Sunday, July 26, 2009

Writing History Soviet Style

Vladimir Radyuhin, a Kremlin hack, under the guise of a columnist often writes on Russian issues in Hindu. Recently, June 24 2009, he wrote a column titled "Russia: fighting historical lies"

The crux of the article was that Western historians do not give Soviet Russia its due in defeating Hitler and in the course of which Radyuhin races through contentious topics like whether Stalin played into Hitler's hand by signing a treaty and the issue of annexing the Baltic states.

No historian of repute has written a history of World War II without identifying Battle of Stalingrad as the biggest turning point in the war. Radyuhin laments that Soviet Russia lost tens of millions and killed more Nazis than the Western allies. Nobody denies that. What historians do is they go further and question whether wiping out the top brass of Soviet military in the Stalinist purges of the 30's had a telling effect in the absence of qualified generals.

As only a Kremlin hack can do, Radyuhin even denies the great famine of Ukraine, which by all accounts is now portrayed as man-made or to be more pointed Stalin-made. Lamenting the demands for reparations by the Baltic states Radyuhin cites a Russian historian who fears that attempts to portray Soviet Russia as equal to Nazi oppression would open attempts at some sort of Nuremberg trials and put Russia on the mat. As much as anybody would desire for that it is elementary knowledge that another Nuremberg trial is just a pipe dream. But the scaremongering serves one purpose though, to stifle academic freedom and dissent against the official line.

Radyuhin lauds Medvedev's attempt to commission an "official history" to address the above distortions. To do Stalin proud he goes one step further. He wants to make it a "crime" to question the official theory and cites approvingly how post-war Germany outlawed denying holocaust. Germany, came out of the war aghast at its own ability to inflict such unprecedented cruelty on the world, a cruelty that defies any rational explanation. In its attempt to balance itself it enacted laws to stifle lurking Neo-Nazis, to deprive them of a platform, afraid that the country might yet again be pushed into an abyss. Opinion is now gathering to repeal such laws and allow the sheer force of truth and true academic research to defeat mischief mongers. In Radyuhin's world Soviet Russia's murderous spree at Katyn, Poland where hundreds of Polish military officers were murdered would be swept under the carpet. Only in the 80's, under Gorbachev, did Russia own up to that heinous act. (A statue for the soldiers killed in Katyn is installed in Jersey City, NJ USA)

When looking for an example it would serve Russian academic freedom well to look to America. Any visitor to a book store in US can see books on 9/11 claiming fantasy theories holding everyone, except Osama, responsible. These books are not proscribed they are sold openly. Then of course there is always a shelf of Noam Chomsky the most strident critic of anything the US had done for the past 50 years.

Economist, dated Jul 23rd 2009, while reviewing British historian Andrew Roberts' book "The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War" had a telling extract:"Again and again he (Andrew Roberts) chides his readers for overestimating the importance of famous British and American battles in the West and overlooking much larger ones on the eastern front: more than 2m Germans were killed in the east, over ten times the number who died fighting in the west. “Britain provided the time, Russia the blood, America the money and the weapons,” he concludes". That from a British historian, dear Radyuhin, is what is called scholarship.

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