In his introductory remarks, RISS Chairman L.P. Rechetnikov emphasized that the challenge before the project and this conference is to restore historical memory and, as a consequence, strengthen the unity of and consolidate the peoples of Russia, especially considering the complexity of the modern political situation. “Today a very significant emphasis is placed upon Victory Day – that is, of course, a great feat by our people, said L.P.Reshetnikov – But you can’t build a whole history on just one episode from the historical past, even a great victory. In Russia’s thousand-year history there have been many great and worthy events, each one of which has its own great importance. We strive to “clear” the First World War from the lies heaped upon it, albeit without excessive glorification. By reason of its significance, we wish for the Second Patriotic War of 1914-1917 to take its place among the other notable events our history”.
Professor Olga Yurievna Vasilievna, Deputy Chief of the Presidential Directorate for Public Projects, and A.V. Nazarov, Executive Director of the Russian Military Historical Society, addressed greetings to conference participants. Mr Nazarov communicated greetings from the President of the Russian Military Historical Society and Minister of Culture, V.R. Meditsinsky. In her speech Professor Vasilieva observed that “foreign historiography has done much to relegate to the back seat, to silence Russia’s role in the First World War”, noting that the “echoes of this [tendency] are evident today, one hundred years after the start of the war”.
The Conference heard presentations about the latest research with respect to:
– the political, military and economic situation in Russia during the war, and Russia’s contribution to the victory over the Central Powers
– the mythologisation and falsification of the events of the war, including the main myths of the war
– the war in the modem memory of Russia and other countries, and trends in the coverage of various of its aspects.
Speakers called for the restoration of the term, which was originally used to describe the conflict and accurately characterizes the war Russia joined in 1914: the Second Patriotic War. That term takes into account not only political and economic aspects, but also the spiritual dimension. The original term was perhaps deliberately obliterated despite the fact the war was as much for the liberation of the country as the Patriotic War of 1812 and the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.
Speakers refuted common myths about the war, including: the inevitability of the February and October 1917 Revolutions, Russia’s continual and colossal defeats incomparable with those of the enemy, and Russia’s casualties. Little known chapters of the Second Patriotic War were also highlighter, including the action of Armenian volunteers on the Caucasian Front. Of particular interest was I.V.Ladigina’s presentation about the efforts of the Novonikolaevsky Military Society’s work to restore the memory of the deeds of soldiers from Siberian infantry regiments on Polish territory.
RISS has released a compendium of the reports and articles presented at this Conference and an earlier conference held in 2013. The compendium is entitled “On the Eve of the Great War: Russia and the World”.
In summing up the Conference, L.P. Rechetnikov noted that in launching the project RISS seeks “not only to give its view of the First World War, but to restore the nation’s historical memory… and oppose those who would restrict the entire history of our country to 80 years of the 20th century”.