Thursday, September 24, 2020

Attacks on ‘Falsifiers of History’ Now Likely to Be Even More Counterproductive than Those on ‘Bourgeois Falsifiers’ were in Soviet Times

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 23 – In the last decades of Soviet power, one of the most interesting professions and also the most counter-productive as far as the communist regime was concerned was the cadres of commentators who specialized in attacking what they called “bourgeois falsifiers” of Soviet history.

            Such people had access to many publications that ordinary Soviet citizens did not. Otherwise they could not do their jobs. And in order to make their case, they had to report some of what these enemies of the USSR said in order to make their arguments at all plausible, especially to Soviet citizens accustomed to reading between the lines.

            Now, with the new field of attacking “falsifiers of Russian history” becoming more prominent in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, those taking part in it and the Russian state financing them are likely to find these activities even more counter-productive than was the Soviet effort for two reasons.

            On the one hand, the last 30 years have generated so much reporting on even the most obscure aspects of the Russian past that those attacking Western treatment of it are likely to find that their audiences know many of the things that the Kremlin wants them to view as wrong and Russophobic.

            And on the other, access to the Internet means that ordinary Russians as well as historians and other specialists can immediately gain access not only to the article or book being attacked but to others covering the same subjects – and they can use various online translation tools to read these sources even if they do not know the languages.

            Consequently, the Kremlin is likely to find that the attacks it wants made against Western and even Russian “falsifiers of history” are going to blow up in its face, with Russians becoming more aware of what the real facts of the case are rather than the versions of reality that the powers that be prefer.

            Indeed, the only way that such attacks can be useful to the regime is the signal they send to its propagandists of various kinds as to what those in power think – and even that “contribution” is not likely to be as unalloyed as the Kremlin wants because the propagandists too will have the same possibilities that other Russians do to check things out.

            These reflections are prompted by a new article in this genre by Pavel Martynov, a Nakanune news agency commentator, about a report by Radio Liberty’s SibReal portal concerning terror during the Russian civil war (

            The Radio Liberty article, he says and thoughtfully gives his readers a hypertext link to it (, discusses the anti-Bolshevik peasant risings in Western Siberia in 1920 but misattributes cases of terror to the Reds rather than the Whites and blames Bolshevik policies for problems the Whites created. 

            Specifically, Martynov says, the SibReal article featured a picture of the victims of terror that did not come from the place where the peasant uprisings took place and that shows Whites not Reds inflicting it. It is not unlikely that this is the case, given the complicated history of Siberia and the Russian Far East during and after the civil war.

            But anyone reading Martynov’s expose will nonetheless learn something important that is hardly in the interests of the Kremlin for them to learn: the people of Siberia and the Russian Far East rose against the Bolsheviks (as well as the Whites), a tradition that the residents of Khabarovsk are maintaining to this day. 


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