The New York Times continues its series of articles published in the paper and translated into Russian on a ZheZhe blog, collecting comments in Russian which it then translates back into English. The latest installment exposes the phenomenon of nationalism in Putin’s neo-Soviet Russia, exploding the myth that Putins’ KGB regime lacks ideology. Some hopeful Russian comments are digested following the text. Perhaps the most telling and typical is this neo-Soviet rationalization:
You gentlemen are interested in “Stalin” secrets. Why so? So many years have passed. If The New York Times was able to dig into the archives of the American secret services and the role of F.B.I. and C.I.A. in the organization of President Kennedy’s assassination, this interest would be understandable. However, there is one guess. A program of active (secret) propagandist operations has been put in motion on the Web. One more “Orange Revolution” is required, this time in Moscow. And human rights in the U.S.S.R. (Russia) and Stalin repressions are nothing but a smoke screen to cover a secret operation. Undoubtedly.
Another poor ignorant soul writes: “The word ‘nationalism’ is not applicable to Russia at all (at least on the state level, on the level of everyday life, there is no more nationalism than in any other state).” A third claims: “No matter how much mud they sling at Stalin his accomplishments are so obvious that all this propaganda hullabaloo does not impress anybody.” And so it goes in the wretched quagmire that is neo-Soviet Russia.
TOMSK, RUSSIA. For years, the earth in this Siberian city had been giving up clues: a scrap of clothing, a fragment of bone, a skull with a bullet hole. And so a historian named Boris P. Trenin made a plea to officials. Would they let him examine secret archives to confirm that there was a mass grave here from Stalin’s purges? Would they help him tell the story of the thousands of innocent people who were said to have been carted from a prison to a ravine, shot in the head and tossed over?
The answer was no, and Mr. Trenin understood what many historians in Russia have come to realize: Under Vladimir V. Putin, the attitude toward the past has changed. The archives that Mr. Trenin was seeking, stored on the fourth floor of a building in Tomsk, in boxes stamped “K.G.B. of the U.S.S.R.,” would remain sealed. The Kremlin in the Putin era has often sought to maintain as much sway over the portrayal of history as over the governing of the country. In seeking to restore Russia’s standing, Mr. Putin and other officials have stoked a nationalism that glorifies Soviet triumphs while playing down or even whitewashing the system’s horrors.
As a result, across Russia, many archives detailing killings, persecution and other such acts committed by the Soviet authorities have become increasingly off limits. The role of the security services seems especially delicate, perhaps because Mr. Putin is a former K.G.B. officer who ran the agency’s successor, the F.S.B., in the late 1990s.