July 01, 2015

Weaponizing History

a documentary film broadcast in late May on the state-owned Rossiya 1 channel recounted a series of events in a certain Eastern European country as follows. As NATO forces held military exercises near this country – historically within Moscow’s sphere of influence – an opposition group began to destabilize the domestic situation. They pretended to be a political party, but in fact were Hitler sympathizers who looked a lot like hired mercenaries and had stockpiled weapons to stage an armed revolt in the capital of this peaceful country, an ally of Russia.

Sound familiar? No, it was not a documentary about Ukraine and the Maidan events of 2013-14. Instead, it was a film about the Warsaw Pact and the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Well, not actually an invasion, the film claimed, using Soviet propaganda footage and memories of a former Soviet sergeant who was part of the invading army, but a necessary step to prevent a NATO-backed mutiny of Nazi youth in Prague, something that would have destabilized the entire Eastern bloc. The Czechs were so happy to see arriving Soviet tanks, the film averred, that they gave commanding officers a feast and the soldiers a bus full of gifts.

Such a program would have been inconceivable just a few years ago, when President Vladimir Putin declared that Russia bears moral responsibility for the 1968 invasion. And it is yet another example of how history is being rewritten here with astonishing speed.

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