"Vladimir Putin cracks down on historians and Ukraine invasion critics
New law would punish anyone who denigrates Russia’s second World War record
In response, a number of independent-minded Russian historians have joined together to form a kind of historical defence force. “I am worried for historians,” says Ivan Kurilla, a historian at Volgograd Statue University and a founding member of the Free History Society. But “this is dangerous for society as a whole.” The Free History Society—founded in February by a group of prominent Russian scholars, including the director of Russia’s state archives—calls on historians to protest Putinesque readings of history and to “resist the instrumentalization of historical science.”
Putin has long “made history the centre of his narrative,” argues Volgograd Statue University’s Kurilla. From his earlier days in office, Putin (a former KGB officer) sought to resurrect Soviet emblems like the old Soviet anthem. His unceasing appeal to history is broadly seen as a ploy to build national consensus in Russia: amongst people that, by Putin’s own estimation, display a “dire lack of spiritual ties.”
Some critics take solace in the fact that the new memory law will be difficult to enforce, and might be limited in impact. “It’s one thing to pass a law. It’s another thing to impose a narrative on a whole population.” But already, Kurilla worries that new generations of historians will be scared away—and will search for professional expertise in a “more distant past.”"