Staunton, July 11 – The International Federation for Human Rights says that since 2012, when Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency, the Kremlin has sought to establish a monopoly over the “correct” view about the Russian press by passing restrictive legislation and putting intensified pressure on independent historians, rights activists and journalists.
In an article entitled “Crimes Against History,” Olesya Pavlenko, a Novaya gazeta journalist, surveys the FIDH findings which she says show that the “correct” history the Putin regime is insisting upon is “ever more often used by the Russian authorities for their own legitimation” (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2021/07/11/prestupleniia-protiv-istorii).
The Putin government has used various means to achieve this end, the FIDH report says. Among them are the foundation of “pseudo-public organizations for the defense of historical memory,” laws punishing anyone who questions the official line, and the monopolization of public discussions of sensitive issues.
All of these steps have been codified in moves from 2021 to 2020 when the constitution was amended to declare Russia the official successor of the USSR. Organizations that try to promote alternative views are being suppressed, and historians with divergent views are losing their jobs and sometimes their freedom.
The Russian state attacks both organizations and individuals, FIDH says, and it documents the cases of both over the last decade. And it is imposing censorship by hybrid means such as establishing lists of extremist materials, something that is shutting down much research but mean that it is difficult to specify just how much censorship there is.
The report says that since 2002, many of the most sensitive issues in Russian and Soviet history have simply ceased to be the subject of articles or books. And it points out that the Kremlin has set up a variety of GONGOs (“government organized NGOs”) to give an academic veneer to what is in fact a series of police actions.
In 2009, the regime set up something called the Commission for Opposing Attempts to Falsify History Harming the Interests of Russia. Three years later this grew into the Russian Military-Historical Society. Both groups had more siloviki than historians among their leaderships.
Also in 2012, the Kremlin revived the Russian Historical Society which as FIDH notes “had existed in tsarist times” to popularize the official version of history in the population. Then in 2016, Putin created the History of the Fatherland Foundation and provided it with generous government subsidies.
At the same time, people involved in these groups have pushed for using only government approved textbooks in the schools, and the government has made scholarly research more difficult by shutting down many archives that had been opened after the collapse of the communist system.
The authors of the FIDH report say that all indications are that this repressive trend will continue and that historians and historical knowledge will be under ever greater pressure from the regime.