Kremlin actively strives to preserve its expansionist historical narrative
Russia justifies its expansionist policy by employing a historical narrative based on various manipulations of the soviet victory against the Nazi Germany. This narrative promotes the Kremlin regime’s fictitious claims about exclusive interests in the post-Soviet region, whereas its aggressive policy and military actions are justified by the need to protect Russia’s influence. Putin has compared the war against Ukraine to the military campaigns of Tsar Peter I, whose goals, as Putin put it, were not to conquer new lands but reclaim former rightful territories. The Kremlin justifies the war against Ukraine based on contrived arguments that allegedly Ukraine threatened Russia and had to be ‘demilitarised’ and ‘de-Nazified’.
Commemoration of the soviet victory is an important event for Kremlin’s history policy to retain the ideological influence over the countries formerly occupied by the Soviet Union. Every year on the Victory Day (9 May), Soviet military memorials become places of public gatherings for the members of society who support Russian vision of history.
In 2022, a campaign to dismantle Soviet military monuments was launched in Lithuania, which caused Russia’s retaliatory action. Russian Embassy diplomats tried to establish contacts with Lithuanian state and municipal institutions and collected information about the dismantlement of Soviet military memorials. This information was used by Russian law enforcement institutions in pre-trial investigations against Lithuanian citizens. In retaliation to the monument dismantling in Lithuania, Russia embarked on the destruction of public objects that are located on its territory and are significant to the Lithuanian national identity. The persecution of Lithuanian culture-promoting organisations began; some of them were forced to cease their activity.
Russia uses a narrative of fight against the Nazism as a justification to consolidate its hegemony in the region. Allegations against Lithuania of desecrated Soviet military cemeteries and Nazism glorification contribute to a depiction of Lithuania as an enemy, particularly to Russian society, and could potentially be used as an excuse for Kremlin’s aggressive actions. Russia likely will seek to prosecute Lithuanian citizens in connection with the removal of Soviet monuments and force representatives of Lithuanian communities in Russia to cease their activities or join anti-Lithuanian propaganda campaigns.