Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 10 Issue: 52 March 20, 2013 By: Pavel K. Baev
A stunning historical discovery was made at the first meeting of the revived Russian Military History Society when President Vladimir Putin asserted that the Bolsheviks used Finnish “armed formations” for executing the coup in October 1917 (Rossiskaya Gazeta, March 14). Even more remarkable was his reinterpretation of the Winter War with Finland (1939–1940) as not an act of aggression aimed at subjugating a neighbor that rejected the Communist model, but merely an attempt to correct earlier mistakes of drawing the border too close to St. Petersburg (Vedomosti, March 14). Putin conceded that the first months of that war were “bloody and inefficient” but concluded on a positive note that necessary forces were eventually mobilized and “everything fell into their right places” so that “the other side felt the entire might of the Russian—then Soviet—state” (RIA Novosti, March 14). This glorification of Stalin’s militaristic expansionism adds only a tiny fresh dose of poison to Russian-Finnish relations, but it speaks volumes about Putin’s perception of the modern world and Russia’s place in it.
The authorities are currently waging a massive campaign of “patriotic” reinvention of Russian history, religion and even literature. Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky (who happens also to be the chairman of the military-historical society) captured the essence of it nicely by declaring that Russia’s history was made up of “incessant military confrontation[s], defense and military victories” (Moscow Echo, March 15). Hundreds of enthusiastic bureaucrats and activists are busy rewriting school textbooks so that history courses can be “free of contradictions” and so that the excessively rich Russian literature can be censored of works that could give the young generation wrong ideas (Grani.ru, March 15). In synch with this brain-washing, the newly-appointed Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has offered up the idea of organizing at the most prestigious universities scientific platoons and battalions that would work on projects for the armed forces (Novaya Gazeta, March 13). Meanwhile, the State Duma, which is being discredited by one corruption scandal after another, generates a deluge of “patriotic” legislation, while condemning its critics and ostracizing deputies who dare to question the mass hysteria, particularly when speaking in the United States (Moskovsky Komsomolets, March 16).
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Russia’s History Is Too Tragic and Its Society Too Complex to Fit into Putin’s Worldview