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Polityka historyczna (nostalgia za Rosją sowiecką)

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Nostalgia za Rosją sowiecką była tematem wielu artykułów na portalu historycznym „Uroki istorii”, realizowanym przez Stowarzyszenie MEMORIAŁ z Rosji w czerwcu 2011 roku. Przestawiamy podsumowanie tej tematyki (w języku angielskim).
Artykuł pochodzi z partnerskiego portalu „Uroki istorii”.

The third analytical report of the editorial team of "Uroki istorii" basing on the materials of the “Monitoring of the historical policy” covers the events of June 2011 (the total number of news items constitutes 78). Along with the thematic sections "Topic of the month", "Memorable dates", "Event", "Special cases" and "Thematic index" this report was written involving a lot of topical materials on the main theme, which is formulated as "Nostalgia for the Soviet".

In the given case speaking of mechanisms of historical policy the notion "nostalgia" allows to pay attention to the gaps between the past and the present, at the images of "time rupture" and "loss". 22 June 1941 is the focus of attention – the date connected with the end of "a happy peaceful life" and the start of the war.

Professional fashion of the NKVD employees for their today's heirs is also seen as nostalgic (FSO – Federal Protection Service – orders clothes "a la 1930-s"). June survey of VCIOM (Public opinion research center) convincingly shows that modern Russians remember even the Warsaw Pact Organization, of which the USSR was a member, though no one can remember anything as to the essence of the activity of this organization.

The key historical dates of the month are 12 and 22 June: "Russia Day"(the former "Day of adoption of the declaration on the sovereignty of Russia") and "The Memory and Mourning Day" [1].

Event of the month: death of the human rights defender and public figure Elena Bonner and the reaction of the Russian authorities to her death.

Part of the examples from "Special cases" is devoted to the development of the important events of the previous months: "People's front", the use of Stalin's image in election campaign and others.

An outburst of official state and local sometimes private initiatives connected with the immortalization of the victims of Soviet repressions merits attention – all in all there are 12 new items of this kind during this month (see Thematic index).

The sources of news were websites of political parties, newswires on web portals and online versions of the media (newspapers, radio and TV channels) including the regional websites of nongovernmental organizations [2], as well as the informational database Integrum.com.

Topic of the month: Nostalgia for "the Soviet"
Analyzing several various historical topics emerging on the public stage during this month one can see a common attitude behind them conveyed by their authors and/or mass media covering these events. The feeling of nostalgia, typical of them, acquires a special touch due to the fact that the matter for the most part concerns the events “remembered” by people who did not take part in them.

Historical events interpreted on the verge of personal and collective memory, are by no means always deeply analyzed by their commentators, however, evaluations of separate periods may be extremely emotionally charged. Thus, according to the VCIOM (news item of the Monitoring of the historical policy of 30 June) 55% of Russian citizens consider the period 1960-80-s of the XX century the safest period in the foreign policy (with the Caribbean crisis, in particular, falling on it – the "hottest" moment of the Cold War), while 1990-s – the least safe (4%).

The overwhelming majority - 89% - think that the Warsaw Pact Organization was pursuing "defensive" objectives and mirrored the setting up of NATO. "The positive impact of the WPO on the international situation is believed first of all by communists (96%), supporters of the "Fair Russia" party (94%), respondents over 45 years old (91%) and those not using the Internet (93%). Only 6% of respondents see the WPO as an aggressor and offender of the Eastern European countries (the others, evidently, don't consider the events of 1968 in the Czechoslovakia an example of aggressive policy) – VCIOM explains these figures.

