Historian Orlando Figes claims publisher of book about life in Russia under Stalin has bowed to 'political pressure'

Historians in the News

Yesterday the Russian publishing house Atticus cancelled the publication of an acclaimed book by the Russian scholar Orlando Figes about life under Stalin. The publisher said it was dropping the book for economic reasons, but the historian believes that the decision was the product of political pressure and reflects a desire by the Kremlin to rehabilitate Stalin.

The history in my book, The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia, is inconvenient to the current regime in Russia.

It draws on several hundred family archives and thousands of interviews with survivors of the Stalinist regime which I conducted with Memorial, a human rights and historical research centre which has been nominated for the Nobel peace prize.

On 4 December a group of masked men from the investigative committee of the Russian general prosecutor's office forced their way into the St Petersburg offices of Memorial. After a search the men confiscated hard drives containing the entire archive of Memorial in St Petersburg: databases with biographical information on victims of repression; details about burial sites in the St Petersburg area; family archives; sound recordings and transcripts of interviews.

All the materials I collected with Memorial in St Petersburg (about one third of the sources used in The Whisperers) were also confiscated. The raid was part of a broader ideological struggle over the control of history publications and teaching in Russia that may have influenced the decision of Atticus to cancel my contract.

The Kremlin has been actively for the rehabilitation of Stalin. Its aim is not to deny Stalin's crimes but to emphasise his achievements as the builder of the country's"glorious Soviet past". It wants Russians to take pride in their Soviet past and not to be burdened with a paralysing sense of guilt about the repressions of the Stalin period....

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