POLITICIZING HISTORY IN TODAY’S WORLD
Putin’s Russia ideology is patriotism. Using history as a weapon, the Kremlin wages a psychological war against the Russian people and the West. Below is the analysis of this campaign:
- Riding the eerily familiar concepts of “genetic code of a nation,” the grandchildren of Stalinist executioners turn history into a mass control tool and the ground for covert and overt military invasions into other countries.
- A personal ritual is converted into a state-dictated, monetized platform for inciting a strongman myth, hysteria and militarism.
- Memories and emotions are exploited and commercialized.
- Victorious war becomes a brand.
History teaches us that like other cults, Putinist Russia, too, shall pass — but not without causing a humanitarian crisis. Will we be able to prevent the disaster or are the war and genocide inevitable?
POLITICIZATION OF HISTORY
“May 9 serves as the basis for the collective mind militarization, with its endless slogans “We Can Repeat”, “Charge on Berlin — Get the German Women,” crazy experts constantly screaming on TV “We will now take Washington” (a statement by a night show host Vladimir Soloviev),” said Igor Yakovenko, the ex-General Secretary of the Union of Journalists of Russia. “It is a politicization of history. Historical documents are used as bombs in the information war.”
“THE IMMORTAL REGIMENT:” SUMMARY
During the last five years, the Kremlin has been funding a hijacked grassroots movement known as “The Immortal Regiment.”
With the support of state-sponsored agencies like Russky Mir and Rossotrudnichestvo, established by Putin’s decrees, the movement spread over the world. In 2018, the march took place in 100 countries. In the USA, the estimated 8,000 people in the Russian military uniforms and with the Soviet flags marched by the major American landmarks singing the anthem of the USSR.
Worldwide, people carry portraits of Lenin, Stalin, Molotov, Beria and other communist leaders guilty of 20 million deaths and atrocities performed against the people of the USSR, as well as of the initial collaboration with Hitler and catastrophic decisions during the WWII leading to more deaths.
“The Ohio reenactment of Stalingrad battle glorifies Stalin to American participants. However, it was due to Stalin that so many Russians were slaughtered during the war or were proclaimed ‘enemies of the people’ and sent to die in GULAGs after the war,” writes Stella Belenkaya, a blogger and artist from Washington D.C. “This is not a preservation of history. It is the destruction of history in order to build a glorious and completely fallacious past. Russians, like all other people, are happy to embrace this glory and forget the horrors. Who wants to be ashamed of the past?” In her essay about fictional past, Belenkaya analyzes the exploitation of a myth and compares the myths of the US South and Stalin’s USSR.
History is altered and cut like a feature film. Shameful events like Katyn massacre, rape of German women by the Red Army, deaths of the prisoners of war returning to Russia and their consequent entrapment in labor camps under the similar conditions as the Nazi concentration camps, are silenced and erased from the collective memory. There are no mentions of the Stalin’s regime crimes mentioned above in the press or textbooks.
“The [Putin’s] regime claims to be the direct successor of all Russia’s glorious victories, chief among them the defeat of Nazism in the Great Patriotic War of 1941–1945, and thereby makes itself immune to criticism,” wrote Moscow Carnegie Center expert Andrei Kolesnikov.
Anna Meschansky, an attorney from Massachusetts, says, “the Immortal Regiment gives a very inaccurate picture to new generations. It glorifies the war and the victory but totally omits the horrendous crimes committed by Stalin, his pact with Hitler, his use of GULAG prisoners in the front lines, and the role of NKVD (former KGB) in the army.”
Whitewashing shameful events of the USSR history is a part of politicizing history in the interest of the Kremlin.
FLIPPING NARRATIVES, 1939–2015
Flipping narratives is another trick used by the Kremlin. One of the most jarring examples is the honoring of Vyacheslav Molotov as a hero of the World War II.
