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The Daily Vertical: We Own History (Transcript)

  • Brian Whitmore

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

The recent Levada Center poll on whom Russians view as the world's all-time greatest historical figures is revealing.

And this is not just because Josef Stalin came out on top and Vladimir Putin came in second -- although these things are revealing.

It's also revealing because not a single foreigner even made the top dozen and only three made the top 20.

The highest ranking foreigner was Napoleon Bonaparte, who ranked 14th.

Albert Einstein came in 16th and Sir Isaac Newton came in 19th -- both behind Leonid Brezhnev, who ranked 15th.

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Moreover, of the top 10 people Russians view as the world's greatest historical figures, five -- Stalin, Putin, Vladimir Lenin, and tsars Peter I and Catherine II -- are Soviet or Russian leaders.

And other than Napoleon, not a single foreign leader even made the top 20.

Now any poll of this type is going to naturally be skewed toward the country where it is conducted.

But these results show a particularly inward-looking country that is in a particularly nationalistic mood.

As political analyst Aleksei Makarkin writes in the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, the poll shows that at this point in their history, Russians "undoubtedly see themselves as the center of the world, and foreign history doesn't interest them very much."

And I would add that this lack of interest is something Putin's regime counts on as it allows the Kremlin to spin, twist, and propagate history in a manner that suits its needs.

Keep telling me what you think on The Power Vertical's Twitter feed and on our Facebook page.

NOTE TO VIEWERS: The Daily Vertical will not appear from June 30-July 7 as I will be traveling to Riga for a series of speaking engagements.

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