Saturday, July 29, 2023

Lustration May be Risky in Russia Immediately after Putin but Ensuring Russians Learn the Truth about Their Past is Essential, Nadporozhky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 24 – Lustration, the removal from public life and possible incarceration of officials of the previous regime, has played a positive role in many former communist countries, Ilya Nadporozhsky says. But the dangers that its application in Russia after Putin could provoke a counter-revolution with the leaders of his rule so great that it must be approached cautiously.

            The Russian PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin says that while it is important that the former leaders be removed over time, the risk that efforts to remove them quickly after Putin leaves the scene is so great that it could tear the country apart and make progress impossible (

            That is because, Nadporozhsky says, those who hope to change the system fundamentally will at least initially have to cooperate with some from the past or face the near certainty that the latter will resist quite likely with success and prevent positive change lest lustration lead to their complete loss of power and possible incarceration.

            After examining lustration efforts in other countries, the Russian scholar favors a two- step process, one that would focus on exposing to the entire population the crimes and mistakes of the past and only then seeking the removal of those officials still around who were involved with the commission of these crimes.

            Specifically, he says, the more than a thousand surviving Russian political prisoners “deserve the chance to speak openly about their experience and receive compensation” because the crimes of the past must be “documented and legitimized with the direct participation of the state.”

            “Otherwise,” Nadporozhsky says, “’the beautiful Russia of the future’ runs the risk of repeating the experience of ‘the Russia of the present,’ many of whose residents did not take part in the large conversation about the Soviet experience.” The past suggests that leaving this task to civil society alone won’t be sufficient.

            According to the scholar, “NGOs involved in such projects can be closed, historians sent to jail, and school textbooks rewritten. Trying to create ‘the only true’ version of history is dangerous and in principle impossible, but a society which understands the threats that can come from its own government seems more predisposed to … a desire to control those in power.”

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