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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

This History Depends on Interpretation

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A group of Germans in the Lower Saxony state legislature are trying to rescind the city of Braunschweig's 1932 appointment of Adolf Hitler to a minor civil service post, which allowed the Austrian-born Nazi leader to gain German citizenship and ultimately to become Chancellor. The authors of the initiative say it will help reduce the stigma associated with Lower Saxony, the legal successor to the Braunschweig government.

A group of Japanese people injured in the U.S. bombing of Tokyo on March 10, 1945, are suing their own government for compensation, arguing that the present government should answer for the sins of the former regime for starting the Pacific War in 1941 and failing to surrender in 1944 when Japan had clearly already lost the war.

Isabel Peron, the wife of the former Argentine President Juan Peron and herself vice president of Argentina from 1974 to 1976 was arrested in Spain in January, following investigations by the Argentine government into the liquidation of regime opponents during her time in power.

A Polish law will come into effect in March calling for the examination of files of between 400,000 to 700,000 people for cooperating with security organs during the communist era.

Some people just don't seem willing to let the past die. Many societies clearly prefer finding symbolic ways to settle old accounts and establish clear positions in relation to the "questionable" pages in their history to ensure that no questions remain.

The words "questionable" and "ambiguous" are, conversely, very popular when it comes to talking about the past in Russia. Even Stalin is an ambiguous figure and city streets still bear the names of the authors of Soviet repression. What's more, the official position is that the accounts of the past have already been settled. Last fall, the country's chief military prosecutor refused to rehabilitate Polish military officers executed in 1940 in Katyn by order of the Politburo. Courts have refused to hear an appeal of the decision by the human rights organization Memorial.

Indifference and forgetfulness are dangerous. According to a survey by the Bashkirova and Company polling agency, 46.6 percent of Russians surveyed view Stalin's role in Russian history negatively, while 38.4 percent view his contributions in a positive light. A different study, by the FOM agency, revealed the opposite figures -- 29 percent against and 47 percent in favor. It is no accident that, according to another study from Bashkirova and Partners, 41.8 percent of those surveyed said that the establishment of a new cult of personality is a possibility in Russia, 44.8 percent said they don't believe this is the case, and 13.4 percent found the questions too difficult to answer.

This comment appeared as an editorial in Vedomosti.