Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Is Glasnost Over in Russia?

In the name of proper national pride, the Russian government, under Putin’s direction, is changing the way Russian history is taught. The goal is no longer truth about what happened, but to convince citizens’ that their country’s 20th century history is not so bad when compared to that of other countries. So Stalin has become a tough, expeditious modernizer, and his unfortunate murderous abuses focused in a few (and seemingly uncharacteristic) bad years. What’s coming back, as Leon Aron explains, is history Soviet style, and what’s in danger of disappearing is the historical knowledge Russians need to engage in what Solzhenitsyn called the appropriate repentence and self-limitation. This chilling article is dedicated to Solzhenitsyn, whose great achievement Putin is certainly betraying. Who could have guessed that a liberating national renaissance with the truth in mind could so quickly be in the process of being brought to an end? There’s a new struggle for Russia’s soul, and free men and women everywhere need to speak up.

Discussions - 5 Comments

The new text book is lamentable. But the situation is more complicated than Leon Aron suggests. THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO has just been brought out in a new edition in Russia for the first time in seventeen years and Solzhenitsyn's ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH and MATRYONA'S HOME are now part of the high school curriculum. Putin plays to both White and Red Russia and this text is part of a clever if insidious effort to "normalize" the Soviet past. But it is important to recognize that this project does not go unchallenged in contemporary Russia. The Orthodox Church in particular has taken multiple independent initiatives to pay tribute to the victims of Communism(for example, they've declared Butovo cemetery outside of Moscow--80,000 victims of communism are buried there, including tens of thousands of clergy--to be consecrated ground.--DM

Well, true enough...There's a struggle for Russia's soul. And the official version of history taught to kids is not a small matter.

The actual publication of AS' works has to be considered in context--remember that NK originally sanctioned the publication of his work unaware of the consequences.....especially given AS' moderate support of Putin early on I suspect some attempt to spin his work will be attempted, if also heroically resisted, as Dan points out. Nevertheless, I think there can be little doubt that Putin has no intentions of following the advice AS recommends to Russia in, for eg, Russia in Collapse....

I should add that one can never spin Solzhenitsyn's work to make him in any way an apologist for the Soviet past. To the day he died, he remained the world's premier anti-Communist. This point was particularly well made by Robert Conquest in his long article on AIS in the September issue of the British monthly Standpoint(which is happily available on line).--DM

With that I wholeheartedly agree....but given the ignorant but sadly common view that he's pro-imperialistic one could spin him that way (as has been done so many times before anyway)....and this sort of appropriation would be more helpful to Putin than communistic revision. Thanks for the heads up on the Conquest piece, Dan

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