ACTION UKRAINE HISTORY REPORT (AUHR) #4
Thursday, June 11, 2009
TO: HOLODOMOR WORKING
GROUP - One Article
determined to repeat its history?
OP-ED: by Janusz Bugajski, Director, New European
Center for Strategic and International Studies
(CSIS), Washington D.C.
The Wall Street Journal Europe, London, UK,
Thursday, June 11, 2009
As European democracies celebrate the 20th anniversary of
their liberation from communism and the Soviets, Moscow seeks to
restore its dominance over former satellites. Rewriting Russian history
is part of this plan. The Putinist notion of a progressive Soviet
system in the past is designed to provide justification for Russia's
current assertiveness in the region.
Take Moscow's annual May 9 parade, which celebrates the
"victory over fascism" on the anniversary of Nazi Germany's surrender
to the Allies. The entire exercise is based on a monumental national
delusion fostered by the Kremlin. Although Russia was one of the
victorious powers at the end of World War II, Moscow continues to
disguise the historic record that the Soviet Union itself helped launch
the war in close alliance with Nazi Germany. Through the
Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, Stalin schemed with Hitler to carve up Eastern
Russia has recently intensified its revisionist campaign,
claiming that it voluntarily gave up communism and the Soviet Bloc and
that the Cold War ended in a draw with the West. Russia's state
propagandists maintain that the USSR never occupied its neighboring
states after World War II, but rather liberated them from tyranny. And
they minimize the Kremlin's imposition of a totalitarian system over
the region that stifled its political and economic progress for almost
half a century. Unlike post-war Germany, Moscow has never paid
reparations for Soviet crimes and expropriations in Central and Eastern
Moscow also disguises the fact that Stalin murdered more
Russians and other Soviet citizens than Nazi Germany. Its official
figure of 27 million war dead includes several millions of Stalin's
victims during Soviet civilian deportations and military purges.
Instead of admitting that it was a perpetrator and an
opportunist in the destruction of Europe, Russia, as the successor
state to the Soviet Union, depicts itself as a victim and a victor.
Moscow took another step to revise its history last month
when it formed a presidential inter-departmental commission to promote
the Soviet version of history and to tackle alleged "anti-Russian"
propaganda that damages the country's international image. The
commission's mandate is to formulate policy options to "neutralize the
negative consequences" of what they consider to be historical
falsifications aimed against Russia.
This is in particular a response to steps by neighboring
governments in Estonia, Poland, Ukraine, and elsewhere to talk openly
about Soviet repression and to remove monuments that glorify the Soviet
The committee has no independent historians, and is comprised of
bureaucrats from government ministries, representatives from military
and intelligence agencies, several pro-Kremlin spin-doctors, and
The chairman of this "historic truth" commission, Sergei Naryshkin, is
chief of staff in President Dmitry Medvedev's administration and a
loyal supporter of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. As Russian liberals
have pointed out, this commission bears an eerie resemblance to Soviet
institutions that established a monopoly over scientific and scholarly
Additionally, legislators from the ruling United Russia Party have
proposed amendments to the penal code that will make the "falsification
of history" a criminal offence. If passed by the Duma, this could
result in mandatory jail terms for anyone in the former Soviet Union
convicted of "rehabilitating Nazism."
This draft bill is not designed to fight neo-Nazis or fascist ideology.
Instead, it would allow the criminal prosecution of individuals who
question whether the Soviets really "liberated" Eastern Europe toward
the end of the war or whether countries such as Georgia welcomed their
annexation by the Czarist Empire.
This would open the door to possible legal campaigns against
political leaders in neighboring countries, including Ukraine, Georgia,
and the three Baltic states, who challenge Russia's distorted version
Last month's parade, where soldiers in Czarist-style uniforms carried
the red flag with the yellow hammer and sickle across the Red Square,
was an almost exact reenactment of Soviet-era self-glorification. The
spectacle sent an unmistakable message to all formerly occupied
territories that Russia remains the strongest military continental
power and continues its Czarist and Soviet traditions.
During the May display President Medvedev warned unnamed adversaries
who were supposedly contemplating "military adventures" against Russia
-- a thinly veiled threat to keep Ukraine and Georgia out of NATO. The
Kremlin's new historiography of Russia as a proud, virtuous neighbor to
those in its sphere helps provide an intellectual underpinning for such
Western countries, including the former Soviet satellites,
can take steps to expose Russia's historical revisionism by sponsoring
international conferences and symposia, by opening up all pertinent
state archives to scholars, by educating the younger generation about
communist crimes, and simply by talking openly about the Soviet era.
As Russia glosses over its dark past and flexes its muscles, the fear
is that those who rewrite history may also be determined to repeat it.
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Mr. E. Morgan Williams, Director, Government Affairs,
Washington Office, SigmaBleyzer,
Emerging Markets Private Equity Investment Group;
President/CEO, U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC)
Publisher & Editor, Action Ukraine Report (AUR)
Founder/Trustee: Holodomor: Through The Eyes Of Ukrainian