History Under Lock and Key





The only way to fight a real battle against the falsification of history -- something that President Dmitry Medvedev has made a priority after creating a special commission to handle this issue -- is to keep government archives as open as possible for historians. Unfortunately, the government is doing the exact opposite, depriving historians access to the most sensitive and important historical documents. Among other things, this is a violation of the Constitution.

Medvedev's commission "for counteracting attempts to falsify history to the detriment of Russia's interests" is headed by presidential chief of staff Sergei Naryshkin, who will control which documents remain classified and which ones are opened to the public. There are many reasons to be concerned that the documents most essential to an open and honest study and discussion of Russian and Soviet history will remain locked up.

Most of the documents connected with the 1940 execution of more than 20,000 Polish officers at Katyn, which was carried out by the NKVD under direct orders from Stalin, also remain locked away. After Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Yeltsin officially acknowledged the massacre and released many related documents from government archives, then-President Putin decided to do an about-face. The chief military prosecutor recently closed the investigation into the tragedy, and even the decision to halt criminal proceedings was deemed classified. The Kremlin's decision to sweep the matter under the carpet raises the question whether Russia really wants to break with Stalin's bloody past or whether it has a sick attachment to it.

Also classified -- or simply lost or destroyed -- are documents from Stalin's Politburo of 1939 related to the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the partitioning of Poland, the annexation of the Baltic states and the Soviet invasion of Finland.

The government continues to deny access to materials documenting the behavior of Soviet forces in Europe in 1945. This automatically provokes speculation that the scale of the looting, violence and rape carried out by Soviet soldiers and officers was greater than we have been led to believe.



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