One of the reporter's questions highlighted the issue very well:
While Russian history books contain most of the details, in Western countries victory is attributed to the West – the Allies won, and the Soviet Union just participated. So it’s like we are losing our victory. Many people don’t know anything about the major losses of the Soviet Union in this war, they don’t know that it was the Red Army that entered and seized Berlin, and they don’t know many things. What can we do in order not to lose our victory?
As the interview shows, the "New Russia" (as the current administration calls itself) sees this herculean task of "correcting" the historical perspective as playing a key part in their overall public diplomacy effort: it is directly related to the way others perceive modern Russia.
This is a great interview, in that Medvedev is trying to explain the Russian attitude and reactions to the West in the post-Cold War period:
[...] people in Russia, too, are suspicious of America, other NATO members and even other countries that are simply major players on the international arena. Why is that? It’s because of our history, the way we used to perceive each other. You and I remember well what we had in the Soviet period. We had a set of stereotypes concerning each other. Just recall what they used to tell us at school about Americans and Europeans. This position was totally based on ideology. It pursued obvious goals—to make us consider people who lived there as our enemies. It was a way of keeping the government efficient and achieving certain political goals.
They had the same thing. In fact many stereotypes of the past are still here today, more or less. Perhaps it is particularly true in the West, because, frankly speaking, many of our people wanted a new life in late 1980s and the early 1990s. And there was a kind of romantic period in our relations with the West. We thought they would welcome us as an open, modern country that no longer threatened anybody. We thought we would quickly and easily be integrated with other civilised developed nations.
Something different followed though. First of all, we ourselves were not fully ready to do this quickly since there was a certain inertia to our thinking. The need to create a modern economy in our country remained, and remains up to the present moment. There is also the process of civil society institutions maturing. But the people in the West, too, were not fully ready to give up their stereotypes.
It is obvious that he is painfully aware of the persisting "negative" image of Russia in the Western popular culture and perceptions, as well.
You know, sometimes I watch Hollywood movies, and even though they have excellent actors, an excellent cast, perfect scene sequence and a big budget – the way they portray Russia today is just a bunch of absurd, ludicrous ideas. Russia is a country where it is always raining or snowing, where everything is bad, people are mean, all they can do is drink vodka all the time, they are aggressive, they like to fight, they can attack you any moment – you have to keep an eye on them, otherwise, they will stab you in the back. Everything is bad!
So what is the message? "Work actively and fairly, and [...] abandon extreme positions."
Well done, Mr. President. Don't stop here, though! It will take much more effort and time, on all sides, to really resolve the problem..
You can read the transcript of the entire interview on RT's website.