Modern Russia: Toward Historical Reconciliation

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May 29, 2015

Modern Russia: Toward Historical Reconciliation 

By MaxFux

Translated from Russian by J.Hawk

RF Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinskiy spoke at the “100 Years of the Great Russian Revolution roundtable: contextualization in the name of consolidation”, held in the Ministry of Modern Russian History. He issued a number of theses on how to facilitate historical reconciliation in Russia.

The idea is a correct one. The civil war had ended, it’s time to seek reconciliation just as the nationalists, monarchists, and communists did in Donbass trenches fighting for the Russian World. We have to maintain unity in the name of Russia, the Russian people, the future of our country, and should not kill one another.

Here’s Medinskiy’s speech:

“The Great Russian Revolution of 1917 will forever remain one of the most important events of the 20th century. Irrespective of all the differences of opinion on the events from almost a hundred years ago, it’s undeniable that the attempt to establish on Earth a new just society decisively changed Russia’s path of historical development and tremendously influenced the progress of nations on the entire planet.

Russia’s revolutionary transformation laid the foundation for a new world project. The last 100 years had shown that there is living continuity in the country’s development from the Russian Empire to the Soviet Union and then–the Russian Federation.

Moreover, an objective study of the revolutionary period allows us to recognize the tragedy of the society’s split into warring factions. But we can’t continue dividing our ancestors into unambiguously good and bad ones, after all, each side had its own idea on how to make Russia blossom. Both the Reds and the Whites were motivated by patriotism. The day of remembrance of ancestors is the best stimulus to a new path of spiritual development.

Everyone agrees we must remember the lessons of the past. And, on the basis of that knowledge, avert internal conflicts capable of escalating into inter-ethnic clashes capable of tearing the country apart. Clashes on the basis of class, national, ethnic, religious background may cause enormous damage.

Studying the revolution of 1917 and the Civil War also illustrates how erroneous it is to hope on the help of foreign “allies” in the internal political struggle. In Russia’s case, foreign involvement only made the national chasm deeper, made the struggle longer and the number of its casualties greater.

We must not wage a war on memory. The Soviet era which came after the 1917 revolution boasts massive achievements. Current generation ought to see in it the power of human spirit, the heroism of their ancestors. This is how one can achieve continuity of history and construct a modern society.

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Amnesia is a terrible disease. Right now in Ukraine they are destroying monuments not only to Lenin, but also Marshal Zhukov, reconnaissance scout Kuznetsov. Such actions, both in Ukraine and in other countries, promote destructive feelings and lead to the break-up of the civil society. A monument represents memory, therefor monuments must not be destroyed. We should not disown any periods in our history–they are all part of our identity.

The academic community now has a unique opportunity to develop a unified and shared position on the main phases of Russia’s development. Differences of opinion are opportunities for dialogue and compromise, not conflict.

I’ll mention five main theses which I submit for general discussion during the process of developing the national reconciliation platform:

–Acknowledging historical continuity from Russian Empire through USSR to contemporary Russia.

–Recognizing the tragedy of the societal split caused by the events of 1917 and the Civil War.

–Respecting the memory of heroes of both sides (Reds and Whites) who sincerely defended their ideals and who were not guilty of mass repressions and war crimes.

–Condemning the ideology of revolutionary terror.

–Recognizing the error of counting on foreign “ally” help in internal political struggle.

And the last thing. After Crimea’s return to its home port, people there proposed creating a Reconciliation Monument. This is an idea whose time has come, as they say. A visible and powerful symbol, established where the Civil War ended, will become the best indication that it is really over. A national reconciliation monument ought to be selected through a nationwide competition. Ministry of Culture and the Russian military-historical community have much experience in holding such competitions, it’s enough to recall the Monument to Heroes of the First World War on Poklonnaya Gora, and the Monument to Prince Vladimir in Moscow.

There is plenty of time between now and 2017.”

J.Hawk’s Comment: One has to wonder what prompted all this, other than the recent Ukraine-related crisis. I suspect that Medinskiy’s Donbass reference is not accidental, given that people from all manner of ideological persuasions (from Strelkov’s Whites to Mozgovoy’s Reds) have volunteered to fight for the Donbass, hoping to establish their own version of utopia there. These differences of political aims have unfortunately led to conflict among the various militias, a  phenomenon that’s especially visible in LPR. Medinskiy seems to be urging everyone not to forget what it is that they are defending, irrespective of ideology.

This is the second time Medinskiy had made a high-profile announcement in only a few weeks. The previous one concerned the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which he assessed (with Putin’s subsequent backing) as a measure necessitated by USSR’s security requirements. So Medinskiy appears to be a rather consequential figure entrusted with a very important task of crafting (or at least updating) Russia’s state ideology.

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