Friday, August 20, 2021

Siberian Historian who Called Nevsky a Collaborationist and Said Ice Battle was Eisenstein’s Fantasy in Hot Water with Authorities

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 17 – Sergey Chernyshov, a Novosibirsk historian, has landed in hot water with the authorities because he suggested in a post that Aleksandr Nevsky collaborated with the Mongols in a way that people today would describe as the manner in which General Vlasov did in World War II.

            His June post was part of a public debate about whether to rename the main square in his city from Sverdlovsk Square to Nevsky. He suggested there wasn’t much to choose between them as the Cheka founder was “a classical bandit” and Nevsky was an equally “classic collaborationist.”

            Chernyshov also said that the only thing people think they know about Nevsky, the ice battle against the Teutonic knights as presented in Sergey Eisenstein’s classic film, “is something no one has yet shown was anything more than a fantasy” of the director. All this was too much for some Russians, and the historian was called in by state investigators.

            He has now met with the investigators who asked him to explain his statements. He could now be charged with showing disrespect to “symbols of Russia’s military glory.” If he is and is convicted, local observers say, the historian could be imprisoned for as much as three years (

            Chernyshov has now given an interview to Andrey Shvarts of the Sibreal portal in which he describes the history of his case, his reaction to it, and his concerns about this latest attack on the ability of Russian historians to explore the past of their country (

            According to the Novosibirsk scholar, “the main problem” is that Russians now “are trying to find their identity in the past. It should be sought in the present or even better in the future. But since we are beginning to dig into the past, no one is going to condemn those comrades who write denunciations.”

            “Unlike in other countries including those in Eastern Europe, the 1990s passed without our having a discussion about the previous 70 years,” Chernyshov says. “In Poland, Ukraine, Moldova, and Hungary, there are institutes of national memory; and in Germany, in the center of Berlin is a monument to victims of the Holocaust.”

            There is nothing like that in Russia, and cities, squares, and streets continue to bear the names of Lenin, Sverdlov and Uritsky whose hands were covered in blood. Those must be renamed. Streets can continue to have the names of local officials who worked for the cities involved. And “today, schools [in Novosibirsk] bear the names of heroes of the Chechen wars.”

            More generally, the historian says that it seems to him that “if a country doesn’t have a future, they it digs into the past.” Tragically, Russia is like a child when it comes to history. Teachers and media tell it that there are all these wonderful figures from the past, but then Russia will grow up and discover that is far from the truth.”

            Russian historians and commentators are outraged about the attack on Chernyshov. They show that now scholars must not only avoid writing on sensitive issues like Stalin’s role in World War II but on almost all issues, no matter how far back in the past, or the powers that be may come after them, to the detriment of Russia (

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