A little over a half – 51% - of the respondents think that the present-day Russia needs another military alliance, on the model of WPO and NATO, to feel more secure. At the same time "only a third of Russian citizens (34%) can say something substantial on the Warsaw Pact Organization 20 years after its collapse". (http://urokiistorii.ru/2105)  

Other typical examples o such "nostalgic" projects are various "memoirs" of the war (the trigger for nostalgic moods was one of the dates of the month – 22 June 1941, the beginning of the Great Patriotic War). Thus, in the city of Slavgorod in Altai Territory the Savings Bank of Russia and the newspaper "Slavgorod news" organized a joint action entitled "We didn't see the war, but we remember those times": "children of the war" told about the fates of their parents and how they managed to survive "an incredibly hard time". The competition "Singing guitars" was organized in the Kuryin district of Altai Territory – high school students performed "music about the Great Patriotic War, about the Motherland, people's fates". (http://urokiistorii.ru/1996).

The social network "Odnoklassniki" ("Schoolmates") announced a charity action "Glory to heroes!" - a participant could get a special sign for 20 OKs  (an analogue of St. George ribbon, hinting on involvement with the great event), and his money would be transferred to a special account in the "Victoria-1945" foundation – to help the Great Patriotic War veterans (http://urokiistorii.ru/2073).   

Among these events, but standing a bit out (in terms of the form, not the contents, which remains within the traditional Soviet framework of ideological interpretations of the beginning of the Patriotic War) is the high-flown address of the governor of the Moscow region Boris Gromov to fellow citizens entitled "We remember every name" (published on 20 June – on the even of the night of 21 June – the start of the attack of German troops against the USSR).

"Armadas of fascist planes, tank convoys, clouds of shells came crashing down on peacefully sleeping cities and villages of the Soviet Union. Yesterday brass bands were playing in the parks, newly weds were dreaming of their future happy life, children were carelessly going to pioneer camps for the summer [3]. Suddenly everything ended. The flame of terrifying fires flashed, the air filled with a hellish peal of explosions. That very first morning the war having come to our land collected unprecedented crop of human lives in the world history. Hundreds of thousands of dead during the first hours of the hostile invasion. Thousands of destroyed cities and villages in one day", – writes in his address the governor Gromov born in 1943 (http://urokiistorii.ru/2062).   

A typical exploitation of imaginary or real nostalgic feelings is well seen in such various initiatives as the FSO (Federal Protection Service) ordering 120 demi-season black coats designed in an "NKVD leather jacket" style of the 1930-s (http://urokiistorii.ru/2019) [4], or the erection of a monument to the head of local Obkom (regional committee of the Party) Ivan Bondarenko in Rostov-on-Don, "who brought the region onto a new level" (http://urokiistorii.ru/2004). "Deficit of the past" [5] (to a great extent connected with a vagueness in the official evaluation of the Soviet period as well – partially condemned, partially rehabilitated and painted in artificial pink shadows) is compensated in the contemporaneity by a search of the lost ideal in the Soviet (pre-war, pre-perestroika – depending on the context) – time.

Memorable dates of the month: 12 June ("Day of Russia", earlier – Day of the adoption of the declaration on the state sovereignty of Russia, independence Day of Russia (unofficial title)), 22 June ("Memory and Mourning Day" – start of the GPW)

The first important calendar date is 12 June – the day of adoption of the declaration on state sovereignty of Russia (1990). Established since 1994 as an official holiday is it perceived by the greater part of the population as an "independence day of the RF" (Levada center poll ) – probably, it was connected with the presence of the word “sovereignty” in the title of the holiday. However, with the change of the power at the beginning of 2000-s and return of many "Soviet" ideals in the historical policy (see a most important thesis of the president Putin on the collapse of the ISSR as "the largest geopolitical catastrophe of XX century") the mere idea of Russia's "independence" from whatever celebrated on 12 June became odd.

In 2011 on 12 June "cultural mass and sports events" were held in various cities of Russia: in particular, in Volgograd an interregional patriotic festival puzzle-fest "Get together!" was organized, in the Tver region  - a Volga regatta "Sails of Russia", a festive concert of amateur singing "Impromptu" in the town of Seversk. In a number of cities quiz games on the knowledge of Russian history were organized, as well as competitions of creative teams, many of which borrowed a slogan very popular among Russian ultra-nationalists "Glory to Russia!" (as it was in Voronezh, for instance) (http://www.urokiistorii.ru/2002). Thus, the Day of Russia turned from a politically topical holiday in the 1990-s into a peculiar summer festival of patriotism, deprived of any real historical agenda whatsoever.

