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Arseny Roginsky on government policy towards commemoration of victims of political repression (Novaya gazeta)

posted 7 Sep 2015, 05:30 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 7 Sep 2015, 05:38 ]
26 August 2015

Source: Memorial

This is an extract from: 'Luch sveta iz GULAGa', Novaya gazeta, No. 92, 26 August 2015

In my opinion, for the first time since the Rehabiliation Act of 1991, the government has outlined its attitude towards the Soviet political terror in an official document. If this document is to be believed, then the government's attitude toward Soviet terror is completely negative.

In principle, the main ideas set out in this document have no relation to the main vectors of current policy. So this isn't only surprising, but it's also remarkable! It is remarkable because, you will agree, it greatly complicates our understanding of the present day.

Chronologically, the document does not just focus on the Stalin period, but covers the entire Soviet era. You can (and should) criticise the document as much as you want for its imperfections and some lethargy (and I agree with this criticism), but at the same time you can hope that it will become an obstacle against the process of the return of Soviet symbols and stereotypes, at least to a small degree. Maybe it will become even just a little more difficult for today's communists and national-patriots to install monuments to people such as Dzerzhinsky, or once again name squares after Stalin, and so on.

The document is not an instruction addressed to anyone. Provincial and local bosses will maybe not even read it at all, or they will forget about it straightaway, or not even find out about it. But I do not doubt that people who sincerely care about the issue of remembering the terror will use it actively, demanding support from the authorities when they are searching for places to bury those who were executed, when they write and publish books in memory of the victims of the terror, and when they are installing memorial plaques to the victims.

So, regardless of the flaws of the document, it is good that it has appeared, that it is an instrument in the hands of society. It will definitely not make anything worse, and it cannot be excluded that it could trigger some kind of move to make things better. We just need not only government officials but also schoolteachers and librarians to find out about this document. Because after all, many of these don’t know at all what they can say about the terror, and what they are not allowed to say.

Translated by Chloe Cranston