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356 From the Editors, “Sovereign Democracy” and the End of History From the EDITORS “SOVEREIGN DEMOCRACY” AND THE END OF HISTORY Usually people live in harmony with their history until at some point they realize that they have changed themselves so much that they can no longer relate to conventional narratives of their past. Exactly twenty years ago Francis Fukuyama conceived of the collapse of the post-Yalta world order as the “end of history.” In his interpretation it was the end of the historical epoch marked by the division of the world into two ideological camps and the ever-present threat of a third world war and the advent of ideological dictatorship. Fukuyama’s optimistic vision of triumph over history can be contrasted with a symmetrical view of defeat by history, as documented by Marc Bloch in his famous book. Sixty years ago, in a Norman garden, “‘Are we to believe that history has betrayed us?’one of us cried.”1 A similar dissatisfaction with history is demonstrated by the current political leadership of the Russian Federation. However, this dissatisfaction differed from both the optimistic vision of Fukuyama and the pessimism of Bloch’s interlocutors . In the traditional spirit of Russian uniqueness, Russian rulers expect not the end of history but its resumption from the point of rupture in 1991, whereas the blame is placed not on the historical process, but on those who study and interpret history. Judging by numerous recent public statements by Russian politicians and sworn historians of various ranks, they believe that by rooting out “falsified” historical versions they will overcome the “end 1 Marc Bloch. The Historian’s Craft. New York, 1953. P. 6. 357 Ab Imperio, 3/2009 of history” of the USSR and restore the lost grandeur to the contemporary Russian state. In this issue, with its focus on human agency in the production of knowledge in an imperial situation, the editors could not avoid discussing the evolving campaign against the “falsification of history.” Fighting a temptation to dismiss this campaign as yet another demonstration of Russia ’s special path and the labile cognitive system of its rulers, the editors decided to broaden the discussion by including cases of politics of history in other post-Soviet states. Common to all these cases are problems of coming to terms with the traumatic past, the politics of historical memory, and the politics of retribution and legal adjudication of problems involving historical judgment. The cases of Ukraine, Lithuania, and Poland testify that politicians are tempted to manipulate the past and impose on society a normative version of historical memory and interpretation in contested situations or fragile political consensus. At the same time, this discussion also reveals the distinctiveness of the Russian case. The Historical Method of Disinformation As Isabelle de Keghel reminds us in her essay published below, the origins of systematic attempts by the government to control the study and teaching of Russian history date back to at least 2001. The sixtieth-anniversary celebrations of the end of World War II in Moscow in 2005 were tarnished when the presidents of the Baltic countries declined to attend. This scandal brought to the fore the sensitive problem of the historical link between the victory over Nazi Germany and the imposition of communist regimes in Eastern Europe. The constantly escalating critique of “revisionists” culminated in 2009. In February, a minister and leader of the United Russia ruling party, Sergei Shoigu, proposed that all instances of denial of the USSR’s victory in World War II would be subject to criminal prosecution. In April, the State Duma accepted for consideration the draft law “On Counteracting the Rehabilitation of Nazism, Nazi Criminals, and TheirAccomplices in the Newly Independent States on the Territory of the Former USSR.” In May, President Medvedev authorized the creation of a special Presidential Commission to Counter Attempts at Falsifying History that Damage Russia’s Interests. On August 28, the commission met for the first time, dominated by directors of law enforcement agencies and senior staff of the president’s administration. These efforts to institutionalize the suppression of “wrong” history are accompanied by the systematic public statements of Russian leaders on the 358 From the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2164-9731
Print ISSN
2166-4072
Pages
pp. 356-364
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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