MOLOTOV’S CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY
Molotov, the head of the Soviet government and a Foreign Minister from 1930–1941 and a First Deputy Prime Minister from 1941–1957, is known first and foremost for the Ribbentrop — Molotov Pact, named after him and Joachim Ribbentrop, the Foreign Minister of the Third Reich, who was hanged in Nuremberg in 1947.
Molotov is also remembered for “Molotov’s cocktail,” a homemade explosive that the Finnish resistance used to fight the Russian aggression in 1939–1940. The term came up as an ironic response to Molotov’s euphemism: he called the Soviet bombs dropped on Finland “bread baskets.” The Finnish people “served a drink to go with the food.” Not surprisingly, the military equipment supplied to the Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine was called “a humanitarian aid” by the Kremlin in 2014–2015.
A side note on pseudonyms: “Stalin” means “Made of Steel” and “Molotov” means “Of a hammer.” Molotov idolized the tyrant who imprisoned and exiled his beloved wife, another Bolshevik politician, Polina Zhemchuzhina (“Of a Pearl.”) After returning to Molotov after ten years in exile on Stalin’s death in 1953, Zhemchuzina stayed a convinced Stalinist. Perhaps, the most terrifying trait of a cult is the perfect symbiosis between the victims and executioners. As if the boundaries are permeable and the offender and the abused fuse in a bloody embrace — for generations.
Albeit in Molotov’s case we have a fully-fledged executioner in his own right.
The list of Molotov’s crimes includes but is not limited to:
- Personally signing 372 “Stalin’s shooting lists” (lists of people sentenced to execution by firing squad, as well as the imprisonment of key Soviet leaders without trial. (Stalin signed 357 lists.)) Molotov had a habit of changing verdicts: “ten years of prison for execution by firing squad.”
“We now have at our disposal materials, facts, terrible things. Stalin, Molotov, Kaganovich, Voroshilov sent people to death by lists. It was just the destruction of people…” wrote Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the USSR and the initiator of “perestroyka.” “Molotov always added [to the resolution] “change ten years of prison for execution.”
Later, Molotov admitted that some of the people executed were innocent. “Of course, we might have overdone things. It would be absurd to say Stalin knew nothing about it, but it would be wrong to say he’s the only one to blame. We lacked control over the security services,” he said to a journalist.
2. Implementing “collectivization,” an action that utterly destroyed the peasant class in the USSR by deporting the wealthy peasants to Gulag where many died from the inhuman conditions.
3. Overseeing the actions that led to Holodomor, the man-made famine in Ukraine that killed between seven and eleven million people.
4. Ordering, along with Stalin the execution of 20 out of 28 members of Molotov’s government in 1938.
MOLOTOV — RIBBENTROP PACT, 1939
In 1939, Stalin attempted to develop a working relationship with Hitler.
- “At the 1939 May Day parade in Moscow, German diplomats noticed that the Jewish and pro-Western Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov was not on the podium. When the following day Hitler was informed that Stalin had replaced Litvinov by Molotov, Hitler said, ‘It is like a bullet from a gun.’”
- In July 1939, Molotov told the German Ambassador to Moscow that the Soviet Union seeks a better relationship with Germany.
- On Aug 23, in Moscow, Stalin, Molotov and Ribbentrop signed a non-aggression pact that contained a secret protocol on the spheres of influence in Eastern Europe, dividing up the territories of Poland, Romania, the Baltic countries and Finland between the USSR and Nazi Germany. On signing the pact, Stalin raised his glass to “Germany’s finest son Adolf Hitler.”
- Following signing the pact, Molotov said, “The ideology of Hitlerism, like any other ideological system, can be agreed with or denied; it is a matter of political views, but any person will understand that ideology can not be destroyed by force, it is impossible to end the war with it, therefore it is not only pointless, but also criminal, to wage such a war, as a war for the ‘destruction of Hitlerism,’ covered up with the false flag of the struggle for “democracy.”
- Immediately after the pact, the Soviet propaganda banned the word “fascist.” All anti-Hitler propaganda stopped. My great-great uncle Adolf Minkin’s film Professor Mamlock, released in 1938 — one of the first feature films covering the reality of the beginning Holocaust— was abruptly banned from the theaters in the USSR.
