Historical Revisionism

Wednesday, 21 March 2012, 2:00pm - 4:00pm, IWM library

Seminar “Faces of Eastern Europe”

During the last two decades in Russia, a wave of historical revisionism has been risen by both academia, and the public sphere, as historians have linked their evaluations of the past to the problems of constructing new identity. Discussions about Soviet history are mostly focused on the problems of the Second World War as a whole and the Great Patriotic War, in particular.

Especially heated disputes in Russian historiography and public sphere during the 1990-2000s were organized around interpretations of the Molotov Ribbentrop pact. Was it one of the greatest successes of Soviet diplomacy or the starting point for mutually beneficial cooperation between two totalitarian regimes? Did the USSR enter WWII with the participation in the partition of Poland in September 1939 or was it merely neutral till June 1941 as it was commonly acknowledged by Soviet historians?

Historians, journalists, public and political figures answer to this question in different ways. Part of this ongoing dispute which occurred during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin was fruitful in terms of opening archives and the absence of strict official frames for interpretations of the outbreak of WWII. In the course of Vladimir Putin’s presidency the situation has changed radically. From 2006-2007 Russian government took steps on a way of establishing politics of history which was initially embodied by attempts to fix positive narrative about Molotov-Ribbentrop pact in textbooks both for high school and university students. This tendency was continued by Putin’s successor Dmitry Medvedev through the latter’s creation of a Presidential Commission of the Russian Federation to Counter Attempts to Falsify History to the Detriment of Russia’s Interests. Russian state authorities demonstrate their aspirations to preserve narrative about a decisive contribution of the Soviet Union in the victory of WWII as one of the most significant common places in modern Russian identity.

We will examine scientific and political scales of dispute around the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, outline most arguable questions and reflect on the problem of using interpretations for the legitimation of ongoing processes in Russian politics and society.


Azat Bilalutdinov is Postgraduate student in Historiography, Tomsk State University, and currently Junior Visiting Fellow at the IWM.