December 2, 2023

What do myths have in common with the West?

What do myths have in common with the West?

Berlin on the night of November 10, 1989 fed on the West: stories have a longing
Photo: Paul Glaser, all rights

Ukraine is fighting for its future as a Western country. That should make the West rethink itself. Another guest.

aOrders are often based on legends. The two German republics, the United States, the European Union: they all had narratives and images from their founding phase that shaped the identities of these regimes over long periods. Such myths can fade and disappear completely from collective memory, but they can also be changed and reshaped, often in times of regime crisis. The crisis in which Putin has flooded the international system is also a struggle between competing myth-making of great economic importance.

Vladimir Putin’s hope for a quick military victory and moderate economic consequences was based on the same assumption: the weakness of the West. The pro-Western Kyiv government and the governments of the European Union and the United States were all rated weak. One of the reasons Putin is so wrong about Ukraine is that facts can easily be overshadowed by myths. Because the myth of the decadent West – whether in Kyiv, Berlin or Washington – is the basis of the founding myth of Putin’s Russia. In the large-scale ideological project of the past two decades, which can be described as the “spiritual re-Sovietization” of Russia, the glorification of the old Soviet order is just as important as the downplaying of the Western order today.

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