The titles on the shelves are nothing short of sensational: The End of Project “Ukraine,” Kyiv Kaput, World Wars and World Elites, The Defense of Donbas. They all sit prominently displayed in the politics section of Biblio-Globus, a sprawling bookstore just a stone’s throw from the infamous Lubyanka Prison, in central Moscow.
The overall theme is clear: Ukraine, an unnatural country, has been overrun by an American-controlled junta bent on leading the world to war and destroying Russia. That same message is ever-present on television screens across Russia and in the print media. With dramatic on-the-ground reports from the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine and documentaries about the possible rise of fascism in Mongolia and Japan, the situation seems urgent indeed.
Books offer a more in-depth and targeted vehicle for this politically useful brand of paranoia. The Ukrainian Catastrophe: From American Aggression to World War, a book by Sergei Glazyev, an adviser of President Vladimir Putin, is advertised to those generally uninterested in the issue: “If one thinks that the seizure of Ukraine by a fascist plague does not concern him, and he can wait it out in his own little world, then this new book … will be a warning.”
For those a bit more politically aware, Russian philosopher and activist Alexander Dugin’s book Ukraine: My War sits not far away, surrounded by his other works on Eurasianist political thought. His ideas of a Eurasia with Russia at the center have for some time been expertly used and promoted by the Putin government to help build support for its policies.
Even Eduard Limonov, he of the banned National Bolshevik Party, has been pressed into service. His book Kyiv Kaput seems almost engineered to help bring his supporters, who have not often been fans of Putin, into the fold.
The high caliber and profile of these authors only underscores the importance that the government wants Russian citizens to place on these issues. Russians are notoriously voracious readers, a fact that the Kremlin’s political technologists have exploited in their push to keep Putin’s approval ratings high. The fostering of anti-Americanism and a nation-under-siege mentality are key to deflecting actual criticism of Kremlin policies both at home and abroad. These books are another instrument in a very cynical toolbox.
Hannah Thoburn is a Eurasia Analyst at the Foreign Policy Initiative. The views expressed are her own. Affiliations are provided for identification purposes, and do not suggest institutional endorsement.