As Putin Pitches His Vision, Voters Avert Their Gaze From the War

Vladimir V. Putin’s vision of Russia — successful, innovative and borderless — is on display at one of Moscow’s biggest tourist attractions, a Stalin-era exhibition center that currently houses a sleek showcase called Russia 2024. The exhibition promotes what the Kremlin portrays as Russia’s achievements in the past two decades, roughly the period Mr. Putin has been in power, and his promises for the future after he secures another six-year term in rubber-stamp elections this weekend.

The exhibition is in many ways a microcosm of a country whose people largely — at least in public — avert their gaze from the big and bloody war in Ukraine that Mr. Putin started more than two years ago.

The centerpiece is a grand hall housing pavilions featuring all the Russian regions, including five illegally annexed from Ukraine. Visitors to one pavilion are greeted by two LED screensdisplaying tulip fields that portray the region of Belgorod, which borders Ukraine, as calm and peaceful.

That is increasingly at odds with the reality of regular air raid sirens and deadly Ukrainian missile and drone strikes on the city, including one on Thursday that killed two people and injured 19.

At the Crimea pavilion, throngs of visitors pose with men dressed as Roman legionnaires next to a video boasting about the bridge connecting the peninsula, which was illegally annexed in 2014, to the Russian mainland. There is no mention of the Ukrainian attack in 2022 that blew a hole in the bridge, or the frequent threats that lead to the closing of the bridge for hours at a time.

It is a cognitive dissonance many Russians have adopted, celebrating the motherland and accepting the government’s triumphal narrative — even as Mr. Putin has become a pariah in much of the Western world, domestic prices rise and the Russian army suffers a staggering number of casualties in Ukraine.

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