This video was not made by the Russian government—so it’s actual effective propaganda. However, it contains a huge irony: at the end, the “Russian occupier” trumpets how Russians do not need “Western values”, yet, at the beginning, he speaks about how the Russians stopped the Siberian Eskimos selling women for sable furs—which is a feminist sentiment, which is a Western value.
Who is this video aimed at? Not foreigners, since it’s in Russian, but rather at Russians themselves—which suggests that Russians have a bad conscience, they fear they are “the occupiers”; they fear they are in the wrong—and they need to convince themselves that they are in the right.
In a further irony, the video has borrowed a typical trope from the Western right—which is to say, in regard to India, “Imperialists?—what about the railways, the sanitation, the medical care, the education?…Never apologise!”. So, once again, it seems that the video, while it rejects “Western values” at one level, actually has to copy its battle cry from the West. Indeed, as a commenter on the video pointed out, the entire aesthetic is borrowed from Call of Duty or a game like that—from the West.
What interests me about it is that its concern is mainly with the Soviet Union. The video starts in the 1500s, with the invasion of Siberia, and then jumps a mere 500 years to the industrialisation of Siberia under the Soviets. What then follows, replete with many hammers and sickles, is USSR USSR USSR USSR. This is garnished with a few military victories from Russian history at the end, but with the accent on WWII.
The reason it doesn’t quite work is that it’s based on a lie and it’s based on an attempt to copy and imitate the Western style “never apologise!”. The problem is that Western imperialists don’t really have to apologise because they brought genuine benefits to the countries they occupied, whereas the USSR did not—it retarded the countries it occupied, and implemented political persecution in them.
So the video maker has to lie about, for example, the Baltic states and claim that they’re “cleaning toilets” in the EU and not making high-tech electronics…meh, last time I looked places like Lithuania were doing all sorts of clever things with bitcoin—these seem like pretty cosy developed economies that have only improved since they left the USSR.
Indeed, whereas Western imperialists built quite attractive colonial buildings, the video, when it depicts Siberia, just shows vast grey tower blocks springing up from the tundra. “Kindergartens, schools, yada-yada…”. You were better off in your seal skin tent than sending your kids to a Soviet kindergarten—probably smelt better, too (certainly looked more attractive).
Further, the tone of voice throughout is a bit difficult to judge due to the language difference but I’d say it comes over as “angry and resentful”—it’s incongruous with the idea that the Russians went around “helping” people (building kindergartens and oil refineries about the place). It sounds more like he’s angry with these people for defying the Russians…
Anyway, it’s not aimed to convince the Kazakhs or the Lithuanians—it’s aimed to convince the Russians. In particular, it’s aimed to convince the Russians that the USSR did “good things”—like build aircraft and advanced electronics in the countries it occupied. That’s modernity, you see—“good” means industrial technology, nothing else is considered (perhaps the abolition of “primitive religion”, animism among the Eskimos, is also “good”).
Yet it’s a non sequitur—what people want is freedom. As TE Lawrence observed, in paraphrase, what grants a people its “right to freedom” is not its technological and cultural level but its willingness to fight and to persist in its fight for freedom. It’s why the Afghans have their freedom today, but the Germans don’t—because the Germans aren’t willing to fight for it, they’re happy to be subject to the American empire in exchange for comfort.
Hence to say to a people, whether the Indians or the Kazakhs, “look at what we did, therefore the occupation isn’t wrong” is a non sequitur—the point at stake is freedom; we’d rather have our freedom, even if being occupied by you gives us all the Antonovs and nuclear reactors in the world. But the video is for Russians, not for the people they occupied, so it’s about telling Russians it was alright to dominate other people (because they benefited from it; in fact, they’re just ungrateful wretches—as it turns out).
Of course, it’s not the issue. What the video tells me is that the ordinary Russian wants the USSR back—there’s barely a mention of the various places the Tsars invaded, and I presume the subtext is that the Tsarist state was not “progressive” and so the Tsarist invasions were not “good”. This indicates that Russia, as you’d expect, remains a progressive country at heart—ironically, given the video’s commentary, inculcated with what is a Western doctrine.
I also think the video is resentful—and that indicates weakness. Notice at the end it’s all about how Russians are victims—victims of the Poles, victims of Napoleon, victims of Hitler (yet he oddly lingers on Hitler, I think because he’s partly attracted to Hitler and also knows, deep down, the Russians couldn’t beat him on their own—it creates cognitive dissonance for him; then again, perhaps it’s because it was a Soviet victory and, for him, the USSR is the real Russia—or, then again, perhaps it’s because some Ukrainians like Hitler).
To portray yourself as the victim is a progressive stance—so the video is leftist at core, despite nationalist rhetoric. It also celebrates Soviet technological modernity, which, far from being “progress”, was totally irrational and wasteful—not to mention ugly.
The benefits for the “occupied” were nil; not only did they lose their freedom, they were also tied into a retarded economic system—the Kazakhs did not benefit from the Baikonur Cosmodrome being built in their desert, that was just a convenient place to put it from a launch window perspective. Perhaps Kazakhs felt gratified about it, but I doubt it meant that much to them…
As it happens, I notice he makes a special concession to the Ukrainians; he does say (I assume the translation is correct) that “we built aircraft and other advanced technology with the Ukrainians”. Given the video was made when the Russians first made an incursion into Ukrainian territory, I suppose this is meant to keep up the facade that “the Russians and the Ukrainians are one fraternal people” (they do things “with” each other, like husband and wife—Siberians and Lithuanians, however, are just “raped”).
So he softens the blow a bit—it was cooperative, a joint effort. However, he then goes into a bluster, again imported from the West, about how all these “advances” are being torn down by the Ukrainians (shades of Rhodeisa, so he hopes—the Ukrainians are Africans). Again, everything that was built under the USSR was irrational and inefficient because it had no market mechanism behind it. But it’s not about that really, he shows a Lenin statue going down and he shows a Soviet passport burned—it’s about the USSR again (not even “Russia”, really—just the USSR).
This whole idea, by the way, that “we freed the slaves, be grateful to Britain”, or “we built a hydroelectric dam, be grateful to Russia” is itself leftist nonsense (as used by Western conservatives). Men hate to be helped by other men—to tell other men “we granted you freedom”, as we do to the blacks, makes them hate us; it says “you’re so weak and pathetic, you couldn’t free yourselves—some white guys had to do it for you”. Men hate to be helped by other men—tell a man you’ve helped him and he’ll just resent you. The only time to help a man is if he’s in mortal danger, and even then you should never remind him it happened.
In conclusion, if this is what the ordinary Russian thinks then they are deluded progressives—actually inculcated with the very Western values they disdain, such as feminism (v 1.0)—and determined that they are the victims. There doesn’t seem to be much interest in Tsarism or religion—it just seems to be “we want the USSR back, when people were afraid of us—and we had technology which seemed advanced at the time (but was very low quality)”.
It’s quite an old video, back from 2015, when Obama was still about—and, of course, there are many different views in Russia; but it was a popular video, and the picture it paints is of a country that is resentful and obsessed with going back to the USSR—not shedding that legacy and moving into something more realistic and less Satanic. If that’s how most Russians think, even technologically capable young Russians (as the man who made this video must be), then the outlook is really poor.
The final irony is when he insists Russians are peaceful several times (in about the most belligerent voice you can imagine) before he claims that Russians are excellent soldiers—well, as the last year and a half has proved, that’s just another delusion (like the idea the USSR was some economic powerhouse, or that Siberia looks better clad in rotten concrete).