The Soviet Legacy of Lies
To round out our trilogy today on lies and the lying Russian liars who tell them, which began by exposing the lies told by Putin’s sycophants and will conclude by documenting the lies he himself spews out on a daily basis, it’s fitting to turn to the topic of history. Putin himself is firmly anchored, of course, in Russia’s Soviet past. He’s a proud KGB spy who spent most of his life working to advance the goals of the USSR.
Which included, of course, relentlessly lying about anything and everything, all the time. Take for instance the USSR’s recently exposed jaw-dropping duplicity on the subject of commercial whaling.
As reader “Tomek” tips us by e-mail, blogging over at the BBC, Richard Black writes:
By the 1960s, hunting for blue whales and humpbacks was banned in large expanses of the oceans.
But time after time in records of IWC meetings from that period you come across phrases such as “it seemed that there was some rebuilding of humpback stocks in the North-west Atlantic but there was nothing to suggest any substantial increase elsewhere in the North Atlantic”, followed by a recommendation to extend the existing protection for a further three or five years and see what happened.
The sense of heads being scratched is almost palpable.
After the demise of the Soviet Union, the reason why these protection measures weren’t working became startlingly clear. The Soviet fleets, which included the biggest factory ships ever built, had been working to a radically different plan – to kill just about every whale they encountered, irrespective of size, species or rarity, and lie about it.
Since Alexey Yablokov first spilled the beans in 1993, the story has been told and re-told, the real catch records (kept secret and not submitted to the IWC, ironically chaired by a Soviet, MN Sukhoruchenko, during some of the years when the apparent ineffectiveness of protection regimes was being discussed) have been dissected and analysed.
But rarely has it been told as well as it has this week, in an article [pdf link] by Phil Clapham and Yulia Ivashchenko in Marine Fisheries Review, the US journal. If you’re not familiar with the story, reading their article will be 15 minutes of your time well spent; if you are familiar with it, well, it’s worth a read anyway.
So there we have it. The Russians chaired an international committee to protect whales, and they simultaneously did all they could to wipe out the world’s endangered population, letting the Japanese take the blame much the way they tried to pin the Katyn massacre in Poland on the Germans.
Vladimir Putin is not only part and parcel of this legacy, he’s proud of it. So much so he’s aggressively seeking to rehabilitate it, and the Soviet national anthem’s music still plays for Russia to this day.