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Stalinist History Lessons

holodomor.jpgEarlier this week, the British historian Orlando Figes alleged that his Russian publisher, Atticus, had jettsoned his book, “The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia” due to “political pressure” and Kremlin-led efforts to promote “the rehabilitation of Stalin.” Yesterday, of course, marked the 56th anniversary of Stalin’s death, as well as a couple clues into what kind of Stalinist history lessons pass the Kremlin’s smell test.

First, The Telegraph reports that Sergei Shoigu, the Russian emergency situations minister, has proposed a new law that would make it illegal to express the idea that the Soviet Union under Stalin did not win the Great Patriotic War (Russia’s expressive idiom for the Eastern Front of World War II), which critics fear could prevent discussion of atrocities like the Soviet massacre of 22,000 Polish prisoners of war at Katyn Forest in 1940.

And with the arrival of a three-volume (DVD inclusive), Kremlin-sanctioned study into the Soviet Union’s catastrophic, state-endorsed famine of the early 1930s (which killed between two and 10 million Ukranians), Russia has again reaffirmed the thoroughly antiseptic official opinion (corroborated by the United Nations) that the word genocide does not, in fact, refer to the systematic murder of a social class, but rather only to national, ethnical, racial or religious groups.

That it took this long for Russia to conduct any study at all is in itself shameful, as we’ve previously written. But that the study seems more focused on appeasing guilt–by attributing the famine exclusively to misguided industrialist policies–than reconciliation is downright perplexing.