Last week  Russian historian Mikhail Suprun was arrested by Russia’s FSB security service for – as Truthdig put it – daring to study Russian history; more specifically, Stalin’s gulags.  Suprun’s  archives were confiscated; a police official who provided access to archive documents about gulag victims was also arrested.  Suprun faces up to four years in jail if convicted.
“Suprun had been researching Germans sent to Russia’s Arctic gulags. A professor of history at Arkhangelsk’s Pomorskiy university, his study included German prisoners of war captured by the Red Army as well as Russian-speaking ethnic Germans, many from southern Russia, deported by Stalin. Both groups ended up in Arkhangelsk camps.”

The ongoing effort to rehabilitate Stalin has been widely noted; read Jonathan Brent in the Chronicle of Higher Ed for an in-depth analysis.  The arrest of Suprun, the raid on Human Rights Center Memorial last year, and the increasing suppression of access to Russian archives, again show the profound linkage of archival control to political power.

Last month in a Global Post article,  Miriam Elder described the Gulag Museum as “little-visited,” and quoted Oleg Kalmykov, the museum’s archivist: “If we don’t exhibit this material, then the view that Stalin was a good manager and great war hero will win.”
ARTICLE 19 has released a legal analysis and statement (reported here on IFEX) urging Russian lawmakers to block passage of proposed legislation that, in their words: “is part of a drive by the Government to impose an official view of the country’s controversial history. ARTICLE 19 believes that this law infringes on the right to seek historical truth and fails to meet international standards for free expression.”

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