Debates in Russia on protecting Russian history from public falsification have become more prominent this year, as Russia stands on the verge of the centenary of the October Revolution. The Russian Security Council recently raised the issue due to relenting western propaganda attempting to paint Russian history in an overtly negative light.
Some in the west actually discount Russia’s role in defeating fascism in the 1940s, even though without Soviet struggles against Hitler’s war machine, Germany would have gone on to rule all of Europe and much of the world.
The Communist Party of the Russian Federation have also raised questions about the falsification of history, primarily history that portrays Bolshevism in a negative light. Whilst the Communists, like all parties have a political agenda they are pushing, both the Russian Security Council and the CPRF are right in raising the issue. The question remains, what can and should be done?
No one in Russia is arguing for a kind of censorship of views, in fact most prominent figures participating in the debate on ‘the problem of history’, are renouncing such draconian solutions outright.
I believe the best solution is to focus on the last 200 years of Imperial Russian history rather than focus primarily on the Soviet period.
For many, the Soviet period remains as much of a political issue as an historical one. Any look at the vigorous, historically minded, deeply democratic debates in the State Duma and one realises this is the case, in spite of the blanket western mainstream media blackout on coverage of Duma debates. This is especially true of debates between the stridently anti-Communist LDPR and the Communists themselves.
In this sense, rather than having anything approaching an ‘official version’ of Soviet history, it is best to allow the historical dialogue to be played out through real democratic debate amongst patriotic politicians and politically minded citizens. Secondly, schools exist to teach the young what they cannot otherwise derive from their real life experiences.
No one learns about algebra from going into the words, but one can learn about making a fire, gathering water, cooking their own food and warding off pests. Likewise if boys and girls in Russia want to learn about Soviet history, they can ask their parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, in addition to listening to political debates on the issue.
This is not true of Russian Imperial history which is deeply neglected by schools and which no living person has a direct historical memory of. Children ought to know there is a long history of a strong and proud state which existed prior to October of 1917.
This state was vast and encompassed many ethnicity. It fought many wars against aggressors and solidified, secured and policed its territory with a surprisingly small number of professional soldiers and civil servants. The 19th century in particular was a great time of renaissance for Russian music, poetry, fiction, philosophy and art.
Most young people do not even know about this because people are debating endlessly about Stalin. Stalin here, Stalin there, Stalin everywhere. Where is Pushkin? Where is Dostoevsky? Where is Kandinsky? Where is Alexander III? Where is Tchaikovsky? Where is the war against Napoleon? Where are the Turkish wars in which Russia was ultimately victorious?
Of course, they are allowed endless debates on Stalin, but not at the expense of realising that the Russian state and Russian culture has roots which did not begin in 1917 nor end in 1945.
If children are told the roots of Russian history up through the late modern period, they will understand why modern Russia is derided by so many in the west. Russia fought and ultimately won many wars versus Mongols, Swedes, Poles and Lithuanians, Turks and French. On the 9th of May there was a crushing victory against global fascism led by Hitler’s Germany. Is it any wonder that these are the same countries spewing anti-Russian propaganda today?
The best weapon against the wilful falsification of history is the complete unveiling of history. Let children know that history is interesting and fun, that it tells a tale of mighty struggle, victory and cultural achievement of which they can rightly be proud. Do not make it boring and tedious for them or they will end up hating their own culture if they associate it with some callous shrew of a teacher.
At the same time, let the cold hard facts speak for themselves. When children have a better understanding of the Russia which existed prior to 1917, they can decide for themselves which elements of Soviet history they want to retain and which they would prefer to drop. This is true for grown men and women as well.
To hell with what malicious outsiders say. Russian history itself is the best tool for preventing the falsification of comparatively recent events. To hell also with politicians who think Russian history started in October of 1917, it didn’t, so they also need to learn some valuable truths from a wider history.