Revising History, Part 1

A Georgian holds a portrait of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin during a rally marking Stalin's 132nd birthday anniversary in his home town of Gori, 80 kms (50 miles) west of capital Tbilisi, Georgia, Dec. 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

A Georgian holds a portrait of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin during a rally marking Stalin's 132nd birthday anniversary in his home town of Gori, 80 kms (50 miles) west of capital Tbilisi, Georgia, Dec. 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

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What happens when historians go searching for new evidence about the nation's past? It can change the way its citizens think about their country as well as their identity. And it can upset both citizens and those who govern them. In Part 1 of this 2-part series, historian Robert Johnson looks at what happens when Russians begin to examine Stalin's vaunted role as a leader during World War II. Part 2 - about the Vietnam War - airs on Thursday, May 2.


Robert Johnson is a professor of history at the University of Toronto.


Participants in the program: (in order of appearance)

Ronald Suny, Director of the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies; and Charles Tilly Collegiate Professor of Social and Political History at the University of Michigan; author of The Revenge of the Past: Nationalism, Revolution, and the Collapse of the Soviet Union.

Elizabeth Wood, Professor of History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Col. David Glantz, U.S. Army (retired); author, Zhukov's Greatest Defeat: The Red Army's Epic Disaster in Operation Mars, 1942; and Colossus Reborn: The Red Army at War; editor, Journal of Slavic Military Studies.

Sergei Podbolotov, Lecturer in Russian history, St. Petersburg Orthodox Spiritual Academy and the European University of St. Peterburg.

Nina Tumarkin, Professor of History, Wellesley College; author of The Living and the Dead: The Rise and Fall of the Cult of World War II in Russia.

Andrey Pavlov, Professor of History, School of International Relations, St. Petersburg State University.

Jana Kuzhel, Student of Economics, European University of St. Petersburg.

Nikita Lomagin, Professor of History, European University of St. Petersburg.

Leonid Mlechin, Russian journalist and TV personality,  permanent panelist on the TV show Time's Courtroom.

Sergei Kurginian, Russian political scientist, social activist, theater director; permanent panelist on the TV show Time's Courtroom.

Nikolai Svanidze, Russian TV producer and host of numerous programs on Russian and Soviet History, notably Time's Courtroom.

Margaret Macmillan, Professor of History and Warden of St. Antony's College, Oxford University; author of The Uses and Abuses of History.


The television program Time's Courtroom (Суд времени) was broadcast nightly on Russian Channel 5, and subsequently Channel 1, in 2010-2011. Produced by Nikolai Svanidze, who also served as host/moderator, it examined a series of controversial moments in Russian and Soviet History. In all, 48 episodes - some extending over as many as five nights - were shown. All are available (in Russian) from internet sources: Details can be found at here.


A successor show, Historical Process (Исторический процесс) was launched in 2011, following a similar format and featuring Nikolai Svanidze and Sergei Kurginian as discussants.


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