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Charlie Lewis – Contemporary Russian Messianism under Putin and Russian Foreign Policy in Ukraine and Syria

By August 17, 2020February 18th, 2021No Comments

Photo: “Vladimir Putin address to citizens 2020-04-02“, by The Presidential Press and Information Office, licensed under CC BY 4.0. Hue modified from the original

Lewis, Charlie. “Contemporary Russian Messianism under Putin and Russian Foreign Policy in Ukraine and Syria.” The Slavonic and East European Review 98, no. 3 (2020): 531-559.


When Vladimir Putin returned to the Russian Presidency in 2012 his mistrust of the West, paranoia towards democracy and fear of the burgeoning liberal-democratic middle class reached new heights. In response, Putin shaped an instrumental and malleable form of contemporary Russian messianism, built upon the four intertwining pillars of messianism, nationalism, Eurasianism and politicized memory. This article seeks to illustrate how the proposed components of contemporary Russian messianism under Putin both interconnect and broaden the reach of Putin’s pseudo-ideological turn. It will then examine how this is used in the actions and portrayal of the 2014 Ukraine Crisis and 2015 Syria intervention in order to domestically legitimate Putin as the Russian leader and propose its messy and contradictory nature allow a constantly evolving narrative that adapts to new circumstances and audiences.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.