One Year Into War, Putin Is Crafting the Russia He Craves

A nationwide campaign urging children to make candles for soldiers has become so popular, he said, that anyone questioning it in a school chat group might be called a “Nazi and an accomplice of the West.”

At the same time, he argued, daily life has changed little for Russians without a family member fighting in Ukraine, which has hidden or assuaged the costs of the war. Western officials estimate that at least 200,000 Russians have been killed or wounded in Ukraine, a far more serious toll than analysts had predicted when the war began. Yet the economy has suffered much less than analysts predicted, with Western sanctions having failed to drastically reduce average Russians’ quality of life even as many Western brands departed.

“One of the scariest observations, I think, is that for the most part, nothing has changed for people,” Mr. Chernyshov said, describing the urban rhythm of restaurants and concerts and his students going on dates. “This tragedy gets pushed to the periphery.”

In Moscow, Mr. Putin’s new ideology of war is on display at the Victory Museum — a sprawling hilltop compound dedicated to the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany. One new exhibit, “NATOzism,” declares that “the purpose of creating NATO was to achieve world domination.” A second, “Everyday Nazism,” includes artifacts from Ukraine’s Azov Battalion, which has far-right connections, as evidence for the false assertion that Ukraine is committing “genocide” against Russians.

“It was scary, creepy and awful,” one patron named Liza, 19, said of what the exhibit had shown her, declining to give her last name because of the political sensitivity of the subject. She said she was distressed to learn of this behavior by the Ukrainians, as presented by Russian propaganda. “It shouldn’t be that way,” she said, signaling her support for Mr. Putin’s invasion.

Hundreds of students were visiting on a recent afternoon, and primary schoolchildren marched in green army caps as their chaperone called out, “Left, left, one, two, three!” and addressed them as “soldiers.” In the main hall, the studio of Victory TV — a channel started in 2020 to focus on World War II — was filming a live talk show.

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