Among numerous GPW-related Soviet and post-Soviet memorable dates (balancing between heroic and tragic mood, with an obvious prevalence of the former over the latter) 22 June is probably the main exceptionally tragic date . One can estimate the permanence of the "Soviet" pathetics accompanying the mourning events on 22 June by the above-mentioned letter of the governor Gromov.  

Thus, in Bryansk the "United Russia" organized a "requiem rally" on the night of 21 June, in the course of which a movie was shown to the participants, and the next morning, after the speeches of the officials  and veterans, a "soldier's breakfast" was offered – tea and cereals (http://urokiistorii.ru/2052). The organizers stressed the meaning of the meal – the atmosphere of the event does not allow to celebrate it with a richer meal than tea and cereals (as an element of reminding of the ordeals suffered) which are supposed to create the obligatory feeling of connection with the heroic past.

The general and first of all allowed in the official discourse level of reflection on the date itself and the events which happened 70 years ago is still not high (the problem of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact is avoided, the beginning of the Great Patriotic War is offered without any reference to the events of 1939-1940). A typical example is the comments of the Regnum agency  to the results of the conference in Budapest dedicated to the 70th anniversary of 22 June. The reports of the historians Irina Glebova and Yury Pivovarov who spoke about the legitimization of modern Russian authorities through the mythologized image of the victory of the USSR in the war with the Nazi Germany aroused special attention. The statement of Regnum about "anti-Russian trend" of the conference bewildered even the representatives of the foundation "Historical memory" (taking a similar stand with the agency concerning a number of historical questions), who still suggested replacing "Soviet-like scolding" with a consistent scientific criticism (http://www.urokiistorii.ru/2049).

An alternative event to the official ones around 22 June was, in particular, the joint Russian-German-Polish-Belorussian project of the Museum of political history of Russia in St. Petersburg. The project uniting three exhibitions on the start of the GPW was aimed at "telling about the events of the start of the war of 1941-1945 from the point of view of an ordinary person, his perception of the news on the start of the war and consequences of this tragic date for himself and his family" (http://urokiistorii.ru/2048). The Internet project Juni 1941 organized by Rambler and Deutsche Welle had similar objectives: the web site contains the documents of that time: newspaper and magazine publications, diaries, fragments of contemporaries' letters – ordinary people as well as famous ones, Soviet and German musical and literary broadcasts of 1941 (http://urokiistorii.ru/2034).

The essence of the official stand on the questions of the WW II and the Great Patriotic War was stated by the premier-minister Vladimir Putin at the special session on 22 June 2011: in his opinion, "the truth about the war" "is necessary for the up-bringing and moral development of the future generations", in its turn its "distortion" may prove fatal for the whole society: "In fact, the key principles of the present-day world order may be questioned. And there are extremely dangerous threats here, at that with unpredictable consequences. The stand of our state, our civil society should be firm, consistent and adhering to principles in these issues" (http://www.urokiistorii.ru/2082). Thus the sought connection between the events of the Great Patriotic War in their official interpretation and the present-day Russian world order is very distinctly declared on the highest level.

Event of the month: Elena Bonner's death. Reaction of the authorities

The death of the famous public figure, human rights defender, Andrey Sakharov's widow Elena Bonner did not receive any distinct reaction on the part of the authorities6. President Medvedev did not make any special statement in this connection (emergence of such statements on the occasion of important public figures is a routine cause of the administration and the press service of the head of state) confining himself to condolences passed to Bonner's relatives and friends through an intermediary – the RF human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin. The president's words at second hand were cited on the web site of the "United Russia" with a mistake in the last name of the deceased. The official web sites of the president and premier ignored the event [7].

The June news items: special cases

"Temporarily immortalized" (http://urokiistorii.ru/2086)
"The monument to bourgeoisie" appeared on the Manezh square in St. Petersburg. By all appearances, a temporary one.

