Saturday, August 6, 2022

‘Russian Politicians Should Stop Talking about the Past,’ Historian Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 14 – Ivan Kurilla, a historian who considers himself a specialist in two areas, Russian-American relations and the use of the past, says that “it would be well if politicians in general would cease to talk about the past” because despite what some of them say, decisions are never taken on the basis of the past even though it is used as an explanation.

            Despite what politicians like to say, he says, the past is so varied that “we can find confirmation of any idea” in it if we look carefully. And it would be a good thing if politicians recognized that and ceased to make the argument that the past provides a guide for what should be done now and in the future (

            “Political language is about the present and the future,” the professor at St. Petersburg’s European University says. In every country, some politicians like to talk about the past, but in most, including Russia until recently, they talked more about the future and how to get there. Focusing on the past alone implies that everything is determined and no one has a choice.

            Unfortunately, that is what has been happening in Russia recently, as conversations about politics are constructed almost exclusively about the past which leaves us with no choice.  But in fact, Kurilla says, “the past does not actually determine anything in this way, and that is something everyone must understand.”

            Instead of acting as if we are prisoners of the past, he argues, “we must proceed from where we are now and what we want. “That is the main thing” because “the past does not forbid us” to make choices. “We can, of course, refer to the past, but let’s not let anyone say that it limits what we can do” either now or in the future.


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