Political myth: definition, types and examples

Political myth: definition, types and examples
Political myth: definition, types and examples

Myths have been accompanying humanity since the advent of public consciousness. Ancient people explained the whole world around and natural phenomena by the actions of mystical creatures and spirits. For example, in ancient China, thunder and lightning were not considered natural phenomena, but the battle of dragons. In later times in Ancient Greece and pagan Russia, this was explained by the result of the action of the gods. The appearance of documented political myths, examples of which can be found in the works of such scientists as Pythagoras, Plato, and others, also dates back to approximately this period.

It would seem that in the 21st century, when access to information has become much easier thanks to the Internet, myth-making should have disappeared. However, the same Internet contributes to the almost instantaneous delivery of information to the target audience.


There are many definitions of what a political myth is, and quite complex ones. For example, what isa modified form of political consciousness, in which knowledge and understanding of factual information is replaced by images, symbols. There are also clearer definitions. For example, that these are stories used for the purposes of political struggle, the sacralization of power, and the denigration of opponents. Such a definition implies an understanding that a classical myth is a traditional tale that figuratively shows a historical event and serves to explain the origin of customs, traditions, beliefs or natural phenomena. Usually its origin is unknown, while the myth, which has a political quality, is often professionally launched and has a specific circle of people for whose benefit it is created.

E. Cassirer in "The Technique of Modern Political Myths" noted that they do not arise spontaneously, are not the fruit of an unbridled imagination. On the contrary, they are artificially created by "skillful and dexterous craftsmen." National history and traditions determine the connection between political myth and political culture. The latter forms the mythology of society, has a real impact on people's behavior and national processes in society. They are an essential part of the country's political culture. For example, in Indonesia, political myths and anti-communist traditions are an element of any election campaign.


USA and Israel flags

One of the very first political myths was aimed at the sacralization of power. There are few ancient states where there would be no stories about the divine origin of rulers. For example, in ancientKorea's ruling dynasty was descended from Tangun, the grandson of the god of heaven.

The first case of "black PR" was recorded by Plato, who in his treatise "The State" called for the elimination of wrong, harmful myths. In these stories, Theseus and other ancient Greek heroes, children of the gods, behaved almost like ordinary people, committing terrible, unholy deeds. The Greek philosopher, on the other hand, believed that gods and heroes cannot commit bad deeds.

Another example of a political myth that formed the basis of the understanding of the world in ancient Japan also spoke about the divine origin of the imperial dynasty. Already from the descendants of the gods, the founders of noble families received government posts. All these legends not only substantiated the power of the ruler, but also consecrated the principles of social stratification and consolidated the hierarchical system of social structure. Often such stories justified the right of one group of people to rule over others. They were supposed to contribute to the unity of the population by introducing them to common symbols.

Up to a certain level of development of society, all political myths were associated with various deities through whom the sacralization of power passed. Gradually, other mythological stories began to appear, for example, about the belonging of power and rights to the people, which was developed at all times, from antiquity to the present day.

In the 19th century, scientific articles appeared on political myths, in which various theories were developed, for example, about the vicar of God on earth, about the personification of the absolute spirit, about heroes and racialsuperiority. The development of society in the 20th century, especially the emergence and spread in most countries of the world of universal suffrage, greatly increased the need for political products.

holiday parade

An example of a political myth in Russia is the divine nature of royal power. But he was debunked after the October Revolution of 1917. Then there were several more ideological stories connected with the authorities in the country, which crashed. For example, about a wise leader. This myth was debunked after Stalin's death, and the people's right to power ended with the collapse of the Soviet state. This shows that, unlike traditional myths that have existed for thousands of years, political myths have a relatively short lifespan.

The last decades are characterized by intense myth-making. In many countries it is used as a campaigning tool. Both old and new or updated myths are used. In the United States and many Western countries, stories about Russian aggression, which was previously called Soviet, are often used for this. Russia is characterized by myths about American or Western expansionism.