"Samara veterans on that side of the front" (http://urokiistorii.ru/2011)
The council of Samara public association of veterans refused becoming a member of Vladimir Putin's "People's front".

"Tested recipes from the effective managers" (http://urokiistorii.ru/2020)
CPRF election campaign posters with Joseph Stalin's image appeared In Samara and Toliatti.

"Helped a veteran. And whipped off" (http://urokiistorii.ru/2030)
In April and May 2011 the group of companies KiN producing cognac organized a charity action "I helped a veteran". In June KiN summarized its results.

"Medinsky argues with the CPRF about heroes and scoundrels" (http://urokiistorii.ru/2099)
"United Russia" Vladimir Medinsky reminded the communists of the 90th anniversary of Antonov's rebel in Tambov. In his opinion those tragic events were the beginning of the "genocide of Russian peasantry". The CPRF supports the opposing point of view.

Thematic index of the news items in June
Alexander II: http://urokiistorii.ru/2040
Archives: http://urokiistorii.ru/2056, http://urokiistorii.ru/2069
Akhmatova: http://urokiistorii.ru/2005
Great Patriotic War, veterans: http://urokiistorii.ru/1975, http://urokiistorii.ru/1989, http://urokiistorii.ru/1985, http://urokiistorii.ru/1994, http://urokiistorii.ru/1996, http://urokiistorii.ru/2011, http://urokiistorii.ru/2015, http://urokiistorii.ru/2030, http://urokiistorii.ru/2034, http://urokiistorii.ru/2039, http://urokiistorii.ru/2046, http://urokiistorii.ru/2048, http://urokiistorii.ru/2049, http://urokiistorii.ru/2052, http://urokiistorii.ru/2055, http://urokiistorii.ru/2054, http://urokiistorii.ru/2059, http://urokiistorii.ru/2060, http://urokiistorii.ru/2062, http://urokiistorii.ru/2069, http://urokiistorii.ru/2070, http://urokiistorii.ru/2073, http://urokiistorii.ru/2074, http://urokiistorii.ru/2077, http://urokiistorii.ru/2079, http://urokiistorii.ru/2089, http://urokiistorii.ru/2101

War in Afghanistan: http://urokiistorii.ru/2032

The Second World War: http://urokiistorii.ru/1992, http://urokiistorii.ru/2037, http://urokiistorii.ru/2059, http://urokiistorii.ru/2101

Gagarin: http://urokiistorii.ru/2074

State security: http://urokiistorii.ru/2019

The Civil War in Russia: http://urokiistorii.ru/2099 

Grossman: http://urokiistorii.ru/2054

Day of Russia: http://urokiistorii.ru/2002

Dostoevsky: http://urokiistorii.ru/2095 

Ancient Rus': http://urokiistorii.ru/1973, http://urokiistorii.ru/2003 

Elena Bonner: http://urokiistorii.ru/2064 

Stagnation, history of the USSR: http://urokiistorii.ru/2004 

Historical policy: http://urokiistorii.ru/2043

"Historical memory" (project, "United Russia"): http://urokiistorii.ru/2100, http://urokiistorii.ru/2091, http://urokiistorii.ru/2101

History of Buryatia: http://urokiistorii.ru/2006

History of repressions in the USSR: http://urokiistorii.ru/1980, http://urokiistorii.ru/1979, http://urokiistorii.ru/1974, http://urokiistorii.ru/1978, http://urokiistorii.ru/1990, http://urokiistorii.ru/2023, http://urokiistorii.ru/2035, http://urokiistorii.ru/2036, http://urokiistorii.ru/2044, http://urokiistorii.ru/2061, http://urokiistorii.ru/2067, http://urokiistorii.ru/2099 

