Russia recently opened a new “educational facility” called Patriot Park. The place is basically an effort to make Russians aware of their past and present military capabilities and encourage enthusiasm and support for more war. This is not easy in Russia, which has experienced a century of slaughter that has created a decidedly anti-war attitude. The Soviets never gave this attitude any public recognition but after 1991 it was different. The current Russian government is determined to change all that.
To the discomfort of many Russians, and people in neighboring countries, Russia is rewriting the official interpretations of Russian history. Patriot Park and reinterpreting history are parts of a much larger effort. Another example of how this works is a government media campaign praising the 1939 non-aggression pact between communist (Soviet) Russia and Nazi Germany. The official position now is that the 1939 agreement was essential to protect Russia from German aggression. What is left out of this new interpretation is the secret portions of the agreement, which became known after World War II, in which Germany and Russia agreed to divide up East European territories between the two of them. Thus when Germany triggered World War II with its late 1939 invasion of Poland that was followed by a Russian invasion and occupation of eastern Poland. Germany signed the 1939 treaty to give it time to deal with West European foes (especially France and Britain) before invading Russia in mid-1941.
This ambitious rewrite of the school and official history books is mainly about making Czarist and Soviet imperialism look justified and worth the risks of repeating. This sort of thing justifies Russian aggression against Georgia in 2008, Ukraine in 2014 and whoever is next. This rehabilitation of empire is dangerous. While most Russians like the idea of a more powerful (and larger) Russia, they also remember that during World War II some 18 percent of all Russians were killed. And before that (from 1905 to 1939) decisions by Czarist and Soviet leaders got many Russians killed. Thus the first half of the 20th century killed off a quarter of all Russians. Things like that are difficult to rewrite, revise of ignore.