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Rewriting History In Soviet Russia: The Politics Of Revisionist Historiography, 1956-1974



I can personalize this. Reading declassified Cheka materials abouta mass worker uprising against Soviet power in Saratov in March 1921 stunnedme. The local Bolshevik newspaper made only oblique reference to a workslowdown (volynka), while Soviet historians ignored the topic altogether.Dismissing worker demands for a constituent assembly and worker democracy asnothing more than the hollow slogans of Mensheviks and SocialistRevolutionaries (SRs), Soviet leaders failed to see that the labor unrest hadlittle to do with these parties per se and everything to do with the brokenpolitical and socioeconomic promises of 1917 concerning free elections,independent trade unions, and freedom of speech, the press, and assembly. Assecret police reports noted, "all of Saratov Province had turned intoone big uprising." Under siege, local leaders allowed free elections toa new soviet and then executed its members before granting some concessions.But it was not only coercion and concessions that defined this period butstarvation. Although acute supply problems may have been the catalyst thatcaused workers to revolt, hunger ironically may also have been the reason theBolsheviks were able to stay in power. (17) The Bolsheviks had survived theCivil War but had not won it. We have underestimated the significance of thefamine in ending the Russian Civil War, which robbed people of initiative. Toconclude, on the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution in 1889, theFrench erected the Eiffel Tower, one of the world's most recognizedlandmarks, in a political climate that sought to legitimate the values of theThird Republic. A hundred years later, the glass and metal Louvre Pyramid,which serves as the main entrance to the Louvre Museum, opened. It, too,became a landmark of the city of Paris, but in a strikingly differentpolitical climate in which politics had shifted to the center and right andsome major historians questioned the results of the French Revolution. Howwill Russia commemorate the centennial of its equally consequentialrevolution? Despite the historiographical trend to view the 1914-22 period asa continuum of crisis, Kolonitskii rightly notes that the politics of memoryin today's Russia actually separate the Great War from 1917. In thesanitized view of Russian leaders, the war proved the heroism of the Russiansoldier and the patriotic mobilization at the rear, memorialized in anarresting new monument on Poklonnaia Gora in Moscow to the heroes who gavetheir lives in World War I, which President Vladimir Putin dedicated on 1August 2014. In stepping out of the shadow of the revolution, the war iscasting its own shadow on 1917, now often characterized as an event thatrobbed Russia of victory in the Great War. Something else is at play here,too. As Kolonitskii suggests, revolution as a concept needs to be discreditedin order to eliminate it as a possible scenario for Russia's politicaldevelopment today. (Identifying the flaw in this approach, he observes that"history offers strong evidence that it is precisely the desire toprevent revolution at all costs that hampers attempts at reform and works inrevolutionaries' favor" [765].)




Rewriting History in Soviet Russia: The Politics of Revisionist Historiography, 1956-1974


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