Russia’s Commission to combat historical falsification has met. Sergei Naryshkin, head of the Presidential Administration, makes it reasonably clear what the goal has been all along.
“Let’s be realistic: there is a number of countries, in which political passions regarding certain issues of our history are still running high . . . At a strictly scientific level we have managed to sway our opponents or make them think about the futility of attempts to impose on us their view of history through falsification. . . . But success at a popular level is still far away.” (RIA-Novosti)
The “number of countries” are easily identifiable: Poland and the Baltics are fairly clearly the places that Naryshkin has in mind, and in particular the idea that the Soviet return in 1944-45 was not liberation but instead a new subjugation. But, as should go without saying, that idea is not a question of fact but a question of interpretation.
My modest proposal: let’s open up the Presidential Archive for the period from 1939-1945 and see if that sheds any light on these questions. Naryshkin’s in a position to make that happen.
The Russian Government appears uneasy with criminalizing historical opinions, though the justification given below seems quite narrowly technical and not what would be a more principled position–that freedom of thought and freedom of speech are incompatible with state authorities determining which historical views are acceptable. From Ekho Moskvy, 14 January 2010, via BBC monitoring and Johnson’s Russia List:
The Russian government has refused to endorse a draft law criminalizing denial of the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II, Russian Ekho Moskvy radio station reported on 14 January, quoting a report by the business daily Vedomosti.
Vedomosti has obtained a copy of the relevant resolution, signed by Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Sobyanin, which reads in particular that the ministers have failed to understand the part of the bill dealing with distortions of the verdict of the Nuremberg Trials, because “it is unclear to them how a document that has already come into force can be distorted”, the report said.
The draft law was submitted to the State Duma about two years ago by several leading members of the One Russia party, including Emergencies Minister Sergey Shoygu and Boris Gryzlov, the State Duma speaker and chairman of the party’s supreme political council. In May 2009 the relevant parliamentary committee recommended the bill for passage but things have not progressed since then. The report quoted a source in the State Duma as saying that “from the very start (the bill) was a fairly controversial initiative proposed exclusively in connection with Shoygu’s vociferous statements (demanding that denial of the Soviet role in World War II be made a criminal offence)”.