Staunton, May 24 – The willingness and ability of Russians to talk about the Soviet past has made possible a far greater understanding of many policies and events in that past than was ever possible at the time given the relatively greater freedom since 1991 as compared to what conditions were like before Mikhail Gorbachev and the end of the USSR.
The interest among Western researchers in these new reports which have filled many blank spots has been less than one might have hoped, but now there is evidence that those Russians who had experience with Soviet life as they age are forgetting or no longer want to recall many of the things they experienced.
That conclusion is offered in a new study by Ilya Kukulin and his HSE colleagues on how informal and unwritten directives about how literary figures were to behave played a key role in Soviet life right up to the end of Soviet times (nlobooks.ru/upload/iblock/f2f/81-101%20kukulin174.pdf and nlobooks.ru/upload/iblock/5f3/190-228%20kukulin175.pdf).
The study by Kukulin et al is important in its own right, but its observations about how the passing of time and the new wave of repression in Russia is closing what had been for the last several decades a major source for the study of the Soviet past is perhaps even more significant.
To the extent what these HSE researchers found is true in other fields, that may mean that those who study the Soviet period will soon find themselves without a critical source on which at least some of them had been coming to rely. And that will mean that they will be less able to offer alternatives to the Kremlin’s version of events.