History of Chechnya: http://urokiistorii.ru/1991, http://urokiistorii.ru/2033

Karl Marx: http://urokiistorii.ru/2090, http://urokiistorii.ru/1993

Cinema: http://urokiistorii.ru/1989, http://urokiistorii.ru/2077

The Red Terror: http://urokiistorii.ru/1974, http://urokiistorii.ru/2099

Lomonosov: http://urokiistorii.ru/2074

Putin's People's Front: http://urokiistorii.ru/2091

Nazism: http://urokiistorii.ru/2041, http://urokiistorii.ru/2101

Warsaw Pact Organization: http://urokiistorii.ru/2105

Patriotic War of 1812: http://urokiistorii.ru/2059, http://urokiistorii.ru/2068, http://urokiistorii.ru/2074, http://urokiistorii.ru/2080, http://urokiistorii.ru/2096

World War I: http://urokiistorii.ru/2059, http://urokiistorii.ru/2074

Peter I: http://urokiistorii.ru/2010, http://urokiistorii.ru/2038, http://urokiistorii.ru/2081

Pushkin: http://urokiistorii.ru/2001

Patriotism, patriotic education: http://urokiistorii.ru/2045

«Monument to bourgeoisie»: http://urokiistorii.ru/2086 

1917 Revolution: http://urokiistorii.ru/2087

Regional history: http://urokiistorii.ru/2058

Russian empire: http://urokiistorii.ru/1993 

Russia – Latvia, historians' commission: http://urokiistorii.ru/2094 

Russian-Japanese war: http://urokiistorii.ru/1992

"Dark years": http://urokiistorii.ru/2074

Stalin: http://urokiistorii.ru/2020, http://urokiistorii.ru/2070

Stolypin: http://urokiistorii.ru/2074

Toponymy (Soviet): http://urokiistorii.ru/2078, http://urokiistorii.ru/2090

Holocaust: http://urokiistorii.ru/2085

Chernobyl: http://urokiistorii.ru/1995, http://urokiistorii.ru/2031

Prepared by Sergey Bondarenko

Translated by Ekateriba Kokorina

1. It is noteworthy that a newly formed holiday with the same title but on a different occasion was celebrated in the Chechen Republic on 10 May.

2. Official websites of the parties that are represented in the State Duma: the United Russia at www.edinros.ru and er-portal.ru and its young-generation arm, Young Guard at www.molgvardia.ru; CPRF: kprf.ru, LDPR: www.ldpr.ru, Fair Russia: www.spravedlivo.ru. Other parties: Yabloko: www.yabloko.ru, the Right Cause: pravoedelo.ru, www.sps.ru. Website of the Russian President: news.kremlin.ru. News portals and online versions of printed media:www.rian.ru, gazeta.ru, www.regnum.ru, www.regions.ru, www.polit.ru, interfax.ru, baltinfo.ru, newsru.com, kommersant.ru, vedomosti.ru, mk.ru. Russian Orthodox Church: www.patriarchia.ru, journal Moskovskaya Patriarchia [Moscow Patriarchate]: www.mospat.ru. Websites of TV channels: www.1tv.ru,  www.rutv.ru, www.vesti.ru, www.tvkultura.ru, www.tvc.ru, www.ren-tv.com. Radio stations:echo.msk.ru, svobodanews.ru, rusnovosti.ru. Websites of nongovernmental organizations: archnadzor.ru, cogita.ru, hro.org, memo.ru and others.

3. A very topical connection to “specific” events of the day before the war started, an obvious figure of speech, is italicized.

4. Cf. an authentic leather jacket dating back to 1935.

5. It is by this feeling that modern Dutch philosopher F.R.Ankersmit explains the phenomenon of nostalgia in mass conscience (see the chapter on that in his book “Sublime historical experience”).

6. A quite telling reverse example is the situation with Vassily Kononov' death. At a higher level, but similarly this asymmetric situation is repeated in December 2011, when Russian authorities sent their condolences to the Korean people in connection with Kim Chen Ir's death, ignoring the death of the former Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic, human rights defender and playwright Vaclav Havel.

7. For more information see the necrologue published by «Gazeta.ru». Society “Memorial” also released a publication “The word on Elena Bonner” on those days.

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