Putin’s Politics of the Sacred and His Claim on Kyiv

Humanities Seminar
Event Format
In person
CGIS S354 1730 Cambridge St

In his 2014 address to the Federal Assembly, Russian President Vladimir Putin defined Crimea, Sevastopol, and Chersonesus as sacred geographies for Russia, comparing these places to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. He continues to reinforce this narrative on visits to the region that combine political, historical, and spiritual symbolism. This talk draws on 20 years (2004-2024) of such political signaling by Putin as it explores his claim on Kyiv as the sacred center of Russian history and culture. It examines how Putin’s curated engagement with Orthodox icons, monasteries, and his interpretation of the history of Russia become a form of political discourse that attempts to redefine national boundaries by establishing “sacred” space and time. Using concepts like “hierotopy” and “cultural-semiotic transfer” this talk will describe the mechanism through which Putin denotes Kyiv as “sacred” and claims its history and territory for Russia in surprising ways. The talk also invites the audience to try to map Russia’s political future and the outcome of the war in Ukraine.

Refreshments will be provided.


The Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact us at 617-495-4037 or daviscenter@fas.harvard.edu in advance of your participation or visit. Requests for Sign Language interpreters and/or CART providers should be made at least two weeks in advance if possible. Please note that the Davis Center will make every effort to secure services but that services are subject to availability.