From Ukraine, to Belarus, to Poland and Lithuania, historical narratives of communism, World War II, the Holocaust, and the Holodomor—Ukraine’s Terror-Famine—are being reviewed, revised, and in many cases manipulated to serve new ideological trends, notes the Kennan Institute’s Izabella Tabarovsky.
In Russia, the elephant in the room is Stalin’s repressions—quite possibly the largest yet least understood crime of the twentieth century, she writes for The Russia File:
Despite its scale, outside a relatively small group of historical memory activists, the repressions are not a matter of national conversation. Following a brief period of revelations in the wake of perestroika, the fog of silence is thickening once again, pushing the memory of the events out of Russian consciousness, and with it—out of that of humanity… Tragedies on this scale produce massive traumatic impact on societies, so much so that their reverberations can be felt on the social level generations later. Yet in post-Soviet Russia the personal and national traumatic impact of Stalin’s repressions remains largely unaddressed. “Until now, if anyone mentions the victims, it’s as though they were killed by a natural disaster like an earthquake or a tidal wave,” Yan Rachinsky of the Russian human rights organization Memorial, the chief keeper of memory of Stalin’s repressions in Russia, told the Washington Post recently.
Today, the assault on Russia’s national historical memory continues. Memorial, the human rights NGO focusing on Stalin’s repressions, has now been declared a “foreign agent” by the Russian state, Tabarovsky dads. Memorial’s most recent groundbreaking move was to publish an online database with personal information of nearly 40,000 NKVD operatives who were part of the 1930s repressive apparatus. Yet, the “foreign agent” label almost always results in the cessation of operations, and Memorial is now fighting for survival.
RTWT This piece is based on “The Price of Silence: Family Memory of Stalin’s Repressions“, Wilson Quarterly, Fall 2016.