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Vladimir Putin cracks down on historians and Ukraine invasion critics ^ | June 3, 2014 | Katie Engelhart

Posted on 06/07/2014 3:00:25 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe

Professional historians working under the Soviet Union found themselves in a pinch. Early on, authorities proved adept at seizing control of history and deploying it as propaganda drenched in Communist ideology. Scholars were given little space to challenge official versions of the past. So what was a historian to do? “People who cared about academic integrity almost never [studied] the Soviet Union,” says Maria Lipman, a scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center. “They would pick something medieval. Or, you know, ancient Rome.”

History, the old dictum goes, has a way of repeating itself. Early this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law making it illegal to deny Nazi crimes or denigrate Russia’s Second World War record. Violators face up to five years in a prison camp. Within hours, the law was decried as an affront to history: an attempt to sanitize the past and suffocate debate.

In response, a number of independent-minded Russian historians have joined together to form a kind of historical defence force. “I am worried for historians,” says Ivan Kurilla, a historian at Volgograd Statue University and a founding member of the Free History Society. But “this is dangerous for society as a whole.” The Free History Society—founded in February by a group of prominent Russian scholars, including the director of Russia’s state archives—calls on historians to protest Putinesque readings of history and to “resist the instrumentalization of historical science.”

This is not the first time Putin has narrowed the bounds of acceptable historical pursuit—especially as it concerns his Soviet forebears. Putin’s third presidential term has been marked by a clampdown on free expression and a practical war on independent history. The crisis in Ukraine—and the tit-for-tat exchange of “Nazi!” epithets between pro-Moscow and pro-Kyiv forces—has only increased Moscow’s historical sensitivities and lent Putin’s mission greater urgency. (On his trip to Canada, Britain’s Prince Charles reportedly compared Putin to Adolf Hitler; Putin has since called the charge “unacceptable” and “not royal behaviour.”)

One part of the new legislation has critics on edge: the section that makes it illegal to spread “false information about the Soviet Union’s activities during the Second World War.” The Soviet Union suffered tremendously during the Second World War (in Russia, the Great Patriotic War), losing some 30 million people in its fight against Nazi Germany. But Russia’s wartime record is far from clean; Stalin began the war as an ally of Hitler, and Red Army soldiers carried out mass atrocities on their march toward Berlin. Will it now be unsafe for historians to study these events?

The grounds for this siege on history were laid slowly over the last decade. In 2009, then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev established a “historical commission of Russia” to counter the “falsification” of Russian history. Five years earlier, Putin had introduced a new, “patriotic” high school history textbook, which skimmed over ugly events from Russia’s past (like the Chechen wars and the deportation of minority groups under Stalin).

Observers contend that by blurring the denial of Nazi crimes with the study of Soviet history, Putin’s latest, vaguely worded legislation could be used to silence Kremlin critics. In March, a Russian philosopher wrote a newspaper op-ed comparing Moscow’s annexation of Crimea to Germany’s 1938 Anschluss (union) with Austria. The professor was soon fired from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations: reportedly, for committing “an immoral act.”

This crisis in Ukraine has brought new focus to Russia’s Second World War record. From the beginning, Russian officials described Ukrainian opposition forces (today, Ukraine’s government) as “neo-Nazis” and “fascists” and portrayed their invasion of Crimea as a direct continuation of Russia’s anti-fascist wartime struggle. One concern is that Putin will use his new law to silence critics of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, first by labelling them “Nazis.” Shortly after the new law was passed, the state-owned Voice of Russia called it “a clear sign to fascists worldwide.” Jonathan Waterlow, a postdoctoral fellow at Oxford University, also thinks the law is meant to quiet discussion of Soviet atrocities in Russia’s neighbouring states, which could “compromise [Putin’s] representation of Russia as the big brother and protector of its neighbours.”

Putin has long “made history the centre of his narrative,” argues Volgograd Statue University’s Kurilla. From his earlier days in office, Putin (a former KGB officer) sought to resurrect Soviet emblems like the old Soviet anthem. His unceasing appeal to history is broadly seen as a ploy to build national consensus in Russia: amongst people that, by Putin’s own estimation, display a “dire lack of spiritual ties.”

Some critics take solace in the fact that the new memory law will be difficult to enforce, and might be limited in impact. “It’s one thing to pass a law. It’s another thing to impose a narrative on a whole population.” But already, Kurilla worries that new generations of historians will be scared away—and will search for professional expertise in a “more distant past.”

TOPICS: Russia
KEYWORDS: crimea; history; putin; putinsbuttboys; russia; russianhistory; ukraine; wwii

1 posted on 06/07/2014 3:00:25 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Tailgunner Joe
How is this different than Harry Reid in February:

"Despite all that good news, there's plenty of horror stories being told," Reid said on the Senate floor. "All of them are untrue, but they're being told all over America."

2 posted on 06/07/2014 3:06:51 PM PDT by Oldeconomybuyer (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money.)
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To: Oldeconomybuyer

Well then, if Reid does it, it must be ok. /s

3 posted on 06/07/2014 3:19:03 PM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: Tailgunner Joe
Early this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law making it illegal to deny Nazi crimes or denigrate Russia’s Second World War record.

4 posted on 06/07/2014 3:40:09 PM PDT by mac_truck ( Aide toi et dieu t aidera)
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To: Tailgunner Joe

How things have changed... now American History professors are rewriting our history as communist propaganda and getting book deals for it.

5 posted on 06/07/2014 4:21:35 PM PDT by ArmstedFragg (Hoaxey Dopey Changey)
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To: Tailgunner Joe
Don't forget this:

Video: The Holocaust Against the Ukrainian People by the Soviet Union - 10 Million Murdered


Holodomor: The Secret Holocaust in Ukraine

Remembering Holodomor: The Ukrainian Famine

The Other Holocaust
6 posted on 06/07/2014 4:38:46 PM PDT by VitacoreVision
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To: Tailgunner Joe

“Historians are dangerous people. They are capable of upsetting everything.” Nikita Khrushchev

7 posted on 06/07/2014 5:09:56 PM PDT by Rockingham
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To: Tailgunner Joe; All

    The little daughter’s on the mattress,
    Dead. How many have been on it
    A platoon, a company perhaps?
    A girl’s been turned into a woman,
    A woman turned into a corpse.
    It's all come down to simple phrases:
    Do not forget! Do not forgive!
    Blood for blood! A tooth for a tooth! 
                     from  Prussian Nights
                        Alexander Solzhenitsyn  
                        Twice-decorated Captain of Artillery
                        2nd Belorussian front, 
                        Prussia, Jan 1945

Feb 1945. Arrested for criticism of rape, murder, looting  of civilians expressed in a private letter. 
Accused of anti-Soviet propaganda under Article 58 paragraph 10 of the Soviet criminal code,
and of "founding a hostile organization" under paragraph 11. Sentenced in absentia by Special Council of the NKVD to an eight-year term in the Gulag
(where he completed the 14,000 line, 50-page poem). The New York Times reviewed it thus:
"A clumsy and disjointed 1400 line narrative which can be called poetry only because it is written in meter and rhyme."

8 posted on 06/27/2014 2:26:57 PM PDT by Veristhorne (Just the Facts M'am, just the Facts)
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