Eesti Elu
History: The past as a weapon in the present (II)
Arvamus 29 Jul 2011  Eesti Elu
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In conjunction with the 2010 formation of the Presidential Commission for Prevention of Falsification of History to the Prejudice of Russian Interests, the Kremlin drafted legislation that would criminalize criticism of the Soviet Union’s role in World War II. Criticism of the Soviet victory would amount to the “rehabilitation of nazism”.

That legislation would see people prosecuted for deviating from official history and would give Moscow the authority to expel ambassadors, severe diplomatic relations and impose a full blockade of countries who were perceived to be offending the accepted version.

The creation of the commission was welcomed by some prominent Kremlin-supporting politicians and historians. Latvia’s prosecution of former Soviet partisan Vassili Kononov for alleged war crimes was specifically mentioned. (One might recall Moscow’s outcry during the court proceedings against Estonia’s Arnold Meri who was accused of deportations from Hiiumaa and idolized by the Kremlin–sanctioned youth movement Naši.) The establishment of the Commission has given the green light also to some bizarre interpretations: The official website of the Russian Ministry of Defence posted an article by historian Sergey Kovalyov which blames Poland for starting World War II.

The Commission justifies and encourages the use of historical interpretation in modulating internationals relations. Just recently Russiaè…..s permanent representative to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (the institution that evolved from the Helsinki Accords) attacked Estonia for the annual reunion of veterans who fought Against the Red Army in the ‘Sinimäed’ defensive battles of the summer of 1944. Moscow has repeatedly accused Estonia and Latvia of promoting fascism by allowing such reunions to take place. Interestingly enough the annual Erna military competition organized by Estonia each August, which attracts defence forces’ teams from around the world, including China, is lumped together with the Sinimäed veterans as fascist-inspired activities. Erna in fact refers to intelligence gathering and military diversion groups of Estonians sent by Finland into Soviet-occupied Estonia during the Second World War. The Estonians of the Erna operations consciously chose not to fight in German units nor wear German uniforms. Russian competitors have yet to participate.

Those opposed to the current Putting-Medvedev political power monopoly have stated that the commission in essence reintroduces a state ideology for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union. In fact anything other than political pluralism violates the Russian constitution and is seen as an inevitable by-product of the ongoing rehabilitation of Stalin and his policies.

In countries of the former Warsaw Pact and occupied Soviet republics, the Commission is seen as an instrument with which the Kremlin can justify its abrogation of human rights as part of Russia’s efforts to create a “ideological foundation for what is happening in Russia right now”. Foreign critics see the Commission making it difficult for Russian historians to work and publish under threat of being barred for discussing war crimes of the Red Army or reminding us that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were allies through the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. (In 2009, the Russian delegation to the OSCE`s annual parliamentary meeting stormed out after the adoption of a resolution citing both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany equally culpable in starting World War II. The resolution also called for a day of remembrance on August 23rd for the victims of both Stalinism and Nazism, a resolution that the Canadian parliament has also adopted.)

Much more often than not Moscow prefers to use their “truth in history” in a confrontational manner internationally, not in seeking agreement or co-operation. As such their truth is a weapon and not one for gaining understanding.
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