I’d missed this till today:
A Russian historian investigating the fate of Germans imprisoned in the Soviet Union during the second world war has been arrested, in the latest apparent clampdown on historical 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 apartment 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.
Suprun had been researching Germans sent to Russia’s Arctic gulags. A professor of history at Arkhangelsk’s Pomorskiy university, his study included 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 Arkhangelsk camps.
“I had been planning to write two books. I need another two or three years before I can finish them,” Suprun told the Guardian today. 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 Kremlin attempts 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.
Today the historian and writer Orlando Figes described Suprun’s arrest as unprecedented, and part of a “Putinite campaign against freedom of historical research and expression”. Figes, professor of history at Birkbeck college, London University, 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.”