Properties and differences

Modern political myths, like traditional ones, tell about the past, present and predict the future. They are presented in an accessible form intended for the target audience. The difference from the traditional ones is that they no longer have a sacred status, but they still must be perceived as an indisputable truth by a certain social group. Likemystical stories, they must present their model of reality and pattern of action for those who believe in them. Usually, the following properties of political and traditional myths are distinguished:

  • Polymorphism. The same set of characters is used, for example, almost all peoples have stories about the "wise ruler". At the same time, the same topic can have different goals and emotional overtones.
  • Limitation. To create myths, a limited number of symbols are used, which can have many combinations.
  • Distraction. Myths are not based on existing experience and are not connected with empirical reality.
  • Fundamentality. They are based on faith that does not require verification, regardless of their truth.
  • Static. The myth is not tied to a specific historical time, it lives in its own dimension.

Some researchers note the following differences: modern myths usually tell about real people, events of the present and the recent past. They are short-lived, not inherited from ancient times, and spread through the media, not by word of mouth or through sacred texts.


Greek sculptures

Political myths and stereotypes are always created by someone, so they are perceived first as a possible reality, and then become an obvious and indisputable truth in the mass consciousness. They build their own picture of reality, which was originally tied to specific objects. These stories operate with images thatprovides them with recognition and memorability.

At the same time, like any image, the myth allows for different interpretations of details, which allows you to create many options with different details. Each new adherent of the myth supplements the basic images with his inherent emotional colors. On the basis of one political stereotype, for example, about a conspiracy, very different versions of the same story can be created. They have an irrational foundation associated with the emotional sphere. The vitality and longevity of a mythological story is determined primarily by the emotions it evokes. People need to empathize with the characters and identify with them.


Each political myth has its own structure, consisting of certain components.

Rally in North Korea

The following basic elements are usually distinguished:

  • Archetypes. This is the basis, the "skeleton" of the political myth, the original image that determines its emotional coloring. Usually formed on the basis of the experience of all previous generations.
  • Mythologems. This is the accepted canon for describing reality, a cliché and at the same time a product of perception. An example is the features of omniscience and concern for every citizen, adopted in the ideological practice of describing the leaders of North Korea.
  • Symbolics. It serves to combine real events with myths and archetypes.
  • Means of implementation. Called to change the political behavior of people. These are ideologemes that serve to describe specific situations, events, for example,campaign slogans. It is also a political ritual that allows the carriers of the myth to unite in space (demonstrations, rallies) or in time (celebration of ideological dates, holidays). Sometimes this also includes the Internet, which makes it possible to participate in the virtual space.


social protest

As Ernst Cassirer noted in The Technique of Modern Political Myths, there is not a single natural phenomenon or event in human life that could not be interpreted as a myth. At the same time, the researchers combined all these diverse stories into several main themes:

  • About the conspiracy. This is one of the most popular myths: everything bad happens in the country due to the action of secret forces, against which you can use any means of struggle, so you need to unite in the face of the enemy.
  • About the golden age. Calls for a return to the roots, when love, freedom and equality reigned. It also calls to a bright future that will be built according to these patterns.
  • About the hero-savior. Specific characters are endowed with the features of an ideal person. The hero has the highest moral qualities and talents of a warrior and commander.
  • About the father of nations. He tells about a just and kind politician who cares about the common people, he knows about their problems. And everything would be fine in the country, but his environment interferes with him.
  • About the heroic past of the nation. There once lived great ancestors, the strongest, smartest and most moral. They performed epic feats for the glory of the Fatherland.
  • Ohunity. Based on the opposition: there are friends and foes, friends and enemies, us and them. Aliens are the source of all troubles, they seek to trample on our values, so the salvation of the nation lies in its unity.


Incheon airport

Political myths act as a protective screen against external destructive influence, the reliability of which depends on its fundamental nature. First of all, political mythology is always symbolic. In the public consciousness, any socio-political process is associated with a specific subject content. For most people, the swastika is a symbol of Nazism, and the red star is the symbol of the Soviet Union. Most often, symbols are borrowed from ancient times or other civilizations. For example, the same swastika in Eastern civilizations is a symbol of movement, a star is a secret knowledge and power.

