Staunton, May 11 – For more than a century, Russia has been described as a country with an unpredictable past. The authorities Soviet and now post-Soviet keep changing the national narrative, and those who study the past and fail to keep up with the twists and turns in the Kremlin line risk repressive actions of various kinds.
Yesterday, the Agora rights organization published a report on the dangers Russian historians increasingly face. The group’s leader, Pavel Chikov, said that the most dangerous subject for historical research is World War II and the role of the USSR in it, given how central that is to Kremlin officials (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5AF3FFA5A0CD6).
Over the last decade, the report said, criminal charges have been brought against 17 historians for their discussion of the war. One of these cases was dismissed because of the statute of limitations, but the only 16 scholars were found guilty. And that is just one of the ways, the report, Russia Against History, says, historians were punished.
The government also engaged in 41 acts of censorship on historical issues, seven efforts to revise the work of scholars, numerous acts of obstruction of access to archives, and routine prohibition of the use of materials the scholars found in government repositories (sova-center.ru/racism-xenophobia/discussions/2018/05/d39337/).
The situation has gotten worse over the last six years, the Agora experts say. In a separate report, they note that the number of people charged with wearing prohibited symbols has increased by nine times and that over this period 6622 people have been punished, an average of “more than 100 each month (novayagazeta.ru/news/2018/05/10/141552-pravozaschitniki-zafiksirovali-100-faktov-presledovaniya-za-vyskazyvaniya-na-temu-istorii).
The authors of the main Agora report say that in recent years, the Russian authorities have increased their efforts to impose a single conception of Russian history in almost all its period but especially during World War II and that their main weapon in that regard has been the use of the provisions of the anti-extremist legislation.
Unfortunately, they conclude, “there are no signs that Russian courts, police, prosecutors, and investigators are prepare to consider and apply in practice internationally recognized principles of freedom of historical discourse. And consequently, one should expect the further increase in the number of criminal cases and administrative arrests” of Russian historians.