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Towards creation of another Presidential Commission

Special for YABLOKOs web-site
By Viktor Sheinis, May 20, 2009

The Soviet Union had an absolutely senseless institution from the point of view of public interests the Ideology Commission, further transformed into the Ideology Department of the Communist Party Central Committee. It was not merely senseless, it was even harmful. The ideologists appointed by the party were free to deide what corresponded to the interests of the party and the nation and what not, what was right and what should or should not be published. They ran continuous attacks against everything honest and truthful that got into publishing somehow.

I could not even imagine that the retreat from freedom which we obtained with perestroika may go so far. A presidential decree establishes a state commission which is entrusted with detection of historic distortions that are harmful for Russias interests. We have already seen multiple distortions of history. They have been pouring on us from the state television channels as a muddy stream. Book shops have been filled with Stalinist, fascist and anti-Semitic editions published in the recent years. However, I am afraid, that the commission will focus attention on other editions, as some of appointees evoke neither trust nor respect.

Will the Commission use the Soviet experience? In 1951 there emerged a Soviet official edition Distorters of History. Short Facts (Falsifikatori istorii. Istoricheskaya spravka), where its anonymous high-ranking authors tried to prove that Western publication Nazi-Soviet Relations 1939-41 based on German archives was a fraud (much later these materials were also found in Soviet archives). They based on the same logics of detrimental facts Moreover, the time chosen for creation of the present Commission is very appropriate on the threashold of the anniversary of the notorious Molotov Ribbentrop pact (August 1939) and the Soviet German treaty (September 1939). What a mystical coincidence!

But this is not the main thing. The very approach when a state body appropriates a right to determine what historic works are detrimental for Russias interests is wrong. Historical and any other truth, as well as distortions, can be only revealed in a free discussion rather than on orders.

History as a knowledge and narration for better or for worse is inseparable from ideology. Ideology proclaims itself in selection and interpretation of facts. And according to famous Russian writer Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, facts differ. Some of them are convenient and some of them are not, and there are even such that can hardly be called facts.

Its quite normal when a historian sticks to some definite ideology. However, our Constitution prohibits any state ideology. If some people on behalf of the state determine what is detrimental for Russia, such actions can be assessed only as unconstitutional.

In view of this I attempt to offer our readers the text of my recent speech The Myths of Our Victory which seems to become urgent in the light of the recent developments. Certainly this is only one point of view in the discussion.

See also: Freedom of speech

Special for YABLOKOs web-site
By Viktor Sheinis, May 20, 2009