Another feature is super value. The political myth is based on deep, emotionally colored basic human needs. Therefore, for such a supervalue, a person is able to sacrifice a lot. For the sake of the idea of ​​social equality, which is based on the myth of the golden age and the superman, people have taken up arms more than once.


Public life is fertile ground for the birth of mythology, because people do not have reliable information about the socio-political processes taking place in the country. The population makes do with ideological interpretations and rumors. All political information is distorted and adapted by people to make it recognizable and not contradictory to existing ones.representations. The results of this distortion are political myths. They are formed through processes such as:

  • Inversion. Changing incoming information to protect your ideas from deformation.
  • Rationalization. Finding causes or justifications for unacceptable events acceptable to the public consciousness, the emergence of impossible causal relationships.
  • Projection. Society transfers its own properties and states to external objects.
  • Personification. Gives the perfect image to a particular person or political phenomenon.


Flag burning

Political myth-making is constantly improving, giving out new stories that, despite their diversity, serve quite specific purposes.

Myths have the following main socio-political functions:

  • Unifying. It serves to unite disparate groups of the population, by forming common political beliefs, shared faith, based on common knowledge and assessments. The image of the "enemy" (the simplest political stereotype) and the myth of unity are most often used. The formation of political parties, movements occurs in accordance with the division of people into "friends" (those who share faith in myths) and "strangers".
  • Adaptive. In order for the community to interact with the social environment, people create a subjective picture of the world in which real connections are intertwined with mythological ideas about reality. The society builds a typical scheme of interaction withpolitical reality. For example, in an authoritarian society, an idea is created of a country that is ruled by a great leader and leads the people to well-being and prosperity. If most of the people believe in this, then there is a high efficiency of this function.
  • Legitimization of power. In any society, the political system needs the support of the population, the people's faith in the effectiveness, justice and legitimacy of government institutions. The people are explained why they need the existing political structure, they are forced to believe in the legitimacy of its actions. Such mythology encourages a person to recognize the special status of power, the implementation of social laws and cultural norms. Examples of the use of myths in political campaigns: in the case of nationalization, ill-gotten we alth is transferred to those who created it, and privatization is explained by inefficient management.
  • Psychotherapeutic. In times of crisis in the development of society, when state and social institutions cannot satisfy the basic needs of people, myths provide an opportunity to get a break, psychological relaxation, and relieve stress. During such periods, people's faith in the irrational increases, so myths about a bright future help to survive hard times.
  • Ethical. Mythology reflects the moral traditions of society, its practical and historical collective experience. Myths affect the moral environment of society, in turn, morality penetrates into mythology, forming and rallying groups to achieve certain goals. All this contributes to the formation of group morality,which does not always correspond to the universal. Many religious sects, such as ISIS, create "their morality", considering everyone else as enemies.
  • Aesthetic. The mythological picture of the world directly affects people's idea of ​​beauty. Along with the myths, the assessment can also change. For example, along with the collapse of the Soviet ideology, the romance of the "working man" also left.

Russian myths

A large number of political myths in modern Russia are mainly associated with Soviet history and President Putin V. The most stable historical figure is considered by many to be the figure of Emperor Peter the Great, who, thanks to Soviet propaganda, fit into the image of an ideal ruler. He is a hero who defeated evil in the face of the conservative boyars and external enemies, who created new institutions of power and social elevators.

Most of all, the clever "masters" of myth-making are working on creating the image of the President of Russia, creating numerous "non-fictional stories." Therefore, the image of Putin has developed in society as a just ruler who successfully confronts the enemies of the country and takes care of the people. Many political myths in modern Russia have remained since Soviet times:

  • industrialization and victory in the Great Patriotic War under the leadership of the wise Stalin;
  • happy stagnant times of Brezhnev, when there was no social inequality.

Socio-political myths about just communism, an efficient market economy, the rapid achievement of democracy are still the most popularin Russia.

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