Russia is considered to be a barbaric country despite atrocious massacres in Europe 400 years agoThis article was inspired with the recent celebration of the 60th anniversary of the greatest WWII battle in the city of Stalingrad (currently called Volgograd). The interest to this major historic event does not vanish as time goes by. Our conception of Stalingrad was formed long ago. It deems that this conception is not likely to change after numerous movies, documentaries, research works by Russian and foreign historians. The battle of Stalingrad became an epoch-making event both in the Russian and in the world history. There is the Stalingrad Square in Paris, Churchill gave an English knight sword to Stalin in honor of Russia's contribution to the defeat of the fascist Germany. Facts like these gave birth to the universal approach for the vast majority of Russian media outlets to cover the historic battle
This article was inspired with the recent celebration of the 60th anniversary of the greatest WWII battle in the city of Stalingrad (currently called Volgograd). The interest to this major historic event does not vanish as time goes by. Our conception of Stalingrad was formed long ago. It deems that this conception is not likely to change after numerous movies, documentaries, research works by Russian and foreign historians. The battle of Stalingrad became an epoch-making event both in the Russian and in the world history. There is the Stalingrad Square in Paris, Churchill gave an English knight sword to Stalin in honor of Russia's contribution to the defeat of the fascist Germany. Facts like these gave birth to the universal approach for the vast majority of Russian media outlets to cover the historic battle.
Russian television released a lot of programs devoted to the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Stalingrad battle. Such major Russian television channels as NTV and TVS became rather peculiar about their programs. A lot of Russian people were astounded with the fact, how those independent channels – very good tools for affecting public opinion - celebrated the event. TVS channel presented its viewers the German documentary of three parts. As a matter of fact, the documentary was nothing but a requiem for the soldiers of the Third Reich that died in the battle of Stalingrad. As German film-makers believed, the Nazi army was defeated on the outskirts of Stalingrad on account of severe Russian winter frost, Hitler’s wild stubbornness, and German Field Marshal Paulus’s uncertainty. To all appearances, Mr. Yevgeny Kiselev, the Director of the TVS channel, sticks to the same version.
Russian well-known TV reporter Leonid Parfyonov went even further in his own program Namedni (Recently). He linked the victory of the Soviet Army in the great battle with punitive measures, which were taken by Stalin’s defensive groups. As the reporter said in his program, “the order “not to make even a step back” made Soviet soldiers be afraid of Soviet troops, not fascist ones.” Then Leonid Parfyonov showed a short footage with former NKVD (Soviet Union security department) agents, who told of their service in those defensive squads. Commissar Zyabchukov said that German troops might have reached the republic of Kazakhstan, if there had not been any defensive squads.
This peculiar opinion from Evgeny Kisilev and Leonid Parfyonov is not likely to change anything for those people, who survived the Great Patriotic War. However, TV reporters can easily affect young people’s minds, though. A participant of the Stalingrad battle N.Yermakov addressed to President Putin on the day of the 60th anniversary. He asked the president to make better text books on history, for Stalingrad events “get more and more misinterpreted.” It seems that it is very hard for our television hosts to understand that the arrogant Nazi spirit was broken with incredible courage and amazing persistence of Stalingrad’s defenders. Mr. Markelov, the Hero of the Soviet Union said: “The main thing for those people was to stand up for their Fatherland, even if they had to give away their lives for that.” Russian General Chuikov, the head of the Stalingrad defense, did not leave the burning city even for a minute. On his personal request, he was buried on the Mamayev Burial Mound – the symbol of Russia's great victory. The whole world was watching the unexampled battle. The world was holding its breath, for the planet’s fate was about to be determined.
Severe winter cold and defensive squads were not the only decisive factor, of course. The ideologists of Russian reforms wanted to rewrite the Russian history. They wanted to do that in order to justify Gorbachev and Yeltsin’s reforms and to make their destructive policy look like a natural stage of Russia's historical development. That is why they aimed their efforts at undermining the mass conscience ground – people’s short-term and long-term historic memory. The generalized symbol of the Great Patriotic War is still the most important factor for the national consciousness of the Russian people. Making this symbol blurred has been nearly an official state program in the country for the latest decade. Media outlets became responsible for the biggest part of that work.
