MOSCOW: A Russian historian investigating the fate of Germans imprisoned in the Soviet Union during World War II has been arrested in an apparent clampdown on research into the Stalin era by the Russian authorities.Mikhail Suprun was detained last month by officers from Russia’s security services. They searched his flat and carried off his entire personal archive. He has now been charged with violating privacy laws and, if convicted, faces up to four years in jail.Professor Suprun had been carrying out research into Germans sent to Russia’s Arctic gulags. A historian at Pomorskiy University in Arkhangelsk, he was looking at German prisoners of war captured by the Red Army as well as Russian-speaking ethnic Germans, many from southern Russia, deported by Stalin. Both groups ended up in camps in Arkhangelsk.”I had been planning to write two books. I need another two or three years before I can finish them,” Professor Suprun said.The historian – who described his arrest as ”absurd” – said he had signed an agreement with local officials not to talk further about his case.But the arrest has provoked outrage in Germany and among leading historians. It comes amid attempts by the Kremlin to rehabilitate Stalin and to clamp down on independent historical research – with political repression during the Soviet era and victims of the gulag system now taboo topics.Orlando Figes, a writer and a professor of history at Birkbeck College, London University, described Mr Suprun’s arrest as unprecedented, and part of a ”Putinite campaign against freedom of historical research and expression”.He added: ”[It’s] potentially quite alarming, if it means that the regime intends to clamp down on the collection of personal data about the Stalin terror.”Russia’s FSB intelligence agency also arrested a police official who handed Professor Suprun material from the local Interior Ministry archive.It includes a list of 40,000 Germans deported to the Arkhangelsk region between 1945 and 1956. It details which camps they were sent to and whether they survived. The official, Colonel Alexander Dudaryev, is accused of abusing his position.”What we are seeing is the rebirth of control over history,” said Rauf Gabidullin, of the movement for human rights in Arkhangelsk.”The majority of Russians don’t have any idea of the scale of Stalin’s repression. Those in power are from the KGB. They don’t want people to know what their KGB predecessors were doing, or its huge scope.”The Second World War remains a source of tension between Russia and its post-Soviet neighbours. The Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, has repeatedly accused Ukraine, Poland and other eastern European countries of distorting history for political purposes and in May set up a new state commission to prevent what he called the ”falsification of history”.Allison Gill, the director of Human Rights Watch in Moscow, described the Suprun case as ”very troubling”.”It’s part of an attempt to provide a single narrative about what Russia was, and what it means today,” she said. ”It denies the full complexity of Russia’s history and the fact that individuals had vastly different experiences.”Guardian News & Media
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