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Russia's Security Council Turns Its Gaze To History And 1917

  • Tom Balmforth

The Russian Revolution of 1917 is one of the events from the country's past that could come under the remit of a proposed center for protecting against the "falsification" of history (file photo)

The Russian Revolution of 1917 is one of the events from the country's past that could come under the remit of a proposed center for protecting against the "falsification" of history (file photo)

MOSCOW -- Meeting last week to discuss the upcoming centenary of the Russian Revolution, experts for Russia's top security body reportedly discussed ways to stop what it cast as foreign attempts to twist and distort Russian history.

The Kommersant newspaper reported on October 31 that the experts discussed "information security" and heard a proposal to set up a special center tasked with counteracting "falsifications" of history.

The expert panel noted "deliberate destructive activity by foreign state structures and international organizations to realize geopolitical interests by means of carrying out anti-Russian policies," the influential daily reported.

Without going into detail, a press release on the Security Council website on October 31 said the experts discussed and identified the "most significant historical events that are objects of falsification."

The Kommersant newspaper named six specific historical topics: the Russian Empire's politics regarding ethnic minorities; the Soviet Union's politics regarding ethnic minorities; the role of the Soviet Union in defeating Nazi Germany; the August 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Soviet Moscow and Nazi Berlin; Moscow's handling of uprisings in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany, and the Russian Revolution.

The report said that particular attention was given to the February and October revolutions of 1917, whose centenary will be marked next year.

Ambiguous Legacy

The legacy of the revolutions in official terms has remained somewhat ambiguous under President Vladimir Putin. While opposition to so-called colored revolutions has become central to the Kremlin's worldview, the "red" October, or Bolshevik, Revolution ultimately spawned the polity whose 1991 collapse Putin famously lamented as the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.

Sources in the Kremlin administration told Kommersant that the formation of ideas around the Russian Revolution is exclusively "the prerogative of the academic community."

Speaking to Kommersant, Aleksandr Chubaryan, a historian, dismissed the need for a special commission or center to combat historical "falsification," noting that this is simply the work of historians and universities -- which Russia already has.

It would not be the first time the Kremlin has set up a center to counter historical "falsifications."

In 2009, the 70th anniversary of the secret Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact under which the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany divvied up Poland and the Baltic states, then-President Dmitry Medvedev established a commission to counter what he said were aggressive moves by the West to rewrite history to Moscow's detriment. That commission was disbanded in February 2012 in the twilight of Medvedev's presidency as Putin prepared to make a return.

Moscow State University politics professor, Andrei Manoylo, addressing the council last week, called for a center that would plug the hole left behind by disbanding Medvedev's commission and help coordinate the state's response to the falsification of history. "Such a center or service should have a federal status, should report directly to the [president] or his deputies, and possess high freedom to act to provide an extremely rapid reaction to any information attacks carried out against Russia," Manoylo said.

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    Tom Balmforth

    Tom Balmforth covers Russia and other former Soviet republics. He can be reached at balmfortht@rferl.org

     

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