Well-documented events of the war are set forth on the base of Western archives and memoirs. As a rule, it is done without any alternative Russian information. Pre-war events are covered from the positions, which are obviously hostile to Russia. Media outlets totally ignore the fact that the Non-Aggression Treaty with Germany was a forced step to make on the part of the Soviet leadership. Moscow agreed to sign that document, when it became clear that Entente countries were aiming Hitler’s aggression to the East. The Soviet Union had to sign that treaty after the German occupation of Austria and Czechoslovakia, after the Munich agreement, after unsuccessful attempts to set up the anti-Hitler coalition. Moscow sacrificed its moral values, although the treaty provided the USSR with a certain strategic advantage on the edge of the inevitable war.
Tons of written works and television programs attempt to justify treason. Media outlets try to blur the idols of the military era. They want to blacken the entire Soviet epoch, which became the ground of the people’s awareness. A lot of negative things have been said recently about such outstanding figures of the Great Patriotic War as Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, Mikhail Sholokhov, Konstantin Simonov, Aleksey Tolstoy and many others. Russian up-to-date oligarchs, music and TV stars like getting a sun tan on the Canary Islands. They never think of the problems that thousands of WWII veterans and Soviet Union Heroes have. The fathers of the new Russian democracy want to make Russia look like a semi-barbarian country, which did not go along the way of the Western civilization. Their goal is to wipe off the symbols of the Russian national mind. As a rule, their historic research is based on the works of those foreign historians and propaganda agents, who still have the Cold War spirit in their writings.
The book called “Alexander Nevsky and His Epoch” was published in 1995. This book has a goal to reinterpret the events of the past and to critically rethink previous evaluation criteria. As a result of that “rethinking process,” which was exuberant with evident falsification, the book portrayed Alexander Nevsky as a betrayer, who offended the civilized West with his decision to go to Mongols and to become friends with one of their leaders. As a matter of fact, it was not just friendship: Alexander Nevsky made a historic choice, he rebuffed Mongol knights. Nevsky’s decision predetermined the further fate of Russia.
So-called new historians present such qualities as tyranny and bloody brutality as something absolutely natural for the Russian state organization. Philosopher Rakitov, Boris Yeltsin’s adviser, wrote: “One should not talk about the absence of the sense of justice, or illegitimate repressive structure during Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great or Stalin’s eras. One should talk about the fact that law was repressive in its sense; that constitutions were totally anti-human. Standards and norms of their activities were absolutely different from the ones in other European civilizations.” This statement contains the major ideological thesis: Russia has always been a barbaric country in comparison with Europe.
What was so different about Russia during the time of Ivan the Terrible, for example? There were up to four thousand people executed during 37 years of Tsar Ivan the Terrible’s reign. On the other hand, this figure is a lot smaller against the number of those people, who were killed as a result of the infamous St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in Paris. Historians say that there were up to twelve thousand people executed. About 100 thousand people were executed in the Netherlands around the same period of time. However, in spite of those and many other facts, the myth of Ivan the Terrible is still the ground to talk about the tyranny of the Russian state organization.
The fathers of the new Russian democracy are moved with their self-protection instinct and fear in front of a possible social outburst. They persistently try to make Russian people think that violence and revolutions must not and can not be a way to reform a society. According to them, the bourgeoisie society is originally the society of compromise and dialogue. New historians say that the bourgeoisie society totally rejects the revolution idea. This is the ideological ground, on which they now talk about Stepan Razin or Yemelyan Pugachev’s rebellions. Furthermore, they try to make us forget the revolution, which eventually led to the establishment of the United States of America. However, Thomas Jefferson believed that revolutions are supposed to happen every 20 years. Years of perestroika and reforms undermined the historical picture of the political development of Russia in the beginning of the 20th century.
The Russian revolution is associated only with bolsheviks. However, a revolution, a change of order was inevitable in Russia in the beginning of the 20th century. The February Revolution of the year 1917 was the fundamental demolition of the entire previous order. By the way, bolsheviks did not take any participation in the revolution. However, the vast majority of the up-to-date Russian people, especially the youth, believe that the tsar was overthrown by bolsheviks in 1917. It is generally believed at present that bolsheviks came to power in Russia as a result of a coup, as a result of their conspiracy with Germans. As a matter of fact, the revolution of 1917 was prepared by the whole process of Russia’s political and economic development at the end of the 19th century. Some historians wrote that it was not a conspiracy, not a rebellion, but a natural disaster, which obliterated the whole previous power: police, military and gubernatorial authorities were wiped off in every Russian city, town and province.
