ISSUE 2-2009
Богдана Костюк
Геназдь Саганович Михаил Видейко
Тарас Шульга
Grzegorz Motyka Petr Vagner
Владимир Воронов
Pavel Vitek

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the articles and/or discussions are those of the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views or positions of the publisher.

By Pavel Vitek | Researcher in Politics, the Czech Republic | Issue 2, 2009

It could seem that couple of buddies from Kremlin cannot surprise us even more but opposite is true. If they devoted same effort to building of Russia as they dedicate to creation of various kinds of provocations their country would have to live much better than it lives today. It is difficult to say if they cannot do it or they do not want but result is same: news coming from Russia makes us puzzled. After each new innovation the question emerges: is it a joke or a nightmare?

           One of the latest contributions to this theme is information about establishment of Commission to Counter Attempts to Falsify History to the Detriment of Russia's Interests, officially created by President Medvedev on May 19. [1] The commission should compile and analyse „information on the falsification of historical facts and events aimed at damaging Russia's international prestige, and preparing relevant reports for the President. In addition the Commission will develop a strategy to counter such falsifications, undertaken in order to harm Russia's interests, and advise the President on the appropriate steps to be taken.“ [2] An establishment of the commission was welcomed by governmental party Yedinaya Rossia. Member of this party and deputy of State Duma Irina Yarova reminded that her party earlier prepared bill having a similar aim. [3]

          A new step made by the Russian president, which of his two halves made it we do not know, found a strong echo. Russian controlled media mostly limited themselves to announcement of the fact or expressed their support. Moscow’s speaking trumpet TV Russia Today placed on its website material with the telling headline „Medvedev says no to false history“ and linked feature expressing satisfaction of Soviet, ahem pardon, Russian people with wise decision of the leadership. [4] Only supporting letters of workers are missing. Maybe, next time.

Representatives of various nationalistic forces were more expansive and of course they consider commission like a good mean of how to face enemies of Russia: Создание комиссии по противодействию переписыванию истории при Президенте, безусловно, имеет позитивные составляющие. Нам прекрасно известно, что в последние 5 лет в странах Восточной Европы активно идет работа по переписыванию истории в последовательном антироссийском духе для формирования антироссийских идентичностей. Это происходит в Прибалтике, на Украине. Для того чтобы этому опасному процессу противостоять, необходима соответствующая работа, как государственных структур, так и общественных организаций,“ said Alexander Dyukov, director of fund Istoricheskaya pamyat. [5]

Andrey Tatarinov, member of political committee of organisation Molodaya gvardiya hasslightlydoubted so far: Наша война, она сегодня по большей части информационная и уличные акции, например «Молодой Гвардии», это просто метод, но метод, поставленный на службу для той же информационной войны против ревизионизма и нацизма. Так что в добрый путь! Интересно, все же комиссия при президенте - это что будет? Комиссия «слова» или комиссия «дела»?![6]

            Remainders of Russian civic society have been reacting by remonstrative statements well understanding that putting of screws continued and the establishment attacked other area of free thinking. [7] A well known Russian historian Yuriy Afanasyev published in one of the last Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta an article very exactly catching right aim of established commission: „Все нынешние «исторические» указы и проекты власти для того, чтобы нашу принципиально фальсифицированную историю сохранить именно в том искаженном виде, в котором она сейчас жива в сознании российского большинства“ [8]

             By the way Y. Afanasyev could become one of the first subjects of a new commission investigation therefore he in his article wrote: Еще один, важнейший пример — как раз из Второй мировой войны. Многие так и не постигли смысла ни ее причин и начала, ни ее окончания и итогов. Советский Союз вступил в нее 17 сентября 1939 года на стороне Гитлера. И Советский Союз воевал на стороне нацистской Германии до 22 июня 1941 года, потому она и Великая Отечественная, не Вторая мировая. А окончание войны? Все усвоили, что мы освободили Родину, но за пределами сознания остается, что результатом войны стали раздел мира на зоны влияния и порабощение Советским Союзом половины Европы. Все знают, что для советских людей война закончилась освобождением, триумфом, Великой Победой, но многим все еще трудно осознать, что она закончилась и еще большим ужесточением сталинизма, и еще большим закрепощением всех тех же самых советских людей.“ Such sentences are exactly these against which a new commission should fight.

            Reading other comments we very quickly realize that attitude of respondents to this commission differs in dependence on their political position. Democrats are irritated while so called derzhavniki or gosudarstveniki are satisfied, however, several of them would want more: „Указ абсолютно адекватен. Борьбу должны вести комиссии, у которых должны быть полномочия обращения в юридические органы для того, чтобы карать виновных в искажениях истории... Сейчас сложилась ситуация, когда целый ряд либеральных про-американских политиков и идеологов пытается приравнять Сталина к Гитлеру и обвинить в разжигании Второй мировой войны именно Сталина. Это наносит удар по нашему национальному самосознанию, является оскорблением нашего достоинства, оскорбляет память погибших солдат... Последствием этого шага будут громкие процессы. Важно кого-то посадить. Чтобы работа комиссии была не просто на бумаге. Надо ограничивать свободу слова. Есть вещи, которые стоят выше. Например, общенациональная нравственность.“ [9] Alexander Dugin, author of these words, is not the last person in Russia and his influence upon several layers of Russian society is not possible underestimate. Among others he is a head of the Centre of Conservative Studies at the Faculty of Sociology of the Moscow State University. [10]

