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In Others’ Words: Quotations and Recontextualization in Putin’s Speeches

In: Russian Politics
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This article analyzes how Kremlinologists have attempted to understand ‘what Putin thinks’ by examining whom he has quoted. Kremlinologists have taken the quotations in Putin’s speeches and used them to claim that Putin is ‘ultranationalist’, ‘paleoconservative’, and even ‘fascist’. The article argues that in doing so, they have ignored the exact words of the quotations and the context in which they were used. To overcome this deficiency, the article carries out a careful examination of those words and that context, and points to much more nuanced conclusions. It shows that on occasion, Putin has used quotations to reinforce what might be considered relatively illiberal points, but more often he done so to reinforce moderately liberal rhetoric. Overall, Putin’s use of quotations would suggest that Putin positions himself as a relatively moderate conservative not as an extremist of the sort claimed by the Kremlinologists.

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