The revision of the common conception of the Civil War (1918-1920) was launched in the Soviet Union during the period of 1980-1990. Modern historians try to consider the Civil War as a complicated conflict, which was over with the crush of the so-called white (anti-red) movement. A lot of works idealized anti-bolshevik forces, disregarding their inconsistency. Anti-bolshevik models of Russia’s state organization were far from being democratic. They were closer to the totalitarian, authoritarian order, which had nothing in common with a fair state order. One of paradoxes of the anti-bolshevik (white) movement was the fact that there were no charismatic leaders in the movement. There was no one, who could play the role of a dictator. The fight between the pro-Western and traditional directions added more fuel to the fire.
Bolsheviks won the Civil War not only because of the relative weakness of the anti-bolshevik forces. Those reasons also include the central role of the party, the fact that bolsheviks had their charismatic leader – Vladimir Lenin. To crown it all, bolsheviks enjoyed the support of the population. As far as methods of struggle are concerned, they were equally brutal both for bolsheviks and anti-bolsheviks. One should not forget that it was democrat Alexander Kerensky’s government that instituted death penalty at the front, legalized the execution of revolutionary soldiers and eliminated the work press. We will not talk about the White and Red terror here. This would require a very detailed analysis of those events, as well as their development and consequences. One should not deny the fact that the October Revolution caused fundamental changes in Russia's public development. The revolution explicitly set forth goals and tasks to build the new society. It exerted immense influence on the rest of the world, having challenged its orders. The ruling forces of the capitalist world were forced to improve the social situation in their countries in order not to let something like that happen for them. One may have various attitudes to the revolution of 1917. One may criticize those events, because new documents, which were not available for researchers before, give a lot of reasons for such criticism. On the other hand, one can’t but agree with modern historians, when they say that the Great October Revolution played an outstanding role both in Russian and in global history, as well as in the history of the entire liberating movement.
All those things bring up the following question: what is the point of the powerful aspiration to revise the Russian history, to manipulate the public conscience? What was it caused with? This process was commenced by the people that were at power in the very beginning of the Soviet perestroika (reforms). The only thing that they wanted was to gain all power in their hands. They did not care to find another way to pull Russia out from the crisis. Some of them reached their goals, some of them did not. Nevertheless, all of them made a very considerable contribution to the destruction of a great country, although it took centuries to build it. The start of the destructive process coincided with a change of generations. New people did not have a notion of WWII, they did not know the difficulties of a rehabilitation period. Those new people were never hungry, so to speak. They took the ruling position in the Russian society. The new generation needed to take a grip on the property, which was built by the whole nation. They were also in need of another ideology, new spiritual and historical values. Such reformers as Yegor Gaidar, Anatoly Chubais and the like provided very extensive spiritual nutrition for the society, as well as exuberant material nourishment for themselves. Some of them attacked the ideals, which their fathers and grandfathers died for.
The newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets has recently published an article about the pitiable situation with well-known Soviet writer Arkady Gaidar’s museum in the city of Klin. What can be said about the historic memory, when there is no kindred memory? Modern reformer Yegor Gaidar is Arkady Gaidar’s grandson. He returned no response to numerous requests to help with the repairs of his grandfather’s museum. Other grandsons and granddaughters like that humiliate their own grandparents and everything that was valuable for them. It stands the reason that historical changes require new views of the past, which contains the roots of the present and the outlines of the future. Yet, the view of the past should not be blurred with anything political or personal, not to mention propaganda concepts of foreign ideologists. A weighted approach is vital for the analysis of complicated, ambiguous, heroic and tragic events of the recent Soviet period of the Russian history. By the way, this should be a position to consider numerous requests from WWII veterans to rename the city of Volgograd back to Stalingrad. This wish is not to be connected with an aspiration to go back to Stalinism. Stalingrad is a symbol of a great victory for veterans, because the Stalingrad victory gave a start to the crush of fascism.
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov