Alarm in Baltic as Kremlin seizes control of Soviet past





In Russia it is not only the future that is unpredictable; often the past is equally in doubt. One minute Leon Trotsky was a hero of the Revolution, the father of the Red Army and a strong contender to succeed Lenin; the next minute he never existed. Until the late 1980s, the 1917 Revolution was the pinnacle of human achievement; suddenly in the 1990s it was seen as an utter failure.

And today again history in the region is turning into an ideological battlefield. When the Red Army poured into the Baltic states at the end of the Second World War, it liberated them from Nazi tyranny – but from the perspective of the subsequent decades of Soviet domination, was it liberation or merely another invasion?

The Russians, of course, have no doubt on the matter: for them it was an heroic national achievement. But for the states which less than two decades ago managed to crawl out from under the Soviet boot, things are not so simple. The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, an imposing black box of a building in the heart of Riga, tells the story of Latvia's time inside the Soviet Union. The Soviet soldiers, glorified as heroes in Moscow, are portrayed as criminals and occupiers, no better than the Germans they defeated.

But now, slamming shut a stable door through which its former subject states long ago bolted, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered the creation of a body with the Orwellian title of the Commission to Counteract the Falsification of History to the Detriment of Russian Interests. A linked law is also likely to be passed that will outlaw the "rehabilitation of Nazism" on the territory of former Soviet republics.




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