In USSR and Eastern Europe, the political change has dismantled all the past institutions, and razed to ground the established traditions and values. Attempts are being made to re-structure the whole society on liberal and enlightened bases. The discipline of history is also affected by this change and needs complete revision because, in the past, history was used by the successive governments to propagate their official policies and keep the people ignorant of the real facts. To mould the public opinion, the historical materials was minutely scrutinized, sifted and selected by the official historians. No information regarded injurious to the party and government was allowed to be printed.
Although the whole past history of Russia was revised and interpreted after revolution from the party’s point of view, the past was less tampered with than the current history. The people were allowed to know only slanted information. For example, Soviet history books justified the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1937 on the ground that, had the Soviets not made the pact, they would have been invaded by the Nazis with aid of the Western democracies. The Nazi-Soviet pact, the partition of Poland, and the annexation of the Baltic States were not referred to in the history books.
Russia lost 20 million people in second world war, but this figured was not published in USSR and the people remained ignorant of the tremendous scarifies they made in the war. Writing on World War II, they early phases were omitted and the description was started from 22 June 1941, when Russia was invaded by Germany.
The history books did not refer to what happened during the Stalin era, Soviet invasion of Hungary and Czechoslovakia were not mentioned, and if mentioned, only Soviet point of view was discussed.
The same process was followed in the Eastern European countries. History was used to justify the party’s actions and policies. For example, in Poland, history text books omitted Polish-Soviet war, Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, Soviet annexation of Eastern Poland, and the Warsaw uprising, Romania sided with the Nazis and 100,000 Romanian soldiers along with Germans in the battle of Stalingrad, but this fact was concealed because of the Romanian friendship with USSR. Besides these, there are number of facts, which were deleted, omitted, curtailed, or briefly mentioned without any comment.
The recent policy of Perestroika and glasnost transfuses new blood into the discipline of history. The USSR now accepted mistakes of concluding the pact of 1939, with Germany, of invading Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and sending her forces to Afghanistan. The whole era of Stalin is condemned and even the successors of Stalin are not spared. The admission of facts, and recognition of truth will encourage the historians to write the history with objectively. It will provide them an access to the materials which was till now beyond their reach. The historians are going to get rich and vast materials to rewrite and revise the history especially the history of World War- II and the current history.
It is a matter of great courage for any nation to accept its past mistakes. It gives liberty to historians to analyze the weakness and mistakes of the past regimes and help the policy-makers not to repeat them in future. People living in ignorance of their past can’t make progress in any field.