Military Review

Revising Russian History ('The National Interest', USA)

Revising Russian History ('The National Interest', USA)This year one of the main themes of the Valdai Club was reconciliation of views on the Russian history of the twentieth century, or more precisely, on its eerie period between the revolution in 1917 and the death of Stalin in 1953. It should push the liberals of the Russian establishment supporting President Dmitry Medvedev to revive Russian reforms and make a clear break with the Soviet past.

The memory of the crimes of Stalinism was a natural addition to our water journey along part of the White Sea Canal, built under Stalin in the 1930-s. political prisoners at the cost of terrible sacrifices from human lives and suffering, cold, hunger and mass executions. These and many other atrocities committed by Stalin and Lenin are just a very limited part of the officially recognized level noted or mentioned today in Russia, although the majority of the victims are Russians.

This is the subject to discuss which non-Russians have a limited moral right, excluding those whose compatriots became victims of mass repressions (for example, the Stalin massacre of Polish prisoners near Katyn). But even in this case, they must be extremely careful, while emphasizing that this was the crime of communism, and not of the Russian national state; and that the victims of the Russians were incalculable. But the lack of mention or consideration of the problem in Russian society is not only related to Stalinism, even if a huge number of Stalinist crimes makes it the most serious problem in modern Russian history. There is almost no mention of 2 by the millions of Russians who died in the First World War, although nostalgia for the pre-revolutionary past is very common, for example, in contemporary Russian cinema.

Even for many very anti-communist Russians, whose families suffered under Stalin, it is difficult to unambiguously assess the communist past. Among other things, two reasons came to my mind during the second half of my stay, which included a visit to the city of Yaroslavl, where the Russian government organized an international annual forum, which by their hopes would become the Russian version of Davos. Glancing out of the window of my train, I caught sight of the ridiculous white statue standing alone on the edge of the forest. I realized that the statue was a monument to a soldier. There was a series of gray gravestones behind it — the graves of Soviet soldiers who died in World War II, mostly died in a military hospital, since the German advance was stopped west of Yaroslavl in November 1941, before the Soviet counter-attack next month pushed back the line front. The regime that organized the resistance, otbivshi Germans and saved Russia from destruction, was, of course, communist and headed by Stalin. The liberation of this great victory, which saved Russia and Europe from Nazism, from the terrible internal and international crimes of Stalinism is, to put it mildly, not an easy task.

Another reason is almost four decades of much softer Soviet rule that followed the death of Stalin, during which two generations grew, created families, raised children, and which gave gray, limited opposition to Brezhnev rule, and the reformist periods of Khrushchev and Gorbachev, and the final the collapse of the system by the communist rebel Yeltsin; and of course, the rise of former intelligence officer Vladimir Putin to power.

In other words, all this is unlike the clear and sudden rupture of Germany and Nazism, caused by its defeat and conquest in 1945. History of Russia created a situation in Yaroslavl where the restored monasteries, cathedrals and palaces of the imperial era often destroyed or damaged under Stalin and Lenin, stand on the streets with the names "Soviet" and "Andropov" (the latter was born in the Yaroslavl region).

Thus, for Russian liberals, the danger is that when they condemn crimes committed under Lenin and Stalin, they can easily turn out to be people (or be them in reality) condemning the entire Soviet period, in which many older people feel nostalgic, and not so much for imperial reasons, but because he personified a safe life; or simply as a human being - this was the country of their childhood and youth. In turn, this can inspire liberals to do what they are all inclined to, namely, openly expressing elite contempt for ordinary Russians and for Russia as a country. It’s not for me to talk about the validity or groundlessness of this. It must be obvious - and at the beginning of the summer I pointed this out to Russian liberals at a conference in Sweden - to speak like this about my fellow citizens in public means one thing: never to be elected neither in Russia, nor in the USA.

Naturally, such an approach does not receive a response in conservative or “static” circles. He continues to follow the catastrophic model of the nineteenth and early twentieth century ties between the liberal intelligentsia and the state, who made his direct contribution to the 1917 catastrophe of the year and to the destruction by the revolution of both of them: essentially two moral absolutisms that did not catastrophically hear each other. The absence of liberals who think in the categories of the imperial state seriously impoverishes this state and contributes to its mistakes of obscurantism, reaction, excessive repression and utter nonsense; but once again it is necessary to recognize that liberal rhetoric rightly makes the state consider them irresponsible, unpatriotic and unworthy to be in the public service.

The Russian historian, speaking in Valdai, demonstrated with a concrete example what this liberal rhetoric is and showed that, despite their assurances, many Russian liberal intellectuals are far enough away from their Western equivalent and have a strong tendency towards their own spiritual absolutism. This historian is the publisher of a highly valued collection of revisionist essays on Russian history of the 20th century; but his speech in Valdai caused great pain to the Western professional historians who were present.

It consisted in turning to Russian history up to the Middle Ages and identifying a number of crucial mistakes, pulled out of the historical context and presented with the absence of important facts that complement them. On the one hand, this is not a historical project, although it claims to be so. On the other hand, it is designed, in effect, to turn most of the Russian history into the rubbish - which again, in no way, can make fellow citizens listen to it.

If we talk about the Russian government, the most inspiring in his recent approach to history is the full and open admission of the murder of Polish prisoners at Katyn by Stalin’s order by the Soviet secret police. This led to a radical improvement in relations with Poland. This was partly possible because both the Polish and the Russian governments realized that thousands of Russians and other Soviet victims of the Soviet secret police were buried in the same forest. In other words, it was a joint condemnation of Stalinism, and not a Polish condemnation of Russia.

It seems quite obvious that in condemning communist crimes, Medvedev will want to go faster and further than Putin. At the meeting, Prime Minister Putin responded to the question: “Why is Lenin still in the Mausoleum on Red Square?” Aggressively threw up, asking his British counterpart: “Why does the London parliament still have a monument to Cromwell?” One of my British colleagues reacted to it's totally annoyed. I must say that, being half Irish and remembering Cromwell’s crimes against Ireland (which today would undoubtedly be attributed to the genocide), I saw a significant amount of truth in this statement, but Cromwell ruled Britain 350 years ago, not 90.

On the one hand, Putin’s response reflected the understandable, but still counter-productive Russian tendency to snap at uncomfortable questions instead of asking them. In this regard, Medvedev (whatever his qualifications) is a much better diplomat. However, Putin will not refuse in common sense, hearing him “when the time comes, the Russian people will decide what to do with it. History is something that cannot be rushed. ” The difference between Medvedev and Putin in these matters can be explained by the simple fact that Medvedev is younger by 13 years.

In Yaroslavl, Medvedev talked about the tremendous changes that took place in Russia with the end of the communist era, and noted his enormous difficulties in explaining to his 15-year-old son (1995 year of birth, four years after the collapse of the Soviet Union) life under communism: "Turns for everything, nothing in the shops, there is nothing to watch on TV, except for the endless speeches of the party leaders. ”

In the end, the approach of Russian teenagers, and therefore future adults, to their history, may be similar to the approach of most teenagers in the West. On the one hand, the past is regrettable, the knowledge of history can be vaccinated against dangerous mistakes and even crimes in the future. However, on the other hand, as a professor, I have no illusions about the ability of most teenagers - Russian, American, British or Martian - to study history too much or anything else.
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  1. Mi
    Mi 2 October 2010 00: 04
    Fuck the Pindos. Ours is a story and you don’t have a single gram of trust when homo-dodermocrats stick their fucking with the history of my country. WE WILL FIGURE IT AND WE WILL DECIDE EVERYTHING ON THE BARS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!