President Medvedev´s initiative was largely noticed abroad too. There was always nearly same reaction: it is other step towards liquidation of free thinking in Russia and expression of rising nationalism in this country. In the article by Andrew Osborn is mentioned opinion „that the Kremlin is continuing its assertive foreign policy despite Russia's weakening economy.“ [11] In the end of this article is quoted an apt description of situation by a famous specialist in Russian history Orlando Figes: „They're idiots if they think they can change the discussion of Soviet history internationally. But they can make it hard for Russian historians to teach and publish. It's like we're back to the old days." [12]

With respect to what was written above only several remarks or questions. Firstly, a new commission is not a bolt from the blue. First Putin’s attempt to perform like a historian we could see in year 2005 when he tried publicly to vindicate Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact and poor Russian ambassadors were enforced to parrot his argumentation in foreign dailies which were willing this mixture of ignorance and arrogance to publish. For instance Russian ambassador in Slovenia Mikhail Vanin wrote in daily Delo that Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact was not in contradiction with international law likewise agreements enforced to Baltic states in 1939. [13]

Secondly, if one wants to disprove falsification then he should show how the truth looks. Should we this „Russian etalon“ look for in today’s Russia popular books rehabilitating Stalin’s regime, how statement of society Memorial says? [14] Or in the article published on the website of Russian Ministry of Defence where its author writes that break out of WWII was caused by Poland refusing to meet rightful territorial claims of Nazi Germany? [15] May be this etalon can be seen in a famous Putin’s sentence: „To protect its interests and security on its western borders, the Soviet Union signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact with Germany.“ [16]

Thirdly, what is really fantastic is composition of commission: spies, clerks and several historians too... For heaven’s sake, what Chief of the General Staff will do in this commission? It could be difficult to understand it if it were not as clear as a bell that this commission has only one aim to become another tool in ideological struggle with surrounding world kicked off by Vladimir Putin. He has tried relatively successfully to use an old communistic method of governance based on effort to create a picture of surrounded fortress by hostile world. In our case the commission shall show to Russians that establishment defends their state using all thinkable means.

Fourthly, unified explanation of history is only another contribution to endeavour to unify consciousness of Russian society as a whole. This process has been going on in Russia from Putin’s coming into power. Freedom of speech is under control and now it is necessary to conquest another space of free thinking. Independent history can be very dangerous thing particularly when it shows on concrete examples how dictatorship is awful. Current Russian two-head-presidency cannot allow to criticise Stalin because it would cut the bough it is standing on. Of course, today’s Russian regime is not Stalin’s dictatorship but any doubts about a former dictator could be unsafe for current leaders.

Fifthly, attendance of representatives of archives in commission could awaken hope that now Russia opens its archives to give us possibility to discover truth about its history of the XXth century how group of human rights defenders demands of it: „We call on the authorities, if they are really interested in history which is not distorted, in accordance with current legislation, to declassify the archives and publish information about the entire history of the Soviet Union’s collaboration with Hitler, about Katyń, about State terrorism, military crimes and repression, including in countries of Eastern Europe.“ [17] It is more likely that situation will become worse. Each historian who will „spoil“ Russian history will have a bad luck.

Sixthly, myth about Medvedev like a liberal sustained another blow. By the way if he were a true liberal would be he chosen by Putin like his successor? Rather no. Establishment of „historical“ commission shows us that Russia continues in liquidation of last islands of freedom and democracy. Right now it could be useful for Putin-Medvedev leadership but from future point of view it is dead-end.

Maybe our guardians of the true history could read about tragical impact of such attitude to ruling of society in books, written from perestroika until today, describing history of U.S.S.R. Of course, if they do not ban Russians and themselves of such reading. On the other hand one law for the rich and another for the poor; Kim Jong Il watches western movies too whereas his fellow-citizens no. So there is a hope. Maybe it could seem to be somewhat little after nearly twenty-year-march towards democracy but it is today’s Russia reality.

Finally, there is a crucial question when a false” history is pacified, let’s hope that no together with historians, whom term will come next. May be Kremlin starts again command wind and rain like several years ago? Observing current situation in Russia it would not be so big surprise.







[6] Other reactions in Russia are possible to find in: Felgenhauer, P., Medvedev Forms a Commission to Protect Russian History.[tt_news]=35018

[7] On the creation of the Commission under the President. Public Statement of the society Memorial.

[8] Афанасьев, Ю. Нацизм в борьбе с нацизмом, Новая газета, № 55, 25.5. 2009.



[11] Osborn, A., Medvedev Creates History Commission, Wall Street Journal 21.5. 2009.

[12] Ibidem.

[13] Vanin, M., Deveti maj in Rusija: O poskusih revizije zgodovine, Delo, 5.5. 2005. More detailed about such argumentation: Vítek, P., Celebrations marking 60 years since the end of world war II: Controversial Interpretations of an Undisputed Anniversary (An Empirical Study),

[14] Продолжают тиражироваться сталинистские фальсификации о «пятой колонне» и «военно-фашистском заговоре» в 1937-м. По всей стране распространяются книги, где, вопреки общеизвестным фактам, доказывается непричастность НКВД к «катынскому делу» – расстрелу военнопленных поляков в 1940 г. Некоторые из современных российских политических деятелей, не обращая внимания на давно опубликованные документы, преуменьшают или, хуже того, оправдывают государственный террор сталинской эпохи. Подобные тенденции прослеживаются ныне даже в учебных пособиях для средней школы.“

[15] Ковалёв, С., Вымыслы и фальсификации в оценках роли СССР накануне и с началом Второй мировой войны. When article found a strong echo it disappeared from Ministry of Defence website and spokesperson of ministry termed it like disputatious.” Mr. Kovalev, however, remains to work in institute working in frame of Ministry of Defence.




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Богдана Костюк
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