As if the memorial to the Victims of Communism wasn’t bad enough. Communists in Ukraine and Russia have decided to enter the battle over memory. In response to the Victims of Communism groundbreaking last week, Leonid Grach from the Ukrainian Communist Party has proposed “establishing a museum commemorating victims of U.S. imperialism.” “American imperialism, from the extermination of native Americans to war crimes in Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq,” Grach added, “has caused substantially more deaths than the ‘orange forces,’ along with their masters over the ocean, blame Communism for.” Grach also asserted that the the Victims of Communism Memorial would certainly please the U.S.’s “vassal” Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko, whose government has sought to have the 1932-33 Ukrainian Famine declared a genocide.
Grach’s hasn’t been the only response to the Victims of Communism Memorial. Russian Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov called President Bush “a symbol of state terror” and the memorial “attempt to distract the attention of world opinion from the bloody evils of American imperialism as a whole.” That wasn’t all. Zyuganov also claimed former President George H. W. Bush was responsible for the shock therapy economic policies of the 1990s, which according to Zyuganov, “10 million people, 9 million of them ethnic Russians.”
Nothing like burnt out Communists to push the limits of absurdity. I’m sure all the massacred Native Americans will rest well knowing that they have Grach and Zyuganov fighting to preserve their memory.
Thanks to Wally Shedd for alerting me of the article.
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By Sean — 6 years ago
My article, “The Shattered Self of Komsomol Civil War Memoirs,” has come out in the Fall 2012 issues of the Slavic Review. You can download it here. Here are the opening paragraphs:
Komsomol literature in the 1920s repeatedly evoked the memory of the civil war as a means to inspire young communists to sacrifice themselves for the construction of socialism. In the words of Alfred Kurella, “The heroic times of the civil war presently take on a great role in satisfying youth’s romantic proclivities.” The war, he explained, bound the Komsomol around a “single principle,” for it recalled a time when all “surrendered to one great purpose” and “individual identity was significant only as part of a large family. Everybody conformed to the principle that bestowed life or death.” Like other European nations, which used memories of World War I in the construction of national unity, the Komsomol recalled the civil war in order to unite youth around a common heroic memory. The civil war functioned as a “meaningful and sacred event,” providing “ever-present saints and martyrs, places of worship and a heritage to emulate.”
The desire to codify the civil war as a foundational event began with the creation of the Komsomol’s historical commission in December 1920: Istmol, or the Commission for the Study of the History of the Russian Youth Movement. Throughout the 1920s, Istmol collected documents and organized evenings of reminiscence and exhibitions to commemorate the participation in the civil war by members of the Komsomol. Istmol also solicited civil war veterans to write memoirs that would bring revolutionary heroism to life, adding color and depth to the official documents. Their publications varied in content and style, and recollections were often published with very few revisions. The result was a heterogeneous body of literature lacking a dominant narrative for civil war memory. The recollections constituted the main literary form of civil war commemoration since the obituaries, tributes to fallen Komsomol leaders, and articles highlighting the enthusiasm of and service provided by members of the Komsomol that were published during the war.
Komsomol civil war memoirs display an ambivalence toward the civil war. This contrasts with our broader understanding of the war’s memory as a heroic period in which communists sacrificed themselves wholeheartedly for the revolution. Alongside a narrative that framed the war as a “heroic epoch,” veterans voiced confusion, personal loss, hardship, physical suffering, and fear in the face of death. It is precisely because of these elements that Komsomol civil war narratives can be seen as part of the important phenomenon of war remembrance at the turn of the century. These narratives, like many of their European counterparts, are ultimately personal stories that attempt to come to terms with the personal transformations that war brought upon young soldiers and to render the strangeness of these experiences understandable to both the readers and the soldiers themselves.Post Views: 874
By Sean — 10 years ago
The Ossetian War is now three months past, but the battle over the war’s narrative continues. There has been a turn around in the Western media over the last few weeks. Whereas Russia was lambasted during the war as the evil villain and poor little Georgia the innocent victim, mostly thanks the Georgia’s use of Beligian PR firms, now Georgia is now blamed for a reckless attack, and even war crimes. To suggest anything of the sort three months ago would have been considered madness and laughed off as Putinist apologia.
The reevaluation of the war culminated today with the publication of a 76 page report by Amnesty International. The report, which declares a pox on both Russia and Georgia, details how Georgia carried out “indiscriminate attacks” on civilians and with Russia committed “serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.”