- As the result of the treaty, Hitler and Stalin invaded Poland. Nazi German and Soviet officers coordinated their actions. The Soviet Union also annexed Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and parts of Romania. Stalin offered Hitler his congratulations on victories in Poland.
- At the end of 1939, Hitler cabled greetings to Stalin for his 60s birthday. Stalin answered: “The friendship between us sealed in blood has every reason to be long-lasting.” Stalin returned to Gestapo the German communists who escaped from Nazi Germany to the USSR.
- In 1940, Molotov traveled to Germany to further discuss the spheres of influence between Germany, the Soviet Union, Italy and Japan unaware that Hitler is already preparing to attack the USSR.
- The Soviet intelligence service agents in the UK, US, and Germany informed Stalin that Hitler is preparing to invade the Soviet Union.
- Lavrenty Beria, the head of the NKVD, ordered the secret agents confirming the news of the attack “to be turned into prison dust for supplying constant disinformation.” Stalin refused to send the troops to the border.
- On June 22, 1941, Hitler attacked the USSR.
- It was only the day after the Nazi troops attacked the USSR, on June 23, 1944, that Molotov first used the word “fascist” again in his speech to the nation. Stalin refused to make a speech.
FLIPPING NARRATIVES — AGAIN
In 2009, during his visit to Poland, Putin, Russian Prime Minister at the time, called the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact a “collusion to solve one’s problems at others’ expense. “All attempts between 1934 and 1939 to pacify the Nazis by making various kinds of agreements and pacts with them, were unacceptable from the moral point of view, and from the political point of view were pointless, harmful and dangerous.”
In 2015, following Russian annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, Putin defended Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact at the meeting with Angela Merkel.
In a move mirroring Stalin’s pre-war diplomacy, Putin flipped the narrative. “Amid Western sanctions against Moscow for its annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin has shifted to an increasing glorification of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and his regime’s pact with Nazi Germany,” wrote The Moscow Times. “The Soviet Union signed a non-aggression treaty with Germany,” he told a meeting with historians. “They say: Oh, this is so bad. But what’s so bad about it if the Soviet Union did not want to go to war? What’s so bad about it?”
“Following Putin’s speech, Russia’s Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky in the run-up to this year’s Victory Day celebrations praised the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact as a “colossal achievement of Stalin’s diplomacy.”
MOLOTOV’S GRANDSON, VYACHESLAV NIKONOV
The portrait of Molotov that caused an outburst of anger in 2016 was proudly paraded by his grandson who was named after him — Vyacheslav Nikonov.
Growing up close to his grandfather who lived to be 94, Nikonov is a prominent politician close to Putin. A son of the KGB agent, Nikonov started his political career n 1970 as a Young Leninist (Komsomol) leader and a member of the Communist party. In 1991, he was appointed to the position of the Deputy Chairman of the KGB. He has also announced the richest State Duma Deputy in Russia, with his income nearing 8,3 million roubles.
I want to emphasize the following development of Nikonov’s career: in 2007, Putin appointed Nikonov to the position of the head of the Russkiy Mir Foundation, a “soft power” agency founded by Putin’s decree.
Two of Putin’s allies were seen at the Immortal Regiment march in Moscow in 2015, against the backdrop of Lavrenty Beria’s portrait. Beria, Stalin’s ally, was put on trial for treason and his many crimes against people after Stalin’s death in 1953.
Commemorating him at Victory Day is particularly inappropriate as in October 1940, Beria, the chief of NKVD (later KGB) started a purge of the Red Army. Victims were arrested on fabricated charges of anti-Soviet activity, sabotage, and spying, tortured, executed or sent to prison. The wave of arrests in the military-related industries continued well into 1941 and the lack of qualified officers added to the death toll during the war.
