Courtesy Reuters

Revising the History of Russian Colonialism

AN offensive against historical science is in full swing in the Soviet Union, with the Communist Party scoring victory after victory in "the battle against objectivism and cosmopolitanism." One of the most important tasks recently imposed on Soviet historians is to rehabilitate the old Russian colonial policy. The fact that they have at the same time had to intensify their "unmasking" of the colonial policy of the Western nations has made their assignment all the more complicated.

In this connection so-called "East-researcher historians" are receiving particular attention. Their field of study is broader than that of the "Orientalist" in other countries, for it embraces not only the Near and Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Far East, but also the "Soviet East," i.e. the Caucasus and Soviet Central Asia. In recent years, it has often been the subject of leading articles in the principal Soviet historical journal, Voprosy Istorii, published by the Historical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. The April 1949 issue, for example, carried an article, "Urgent Tasks of Soviet East-researcher Historians," which asserted:

It is necessary to explode completely the myth, which right-wing Socialists are at present particularly active in propagating, that conditions have been and are being created within the framework of the British or French or American colonial system for the gradual transition to independent national development of the backward peoples which are to be "civilized." It must be shown that British rule brought India not culture and civilization, but poverty, hunger and a crushing death-rate. The fact that tendencies toward idealizing British rule in India can be found even in certain works of progressive historians, who by no means belong to the imperialist camp, makes this all the more essential. Thus, for example, not even the valuable work of Palme Dutt, India Today, is free of occasional errors of this type.

Matters have taken a drastic turn indeed when even Palme Dutt, one of the most orthodox British Communists

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