Shall we be a country with many histories?
Anybody who studies the history of the Soviet Union will be befuddled as to the correct history of the country. Each secretary general of the Communist Party decides the version of history published during his tenure (the bold entries are the incumbents’ version, the italicized entries are the revisions).
A) Joseph Stalin was the “Great Leader” during his term, who saved the Soviet Union from Nazi aggression.
Stalin was a bloodthirsty tyrant who decimated the Communist Party hierarchy and the Soviet military command. His actions caused the death of 27 million Soviet citizens in World War II.
B) Nikita Khrushchev was a World War II hero serving as party commissar in many fronts.
Khrushchev was an eccentric who, because of his “adventurism,” installed nuclear weapons in Cuba which nearly destroyed civilization.
C) Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, and Konstantin Chernenko (the gerontocracy) were the aged rulers of the USSR from 1964 to 1985. They saved international socialism under the “Brezhnev Doctrine” from capitalist aggression. (The USSR can use force to protect socialist countries from capitalist aggression).
The two-decade period governed by the gerontocracy was termed the “period of stagnation.” The Soviet economy was going downhill, the war in Afghanistan was very unpopular with too many casualties, and the Communist Party rule was in peril.
D) Mikhail Gorbachev initiated perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness); these reforms were designed to modernize the Soviet political economy. These reforms had the unintended consequence of ending the Cold War.
Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin caused the implosion of the Soviet Union. Putin termed this “the greatest political blunder of the 20th century.” By inference, Gorbachev and Yeltsin are incompetent to allow such thing to happen.
E) Vladimir Putin ended the rule of the “mafia economists” controlling the Russian economy under Yeltsin. He restored the status of Russia as a major power, which declined after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Putin did not explain how he could have saved the Soviet Union when it collapsed in 1991. At that time, four of the Republics—Russia, Belorussia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan—have nuclear weapons, thus the risk of a nuclear civil war.
It is expected that when Putin’s regime ends, there will be another amendment to Russian history. Such version will be very harsh if he fails in his Ukraine invasion.
Revisionism means historical facts remain but they are reinterpreted on the basis of new evidence discovered. This is common in military history. For example, after a major war, the first versions of history are written by the participants, who usually give their biased version of events. Later, historical revision becomes necessary to realign history with newly uncovered evidence.
As examples, in the early histories of World War II, the Battle of El Alamein in 1942 and the successful D-Day landings in Normandy in 1944 were mainly credited to the outstanding leadership of British Gen. Bernard Montgomery and US Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. However, the hosannas were diminished when the Bletchley Park code-breaking operation was revealed. As a result, Eisenhower and Montgomery were actually informed beforehand of German military strategy. Armed with such foreknowledge, any general except the dumbest ones would have beaten the Germans.
The later versions of these two battles present a different scenario: The reason the Germans lost are attributed to Allied superiority in materials and resources, overextension of German commitments in so many fronts, Hitler’s meddling in German military operations, etc.
Changing the facts of history, as was done in the Soviet Union, is fake history. If incoming president Ferdinand Marcos Jr. changes the facts of history, our country, like the Soviet Union, will have many histories. The claim that the Philippines’ martial law period was a “golden era” is fake history. The statistics during the last years of the Marcos Sr. regime are overwhelmingly negative. The only way to justify that it was a golden era will be to falsify statistics.
People can print their own version of history under freedom of the press, as long as no government funds are used. Things become messy when public funds are used, and worst, if fake history ends up in textbooks published by the Department of Education. At that point, we cross the threshold and become a country with many histories like the Soviet Union.
On the part of President-elect Marcos Jr., he can pursue a program of government contrary to everything that his father has done. He should stop cronyism, respect human rights, stop corruption, and, above all, pay his family’s back taxes. That is the best way to redeem his family’s name, no need to rewrite history.
Hermenegildo C. Cruz is a career ambassador and has a graduate degree in Sovietology. He served in the Soviet Union during the term of the reformist Mikhail Gorbachev, during which the faults of Soviet historiography under Communist Party rule was exposed.
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