NETANYAHU AND APPROPRIATING MEMORY
Putin attended the “Immortal Regiment” right after the military parade at the Red Square. He was, strangely enough, accompanied by Benjamin Netanyahu who carried a portrait of a Lithuanian Jew, decorated for his service in WWII with the highest award and later stripped of this award, with his name erased from the registry of Heroes of USSR, for his decision to emigrate to Israel. After spending 10 years as a refusnik, without the right to work, Volfas Wilemsky was finally reunited with his children in Israel. His name, life, and tragedy is now appropriated and exploited by the same KGB/FSB officers that humiliated him in the USSR.
A logical question is why the Prime Minister of Israel would march next to Putin with the above portrait.
Well, they marched right after the Victory Day Parade that featured 13,000 troops, 159 types of hardware including 75 aircraft, drones, de-mining robot used by the military in Syria’s Palmyra and Aleppo, a Terminator tank designed to be used in war zones involving nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction, a MiG-31 supersonic interceptor jet carrying a high-precision Kinzhal (Dagger) missile, a pair of SU-57 stealth fighter planes, a fifth-generation jet reportedly tested in Syria. Some of the weaponry demonstrated at the parade may soon end up in the hands of Assad’s regime in Syria, noted WSJ. Moscow is also contemplating providing Assad with its S-300 air defense system. This might explain Netanyahu’s presence at the parade.
PUTIN’S GRANDFATHER: “THANK YOU, GRANDPA, FOR THE VICTORY!”
Another interesting example was Putin and the portrait he carried. Reportedly, the portrait was that of his father fallen in the war — while it is widely known that Putin was born in 1952.
Notably, Putin’s paternal grandfather Spiridon Putin worked as a cook for both Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin, as admitted by Putin himself. More research shows that his grandfather actually cooked for Lenin’s wife and brothers only and did provide occasional meals for Stalin, working at exclusive Community party resorts, when Stalin visited the place incognito. This means that during the war, Putin’s grandfather had a steady supply of food and did not serve in the acting army. Spiridon Putin lived to be 86 and did catering for the Communist party leaders until he was 72.
COMMERCIALIZING THE MEMORIES: AN INSULT TO THE DEAD
“When a heroic deed is turned into a cult and replicated, its meaning disappears.” — The Blue Rider Manifesto
Sergey Levakov, one of the three original authors of Immortal Regiment, doesn’t go to the marches anymore. “I just realized that it does not matter what’s in your hand. What matters is what’s in your head.”
Military uniform can be purchased on the Internet in all sizes, starting with infants. There are dishes made in the shape of tanks and graves. There are tanks made of German beer Heineken. Portraits are printed on a mass basis and after the event can be seen discarded in trashcans.
“My grandfather earned his Red Star in a fight, during his military service for three years at World War II. My grandmother was decorated with a Red Star, too. My family keeps both Red Stars, of course. And now a Red Star is trading for $150 on market? It is disgusting!” says Alexey Kazantsev, a neuroscientist and writer from Boston.
On a personal note, it is hard for me to imagine anything less sensitive than the above invitation to “Siege bread tasting” or fashion-show of military uniform. My family lost three people during the Seige of Leningrad due to starvation, three people who were shot in Baby Yar by the Nazis, and two grandfathers fought, with one surviving POW camp.
I brought to America a box of medals. I sometimes look at them and read the letters. I felt the silent presence of the dead in our life growing up, like most people from St. Petersburg. My surviving grandfather NEVER talked about it. I knew the story from my grandmother, who worked for the military academy and had to place my four-year-old mother in an orphanage. We all are scared by war. Turning grief into souvenirs and tragedy into a grotesque carnival is an insult.
“So here: My victory is not pompous marches or parades. It is the memory of an incredible tragedy and a superhuman feat that has broken many people. It is the fields paved with frozen bodies. It is that trauma transmitted, generation to generation.
If my grandfather [a veteran of WWII] heard “We can repeat,” he would have smashed this person over the floor… The Russian government has turned this terrible memory and tragedy into its own cheap brand,” writes Belarusian journalist Daria Kostenko in her powerful essay Symbol of New Fascism: Striped Ribbon is Not My Victory.
