The killing fields of Stalingrad are holy sites of Russian nationalism. Nearly two million people died in the battle that arguably won the Great Patriotic War, as Russians call the second world war. But last Monday the memorial hill around the giant female Mamayev Kurgan statue was overrun by football fans. England were playing Tunisia in Volgograd — the name the city was given in 1961 after Stalin’s crimes became too embarrassing — and middle-aged men in England shirts trooped respectfully around the monuments. By the tomb of Lieutenant Vladimir Petrovich, "Hero of the Soviet Union", killed here aged 24, Russian and foreign supporters fraternised noisily. Going around Russia — as I am doing during the World Cup — provides these daily reminders of the gap between ordinary Russians and Vladimir Putin. The president pushes aggressive nationalism. In his telling, innocent Russia is always under threat from the west — Hitler then, Nato now. Yet Putin cannot manipulate most Russians into...

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