As a whole the Amnesty reports doesn’t reveal any new information but rather corroborates what was already known with more testimony. The one part I was hoping to see more information on was the role of South Ossetian militias in the conflict. The report only devotes 3 of its 76 pages to this topic. From this it is still hard to evaluate the extent of Ossetian revenge violence against their Georgian neighbors.
Sadly, all of these journalistic correctives are now hopelessly academic. The war is over. The propaganda served its purpose at the moment when it was most needed. Journalists may be asking questions like: Why did the West ignore the truth about the war in Georgia? and running to pump out corrective articles by “talking to civilians” and getting the “facts” from the ground to salvage their credibility, but the real truth was that those “civilian accounts” and “facts” were always there. Not to toot my own horn, but I was able to see them. I didn’t even have to go to South Ossetia or Georgia to do so. All I did, like so many others who now feel vindicated, simply read the Russian press, (though I did fall victim to Russia’s claims of 2,000 civilian deaths. The revised number is a 159.) or the independent media. Granted, there is something to the “fog of war” and how that might obscure truth. Nevertheless, much of the Western media were either incompetent, or, because they are always willing to play their role in the war machine, simply just chose to ignore them.Post Views: 628
By Sean — 11 years ago
There is a specter haunting Russia–the specter of colored revolution. Or so says Vladimir Putin. Clearly having no qualms about beating a dead horse, Putin told a Moscow campaign rally that shadowy Westerners are supporting oppositionists with hopes of returning Russia to the dark days of the 1990s. Here some quotes the Guardian has supplied:
“Unfortunately there are those people in our country who still slink through foreign embassies … who count on the support of foreign funds and governments but not the support of their own people.”
“There are those confronting us, who do not want us to carry out our plans because they have … a different view of Russia. They need a weak and feeble state. They need a disorganized and disorientated society … so that they can carry out their dirty tricks behind its back.”
“They are going to take to the streets. They have learned from western experts and have received some training in neighboring [former Soviet] republics. Now they are going to start provocations here.”
On the one hand, I get the hyperbolic pontificating. Much of electoral politics is about conjuring a bogeyman in hopes to scare the public into voting for you. And inciting public panic over orange clad revolutionaries, “islamo-fascists,” immigrants, homosexuals etc works well to mobilize voters. Demonizing the Other and then linking your opposition to it is a proven political tactic.
On the other hand, I can’t help chuckle at the Putin and United Russia’s excesses. First they ensured that the OSCE pull out of monitoring the elections. Limiting the number of observers, stalling visas, and placing restrictions on observers made the OSCE cancel their plans. Now Russian Electoral Commission chief Vladimir Churov claims that OSCE’s decision was their own, or more specifically the decision of the United States, which he says controls its Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, or ODIHR. Again more bogeymen.
Plus Churov was quick to note that while the OSCE bowed out, other election monitoring organizations didn’t. Russia’s Duma elections will be “observed” by 300 monitors from Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Commonwealth of Independent States. That’s about 25 observers per Russian time zone.
All of this points to the Russian propensity to overstate their efforts. The truth of the matter is that Russia can be flooded with election monitors and United Russia would still win. Even if the United Russia parliamentary margin will be less that desired, “Plan Putin” still maintains hegemony over Russian politics. No opposition party in real contention seeks to radically change course. Even the Communists are acclimated themselves to Putin’s Russia.
Sure, there may be something to Kremlin’s claim that they don’t need their elections verified by anyone and that sovereignty means not succumbing to outside meddling. But what all of this rhetorical and bureaucratic maneuvering really says to me is that Russia still hasn’t learned the democratic game. First, the game requires using money and advertising not so much to pummel your opponent, but control the boundaries of political discourse. The former is well done, the latter not so much. Here they might want to sneak a peak at the American Republican Party’s play book. They are masters at it. Second, the game requires the adept use of the law to mask corruption with good legal arguments. Lawyers have a knack for making something clearly illegal appear perfectly within the boundaries of the law. Postmodern politics have made armies of lawyers much more effective than detachments of police. Lastly, the game requires challenging anyone who criticizes you to do something about it. Yes, one aspect of sovereignty is about preventing meddling. But real sovereignty is when you have the confidence and fortitude to just ignore whatever critical salvos tossed at you.
So in the end, Russia should have let the OSCE come and monitor. And when the OSCE would make the inevitable cries of foul, Russia should just shrug its shoulders and promise to better next time. That’s what any other real democracy would do.Post Views: 750