Friday, October 16, 2009

It gets worse

News comes from Russia that the historian Mikhail Suprun, whom I met years ago, when he was researching in Britain, was arrested because he has been researching into the fate of German prisoners who disappeared into Stalin's gulag during the war and whose fate has remained unknown.
Mikhail Suprun was detained last month by officers from Russia's security services. They searched his apartment and carried off his entire personal archive. He has now been charged with violating privacy laws and, if convicted, faces up to four years in jail.

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.
A police official who supplied the information has also been arrested. Historians in Russia who specialize in the twentieth century have experience ever greater pressure in the last few years as the government has tried to re-cover the truth about Stalin.

The subject of the Second World War is the most sensitive of all. The truth of what happened to the Soviet troops during and after it, to Vlasov's army, to the displaced persons remains unknown to most Russians. The truth about Soviet atrocities is not just unknown but viewed officially as a smear on the courage of the Red Army and the people of the country.

Curiously enough, while there is some acknowledgement of "errors" during the Soviet period (which resulted in millions of deaths and tens of millions of people in the gulag) one always hears the undoubted fact that it was not just Russians who carried many of those bad things out. When it comes to fighting the Germans or suffering under Nazi rule, it is only Russians who are mentioned. Thus, a historian cannot be allowed to investigate the fate of German nationals or ethnic Soviet Germans because that would smear the glorious Russian army. The fact that many of those ethnic Germans fought in the Red Army can easily be ignored. On the other hand, every time there is a non-Russian name in the list of, say, NKVD officers, that is gleefully pointed out.

Professor Suprun and his informant have fallen foul of this attempt of uniting nostalgia for Soviet "greatness" with Russian nationalism.


  1. It really bites me that Hitler is the devil and Stalin is a fine chap. I suspect this is down to the Labour and democrat parties covering up for their hero, I am not one bit suprised about this, there is an attempted new order rising and the great hero has to be clensed, I dont have a clue who will win this one though.

  2. The USSR never has returned all of its POWs, at least from Khalkin-Gol onward. During the Korean War, a distant cousin of mine appeared in a Chinese propaganda magazine. It clearly was him; he even was named in the photograph's caption. At the end of the war, he was not returned, and Beijing claimed they never heard of him. Eisenhower knew about the US prisoners the Chinese kept but chose not to make an issue of it to avoid staring a war. This same excuse led Nixon to likewise bury the facts about Americans kept by the victors.
    Hell, the Soviets even kept dozens of the Americans they "liberated" from Nazi POW camps.

  3. On a related theme: there is a fascinating book by Tim Tsouladis, called "The Forsaken" about American workers who went to the Soviet Union in the early thirties, hoping that life would be better in the land of the glorious proletariat. Some have survived to tell the tale, which is extremely harrowing.