With all the attention media (self) censorship in Russia is getting, it is easy to forget about a related practice: history censorship. Today the Moscow daily Kommersant reminded us that Putin’s ambition isn’t merely to control Russia’s present and future, but also its past. The ministry of culture, having denied funding to Alexandr Mindadze’s new film “Dear Hans, Dear Peter”, justified its step as follows:
“We have unanimously decided that, on the 70th anniversary of the victory over Germany, a film that does not conform to our ideas about the war shouldn’t be released. … This film may not express the view veterans of the Great Patriotic War expect. ”
I haven’t seen the screenplay, but according to Kommersant it tells the story of a German engineer who ended up in the Soviet Union in 1940. The film engages critically with some Russian war myths, which was apparently seen as reason enough to deny funding.
The incident shows that any non-heroic depiction of Russia’s past is unacceptable in Putin’s state. This isn’t just the President’s doing. Patriotism has been on the rise since the 1990s and prominent oppositionist Alexei Navalny, for all his virtues, is a worryingly xenophobic Nationalist. As long as the government encourages these sentiments instead of fighting them, Russia is on a dangerous trajectory.