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Podcast: "Putin is an ageing macho with a history obsession"
Historian Mark Edele on how insecurities and myth-making led to war
“Putin … is both an avid reader and the occasional author of history. The point here is not so much that he is a good or a bad historian, but that his sense of history is deeply entangled with his sense of self … Putin has carefully crafted the personality of the macho … In international politics and in history writing, a macho is politely called a ‘great man’. Putin clearly aspires to become one. But this historically conscious he-man is ageing”.
So writes Mark Edele in Russia's War Against Ukraine: The Whole Story, which will be published on Tuesday (15 August). A Melbourne-based German historian of the Soviet empire, Professor Edele has set himself the hubristic task of telling the “whole story” that led to Russia’s full-blown invasion of its neighbour on 24 February 2022.
“I’m part of quite a large group of scholars who reacted to this war by writing about it,” he tells me in our discussion on the New Books Network. “There was an enormous amount of historical disinformation and misinformation out there. There was a lot of shoddy history in the public sphere and I felt that, as a historian, I had the duty to try to correct the record”.
Listen to the discussion via your preferred app:
New Books Network (Megaphone)
For my Writers’ Writers tip sheet, Mark Edele chose German Blood, Slavic Soil: How Nazi Königsberg Became Soviet Kaliningrad by Nicole Eaton (Cornell University Press, April 2023) and The Rider by Tim Krabbé (Bloomsbury Paperbacks, 2016 translated by Sam Garrett – first published in Dutch in 1978).