Jamie Glazov interviews Olga VelikanovaHistorians in the News
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Olga Velikanova, an Assistant Professor of Russian History at the University of North Texas. She was among the first scholars to work with declassified Communist Party and secret police archives. Her research about everyday Stalinism, the cult of Lenin and Russian popular opinion has been broadcast by the BBC, Finnish and Russian radio and TV, as well as the History Channel in Canada. She is the author of Making of an Idol: On Uses of Lenin, The Public Perception of the Cult of Lenin Based on the Archival Materials and The Myth of the Besieged Fortress: Soviet Mass Perception in the 1920s-1930s. She is a recipient of many awards from different international research foundations.
FP: Olga Velikanova, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
I would like to talk to you today about the Commission to Counter Attempts to Falsify History to the Detriment of Russia’s Interests, which Russian president Dmitry Medvedev created a year ago, on May 19, 2009. What are the goals of this Commission exactly and what has it achieved?
Velikanova: Thank you, Jamie.
A yearago, as you say, on May 19, 2009, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev created the Commission to Counter Attempts to Falsify History to the Detriment of Russia’s Interests.This Commission puzzled many historians. Was it an offensive against freedom of thought and speech? Did it open a door for possible repression of historians who would “undermine” the national image of Russia by bringing up unpleasant things about Russia’s national identity and the cruel truth about the Soviet past?
Without a doubt, we see a Stalinist-like intervention of the state occurring right before our eyes. It is an intervention into the historical profession and an imposition of boundaries on historical study.
The idea of the Commission was initiated by the Russian Ministry of Foreign affairs to oppose attempts by the Western neighbors of Russia to return to a discussion about the beginning and the results of WWII, and the role of the USSR in the post-war settlement. Primarily, this Commission was an instrument of struggle in foreign relations. It was a signal to Russian historians and media what positions they “should” take in their publications.
While Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have interpreted the occupation of their countries by the USSR in 1944-45 as enslavement, Soviet historiography has presented it as a liberation. As Baltic states argue, liberation from one dictatorial regime (Nazis) was followed by the onslaught and imposition of another dictatorial regime (Soviet). This account of two regimes was supported by the OSCE resolution on July 3, 2009, which stated equality of the role of Nazi Germany and the USSR in starting WWII. In response, the Russian media protested against any comparison of the two regimes of the 1930s.
Thus, the formation of the Commission should be read mostly in the context of foreign relations in the Baltic region (especially with Poland), rooted in the painful events of 1939-1945 and also in Russian-Ukrainian relations.
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