Saturday, September 11, 2010

Shades of Putin's Russia.

I will attempt to explain why  the Ukrainian KGB, for that is who they are, arrested a historian in L'viv last week and confiscated his research, charging him with possession of "State Secrets".

Controlling history is critical in controlling people.  For a far better explanation of that than I can give, I suggest you read Margaret MacMillan's "Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History".  The following are from the Amazon review:

Governments and leaders use history to invent tradition and subvert the past.  (They) distort it and ignore inconvenient facts.  History has present meaning—not always constructively: in providing a sense of identity for groups, as a basis of nationalism or national pride, as a tool for redress of past wrongs and as an ideological tool. History is more than presenting facts, it is about framing the past.

Bad history tells only parts of complex stories, is selective, misleading and can lead to the creation of national 'myths' that hold their own dangers. "It can be dangerous to question the stories people tell about themselves because so much of our identity is both shaped by and bound up with our history."

And so it is with the former soviet Union. In Soviet times history was very carefully controlled.  History was written by the Party.  Stalin himself wrote much of the history texts for the schools.  Nationalism was greatly feared, so history of the different nationalities which made up the Soviet Empire was crushed. In Mongolia, for example, all historians who studied Genghis Khan were murdered and their work destroyed.  Any mention of Genghis Khan was forbidden.

Russians had 10 years under Yeltsin in which the study of their history was possible.  Putin slammed the door shut and the serious study of history is now almost impossible.  The Kremlin has written and approved the history taught in the schools.  In rehabilitating Stalin, Putin has made certain that the Russian people do not know the truth about their past.  Historians are harassed, imprisoned, their research confiscated and destroyed.

Ukraine was the most important part of the Russian and Soviet Empires.  Under Stalin, dekulakisation followed by the Holodomor resulted in the deaths of millions of Ukrainians.  Ukraine claims it was a genocide carried out against Ukrainians with the intent of destroying any remaining vestiges of Ukrainian nationalism.  Russia blames it all on famine, disputes the number of deaths and says at any rate it wasn't confined to Ukraine but also occurred in the Kuban area of Russia (which incidentally had a large number of Ukrainian farmers).  Russia refuses to declassify any material related to this period of time (along with most other material related to Stalinist Terror). 

Our current president, Victor Yanukovych is very sensitive to Russian feelings, it seems, and perhaps Zabily had access to still secret documents or perhaps the documents to which he did have access, put him dangerously close to the truth.  Either way he had to be stopped before uncovering something that the powers that be in Ukraine and Russia, do not want uncovered.


  1. There was a book called "Holodomor of 1932-33 in Ukraine: documents and materials," compiled by Prof. Ruslan Pyrih and published by the Kyiv Mohyla Academy Press two years ago. It documents the correspondence among soviet officials (including Stalin, Molotov and Postyshev) during the peak Holodomor years, 1932-33. These are simply translations of correspondence with no comments added other than an introductory essay, translated by Steve Bandera into English and proofed by yours truly.

    The attitude of soviet leadership towards Ukrainians, from the lowest peasant to the highest Party official, becomes amply clear in these letters, messages and orders. It also becomes obvious why Putin and Co. don't want to see any of this stuff come to light. Yanukovych is just following orders, it appears, just like Molotov and Postyshev.

  2. Lidia Wolanskyj is a friend and fellow blogger at

  3. Frightening developments. And not just confined to Russia or the Ukraine.


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