It has been said the only glue that holds Russia together is the memory of its great victory over Nazi Germany.
The country is vast and diverse. There is no ideology, no ‘ism’ to believe in any longer. No rule of law, no system of government beyond gangster kleptocracy, no Stalin or Lenin or any other great leader the nation can rally behind.
But Russians can unite in their memory of that great triumph over Germany and the huge sacrifices it cost – losses most families can to this day remember personally.
That helps explain why throughout his rule Vladimir Putin has made so much of the victory.
In the absence of any other good storyline, he has retold the same old one over and over again.
And he has presented his war in Ukraine as a sequel to what they call the Great Patriotic War.
Hence the absurd claims Ukraine is run by Nazis when it is in fact led by a Jew who lost most of his family to the same Nazis who killed more than 26 million Soviets.
Russian propagandists peddle the same grotesque fiction.
They claim Russia saved the world alone in the Second World War and make no mention of the extraordinary sacrifices and feats of arms made by the Allies, not to mention the huge amount of Allied weaponry and support without which Russia would not have prevailed against the Nazis.
In fact, they even claim that Britain and America created the Nazis and in essence, Russia was fighting the West then, as it was against Napoleon, and is again now.
If you control the information space as well as the Putin regime does there is no end to the nonsense you can spout and probably end up believing.
But it shows the deep well of paranoia that exists in Russia, not least thanks to geography and history.
In February Putin presented the special military operation in Ukraine, as he calls it, as something Russians were going to have to learn to live with.
He tried to normalise it as something that would be going on in the background indefinitely.
Just one tank rolls through Red Square for stripped back parade
Ukraine prepares for new counter-offensive
A scaled-down Victory Day
But his war is going badly – so badly it is even affecting Victory Day.
As our correspondent in Moscow reports, today’s event is being scaled down.
No flypast, not so many tanks and there will be fewer people watching.
Hundreds of thousands have fled the country and many of those men that remain daren’t go out, terrified of being drafted.
And the Immortal Regiment parades, when Russians march with photos of the great fallen of the Second World War, have been banned, lest they do the same with images of the tens of thousands who have died in Ukraine.
Many Russians will continue to believe the propaganda, and support their government alarmed by mysterious assassinations, drone attacks and assorted fictions peddled on state TV.
But they will also increasingly know the war is not going well.
If you sell a war as a sequel to Russia’s most glorious, then you are begging the question, where is the victory? And never more so than today.