The myth is utilized by the society as a power tool, as Roland Barthes explained in his infamous Mythologies.
THE SPLENDORS AND MISERIES OF MYTHOLOGIES
“Fascism does not only silence people but also forces them to speak.” — Barthes
INCITING PATRIOTIC HYSTERIA: ANOTHER TOOL OF MIND WAR
Exciting the crowd and manipulating the collective energy is an old strategy and rarely fails.
“There was such a feeling of unity with everyone who took part in the procession! And when the “Hurrah!” rolled through more than a million people and those marching next to me screamed “Hurrah!” — it was breathtaking, gripping. Very powerful energy! Families! Youth! Children! People walked — just the human sea,” wrote an attendee of the march in Moscow.
“I had a son recently. He is two now. I first thought — what, no, I could never have him going to war, you know, you can’t give your own child. But then you think about the war, and how it starts, and then they kill your father and your brother and you start understanding, it’s the war,” said a singer who performed patriotic songs at the party in the church in Pine Bush.
“Russia has the modern… high-tech army, at the heart of which are its officers, with their devotion to the homeland and readiness for any sacrifices for the sake of its people. Technology, weapons — even the most modern type — will sooner or later appear in other armies of the world. It does not bother us at all; we already have it and it will be even better. The main thing is that the other armies will never have such people, such officers [as we have],” said Putin during his address to the Federal Assembly.
The hysteria is then spread to the Russian diaspora in the West. Millions of the Russian-speaking immigrants from the USSR are brainwashed by the specially designed the Kremlin-funded TV channels, Internet sites and “cultural programs,” carried out by the organizations like Russkiy Mir and Rossotrudnichestvo. These numerous population groups are easily turned into the Trojan Horse of the Kremlin.
At the same time, the Kremlin-sponsored agencies promote hostility towards the US.
This strategy works well. In 2018, fifty countries participated in the Immortal Regiments. Only in Europe, the Immortal Regiments marched in 36 cities.
On May 5, the Senate of the State of New York adopted a resolution on the action “Immortal Regiment.”
Such neglecting or helping to promote this strategy is not just near-sightedness. By allowing the mind war attack, the US authorities undermine the Western democracy and expose our country to the danger of being defeated from within.
VICTORY AS A BRAND
This brand is developed with a purpose of inciting the “target audience:” in this instance, the very people of Russian Federation, the descendants of those who suffered from the power lust and delusions of Stalin, Hitler, Molotov, Beria and other “fathers of nations” and the Russian diaspora abroad.
Putin, himself a former KGB agent whose job description included recruitment of young people, understands the importance of the “human factor.”
Much like Stalinist USSR, Putinist Russia is a phantom built on inflated patriotic sentiment, ideas of the national superiority and the value invested into the “communal” wellbeing vs the much-despised individuation.
“American soldier, surrender. You are surrounded. The resistance is futile,” I had to write in a training exercise in my compulsory combat (spetz) propaganda class at the Leningrad State University. I never used the training that was a required course for my degree in English language and literature but people who went to the same school and took the same course throughout the last forty years — Putin, Medvedev, Sechin, Kisyelev, Olgino trolls, RT journalists and many more — are using the knowledge of psychology, neurolinguistics, brain manipulation, cultural studies, history and politics as well as billions of dollars stolen from the Russian people and laundered in the West to “demoralize the army and population of the enemy.” The enemy is Western liberal democracies, in other words, the EU and US — you. And if you don’t listen and act now — they will be winning.
“Patriotism is the new ideology of Russia,” proclaimed Putin in 2003, and he made a bet just right. He has been working on it ever since and he is succeeding. We have to recognize this master plan now, in 2018, after fifteen years of observation in order to maintain our existing world order, progress and sane society, based on democratic values and human rights.
Read Part 1 on the Immortal Regiment here:
These articles are a part of CLUSTERCLICK, a photo novella documentary by Zarina Zabrisky. For the full adventure click here.
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