Inside the Wagnerverse (with Peter Rutland)
September 28 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
The Wagner Group’s June 2023 March on Moscow stunned observers around the world. Much has been written about Yevgeny Prigozhin’s biography, his relationship to Putin, and Wagner’s role fighting in Syria, Africa and Ukraine. Prigozhin also built a media empire – including the Internet Research Agency that hacked the 2016 US presidential election. Less attention has been paid to the movies that Wagner has sponsored. The first two films were Hot Sunshine (Solntsepek) (2021) about the 2014 Donbas war, and Tourist (2021), filmed in the Central African Republic. The third film, Best in Hell, is different in tone. It is a powerful and original piece of war propaganda that conveys the visceral violence of modern warfare in a way that is reminiscent of Black Hawk Down (2001). One of the screenwriters, Aleksei Nagin, was killed fighting in Bakhmut weeks before the movie’s premiere in St Petersburg on 5 October 2022. In this talk I will discuss what we can learn about the nature of the Putin regime from the Wagner movies; and use that to launch a broader discussion of movie representations of warfare in the 21st century.
Peter Rutland is a Professor of Government and Russian Studies at Wesleyan University. He is also vice-president of the Association for Study of Nationalities, and associate editor of Russian Review. His research focuses on the political economy of contemporary Russia and the dynamics of national identity in the post-soviet space.