OSA | Visions after the Fall: Program

Visions after the Fall: Museums, Archives and Cinema in Reshaping Popular Perceptions of the Socialist Past

Vsevolod Bashkuev: A Never-ending Story: Politics, Primary Sources, and Reconstruction of Historical Justice in Contemporary Relations Between Russia and the Baltic States

Since the restoration of independence in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in 1990 historians in these countries have been working hard to reconstruct the true history of the Soviet period and fully assess its after-effects. Plentiful primary sources from declassified KGB and Communist Party archives gave a chance to shine a spotlight on various aspects of life under the Soviets. As a rule, most Baltic researchers actively publishing in the 1990s concentrated on the numerous crimes of the regime, such as political persecution, mass deportation, surpression of religion and traditional culture, etc. They continued a trend that had started among emigre Baltic historians in the 1940s of writing a martyrology of the Baltic nations, presenting the "years of dependence" as continuous genocide. This standpoint, further developed and polished by a number of modern Baltic scholars, has since then been effectively used as a political token in reshaping the relationships with post-Communist Russia.
Unlike the Baltics, Russia's reconsideration of its own past took a much more complicated form prone to changes of the political climate in the country. A wave of publications exposing the crimes of the regime did not result in any commonly accepted interpretation of the Communist period. Contrastingly, half-hearted declassification of the KGB and party archives, unsystematized and selective publication of primary sources and huge fluctuations of historical analysis led to the formation of revisionist pseudo-patriotic trends which are currently being transformed into a standpoint. In this atmosphere of secrecy and revisionism, when a small archival segment opened to researchers in the 1990s is being closed down again, the only reaction to Baltic demands for historical justice is aggressive distrust. Lack of mutual understanding in reassessing the common past leads to the deepening of a gap separating Russia and the Baltic nations.
Meanwhile, it is only the tip of the iceberg that has been uncovered since the early 1990s. Most valuable primary sources are still buried in the regional archives in Russia and some other CIS states where the Balts endured deportation or imprisonment. The problem of Baltic forced labor and contemporary diasporas has not yet been exposed in full. In fact, little is known about it either in the Baltic states or in Russia, due to inaccessibility of most sources. And without exposure and careful scrutiny of these vast materials it is impossible to produce any fully veritable picture of the after-effects of Soviet rule in the Baltics and, in the final analysis, reach understanding.
This presentation is an attempt to illustrate the current state of the problem from within. Using previous research experience in the field and acquaintance with various primary sources I will try to analyze how political climate affects a study of terror and forced migrations in the Baltics, what primary sources have often been overlooked by students in the field and what is still left untouched. In the presentation various primary sources such as declassified archival documents, visual materials such as photos and documentary films, oral history and expert opinion will be described and characterized.

Vsevolod Bashkuev received his MA in History from CEU and wrote his doctoral dissertation on "Lithuanian Special Settlers in Buryat-Mongolia, 1948-1958" at the Irkutsk State University. He is currently teaching at the Department of Foreign Languages of Buryat State University and is a research fellow at the Institute of Mongolian, Buddhist, and Tibetan Studies of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. His research interests include history of forced migrations, Eurasian geopolitics, problems of borderlands, and history of diasporas. He has been actively involved in workshops and conferences on these subjects both as organizer and participant. His current research focuses on contemporary relations of Russia and neighboring states of East and Central Asia.

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Date: June 9, Friday

Time: 3.30-4 pm



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