Is Russia planning a Ministry of Truth”
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed a Decree “On a Commission under the President of the Russian Federation for Countering Attempts to Falsify History to the Detriment of Russia’s Interests”.
Historians and human rights groups are concerned that the country may again, as under the rule of the Communist Party, effectively introduce censorship and try to hide “inconvenient” historical facts.
The Decree is available on the President’s website http://document.kremlin.ru/doc.asp?ID=052421 together with a list of members of the commission. It gives little more detail than in the title, and states that the commission is being created to coordinate the actions of federal bodies, State bodies of the subjects of the Russian Federation and organizationsin order to counter such falsification of history which can harm Russia’s interests. .
As reported already (cf. http://www.khpg.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1240823870&w=rehabilitation and the links below the text), a draft law is also being proposed (“On countering the rehabilitation on the territory of independent countries which are former Soviet republics of Nazism, Nazi criminals and their abetters”) which would also be used against those in former Soviet republics who, in the view of the authors of the bill, are trying to rehabilitate Nazism. A response to these accusations can be found at http://www.khpg.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1241527498
It is planned that the law would be applied both to Russian, and foreign nationals. Those found guilty of “rehabilitating Nazism” could expect a sentence of from three to five years
The possible scope of this law is frightening, with historians in Russia conceivably being under pressure not to mention certain features which cast a bad light on the Soviet Union.
As for former Soviet republics, especially Ukraine and the three Baltic republics, the intended scope is easy to predict. There are many in each of those countries who, just for example, draw issue with the very term of “Soviet liberator”.
Keep your mouth shut or pay the price? Have we not been there before?
Historian and Head of the Board of Memorial, Arseny Roginsky, had these comments on the new commission:
“I am deeply concerned by the creation of this commission. It is worrying reminiscent of the Ideology Commission of the Central Committee of the Communist Party which played a notorious role in our history. The struggle of the State against so-called falsification in science is always dangerous, and as a rule turns into a fight against different opinions.
We can recall the role of the State in historical discussions, in discussions on genetics, cybernetics, and so forth. The truth is achieved not through the will and decision of some State commission, but is sought via free discussion between professions, between societies.
The head of this commission is Sergei Naryshkin who’s also the head of the Commission on State Secrets. That commission also declassifies archival documents. Masses of documents are still to be declassified. It would be better if Naryshkin dealt with that, now that would be a significant contribution to the fight against possible falsification. “
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Executive Director of the organization “For Human Rights” considers the new commission to be totalitarian in its very essence with “protection” of history effectively meaning a canon of truths which one may not deviate from.
He suggests that the new commission reminds one of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, and points out that the Decree does not prohibit falsification “in Russia’s interests”.
«Decree No. 540 is for the first time since 1990 officially introducing censorship, censorship in the field of humanitarian knowledge which is, in itself, against the Constitution. And the Decree envisages forcing people to certain views or to rejecting them. All of that violates Article 29 of the Constitution. It also violates the principle of freedom of creative work (Article 44) and effectively forms a State ideology which runs counter to Article 13 of the Constitution. The Decree is effectively written in defence of Stalinist policy and pro-Stalin historical mythology.
I hope that, albeit paradoxically, this Decree will unite not only professional historians with different views, but also civic society, quite different ideological schools for whom the very idea of an official ideology and of ideological censorship is unacceptable.”