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The 75th anniversary of the end of World War II was the only forthcoming event Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned in his New Year’s address to the nation. Creating an alternative to the dominant Western narrative about that war is key to Putin’s way of securing Russia’s place in the world.

Putin has appeared lately to be obsessed with World War II, discoursing about it at every opportunity — during an informal session with other post-Soviet leaders, at his big end-of-year news conference, in a meeting with Russian tycoons, at the Defense Ministry in the presence of top generals.

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