What is happening at the moment? History (or better the interpretation of history) is more and more used to justify political actions. Nothing really new, but somehow two recent statements were not only shocking but also worrying:
First, the Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski used weird historic justifications for his negotiations at the EU summit last week:
We are only demanding one thing, that we get back what was taken from us. (…) If Poland had not had to live through the years of 1939-45, Poland would today be looking at the demographics of a country of 66 million.
Now, Russian President Vladimir Putin also discovered the benefits of relativism in order to justify his political agenda:
Concerning some problematic pages in our history — yes, they exist, as they do in the histories of all states. We have less than some countries. And ours are not as terrible as those of some others. (…) Yes, some pages in our history were horrible: We can think of the events beginning in 1937, and we should not forget them. But it wasn’t better in other countries — in fact, it was far more horrible.
Recently it became clear that Putin wants to use history and social science in a very ‘soviet way’. In order to reflect the apparent new strengh of Russia he wants to rewrite history to establish a new “national-patriotic ideology”. For a more detailled analysis read Pavel Felgenhauer article in the Eurasia Daily Monitor:
Putin told the teachers: “Many school books are written by people who work to get foreign grants. They dance to the polka that others have paid for. You understand? These books, regrettably, get into schools and universities.” Putin demanded new history textbooks that “make our citizens, especially the young, proud of their country” and reiterated “no one must be allowed to impose the feeling of guilt on us.”
Putin specifically noted that the history of World War II and Russia’s history after 1991 are wrongly interpreted and must be rewritten. Today Stalin has again been rehabilitated as a leader who made mistakes, but still secured victory over Nazi Germany. The 1990s — a decade when Russia was a freer state than at anytime before or since — today is demonized. The pro-Kremlin youth movement Molodaya Gvardia has announced it will be organizing marches in Yekaterinburg and other cities in support of Putin and against the regime’s critics under the slogan, “No return to the 1990s”
Putin’s personal paranoia and anti-Americanism seem to be growing and are increasingly dominating external and internal Russian politics.