Putin launches bid to rehabilitate Soviet legacy

2 min

Moscow (AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered the creation of a national foundation to "popularise" history, seen as the Kremlin's latest bid to rehabilitate the Soviet legacy.

The new Fatherland History Foundation comes as Russian historians who criticise the role of Stalin are often accused of disrespect for war veterans and can even be prosecuted under a 2014 law.

The Soviet role in WWII, particularly its secret pact with Nazi Germany to partition eastern Europe, remains a thorny issue, and Moscow rejects all attempts to portray the Red Army as anything other than Europe's liberator.

The foundation will "popularise Russian history in our country and abroad, safeguarding the historical heritage and traditions of the peoples of Russia", according to Putin's decree.

Putin appointed Russian parliamentary speaker Sergei Naryshkin to head the fund and named experts from universities and museums to serve on its advisory board.

The foundation will not be the first organisation of its kind created since Putin's return to the Kremlin in 2012.

Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, a close Putin ally, chairs Russia's Military History Society, which has a similar mission and exerts a powerful influence over cultural life.

The new foundation is the latest step in the "rehabilitation of the Soviet past" said Yury Tsurganov, a lecturer in history at Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow.

"When a new ideology is being created, it has an impact on the humanities, including history," he said.

Naryshkin, the head of the new foundation, is known for battling what he calls "falsification" of history, particularly on Soviet post-war control of Eastern Europe and the legacy of World War II.

On Tuesday he accused Ukraine of "abusing history" by outlawing Communist monuments and criticised as "cynical and immoral" Poland's plan to remove hundreds of Soviet war memorials.

Last month, the culture minister berated the longtime director of the Russian State Archive Sergei Mironenko as "immoral" for denouncing as an invention a Soviet myth about guardsmen who heroically defended Moscow in 1941.

Mironenko subsequently quit his post to take a less senior position.