kirienko, the Kremlin’s new political strategist, to the directors of Russia’s state media companies. Russia doesn’t need revolutions—it needs stability, he said, according to those who attended these meetings. The collapse of empire had become taboo for Russian media, and apparently a negligible historical footnote for Putin.
Putin, however, is no Soviet Union groupie, notwithstanding his 2006 declaration that “the collapse of the U.S.S.R. [was] the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.” Leftist ideologies are alien to him. Since becoming president in 2000, he has stocked the government with neoliberal adherents and ardent free marketeers, not with neo-communists and command economy admirers. What Putin pines for, above all else, are the days of Russia’s expansive greatness.