History is now such a sensitive subject in Russia that education officials have disrupted a prestigious competition for high school students, cautioning that doing original research and writing about the Soviet past threatens to turn children into “extremists.”
The annual competition, titled “People in History: 20th Century Russia,” is sponsored by Memorial, a civil rights organization that strives to shed light on Soviet-era totalitarian excesses. The group enjoyed broad popularity in Russia in the 1990s for its efforts to document the devastation wrought by Stalinism on Soviet citizens. Over the past decade, however, Russian leader Vladimir Putin has taken a dim view of Memorial’s efforts to promote a comprehensive account of the past. Accordingly, the organization’s international wing was branded in 2016 as a “foreign agent.”
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Madeline Roache is a London-based freelance journalist focusing on human rights conditions in the former Soviet Union. She recently completed an MA in Russian politics at University College London.