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La Duchère, French housing project near Lyon
La Duchère, French housing project near Lyon
Jean-Marc Vittori

-Analysis-

PARIS - In Paulo Coelho's book The Alchemist, the shepherd Santiago travels to the ends of the earth seeking a treasure that was close by all along. And sometimes, too, we find the key to understanding what is happening in our country today by reading about things far away.

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Ideas

Peter The Great And Putin The What?

In the context of the war in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his team have repeatedly made references to a glorious figure of Russian history: Peter the Great. But the current would-be tsar's selective memory tells us all we need to know.

Vladimir Putin has always paid tribute to Russian national heroes, like at the Monument to Minin and Pozharsky on Red Square in 2017.

Cameron Manley

-Analysis-

This past Thursday, Russians marked the 350th anniversary of tsar Peter the Great’s birth (June 9, 1672). Celebrations were held in his namesake city, St Petersburg, and the capital Moscow. As part of the celebrations, President Vladimir Putin attended a new exhibition in the capital dubbed "Peter the Great: The Birth of the Empire."

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Of course the exaltation of a leader best known for his Westernization and modernization ambitions is filled with terribly dark irony this year. Indeed, inspired by his time abroad, Peter I built St. Petersburg as Russia’s "window to Europe." Now, instead, Putin's invasion of Ukraine has slammed the door shut on Russia's rapport with the Continent — and indeed threatens to undo whatever progress Russia has made in recent years.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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