Skip to comments.Vladimir Putin cracks down on historians and Ukraine invasion critics
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 Russias 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 Societyfounded in February by a group of prominent Russian scholars, including the director of Russias state archivescalls 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 pursuitespecially as it concerns his Soviet forebears. Putins third presidential term has been marked by a clampdown on free expression and a practical war on independent history. The crisis in Ukraineand the tit-for-tat exchange of Nazi! epithets between pro-Moscow and pro-Kyiv forceshas only increased Moscows historical sensitivities and lent Putins mission greater urgency. (On his trip to Canada, Britains 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 Unions 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 Russias 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 Russias 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, Putins latest, vaguely worded legislation could be used to silence Kremlin critics. In March, a Russian philosopher wrote a newspaper op-ed comparing Moscows annexation of Crimea to Germanys 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 Russias Second World War record. From the beginning, Russian officials described Ukrainian opposition forces (today, Ukraines government) as neo-Nazis and fascists and portrayed their invasion of Crimea as a direct continuation of Russias anti-fascist wartime struggle. One concern is that Putin will use his new law to silence critics of Russias 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 Russias neighbouring states, which could compromise [Putins] 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 Universitys 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 Putins 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. Its one thing to pass a law. Its another thing to impose a narrative on a whole population. But already, Kurilla worries that new generations of historians will be scared awayand will search for professional expertise in a more distant past.
"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."
Well then, if Reid does it, it must be ok. /s
How things have changed... now American History professors are rewriting our history as communist propaganda and getting book deals for it.
“Historians are dangerous people. They are capable of upsetting everything.” Nikita Khrushchev
The little daughters on the mattress, Dead. How many have been on it A platoon, a company perhaps? A girls 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."
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