May 01, 2016

Dangerous History

It was supposed to be a regular PhD defense, of interest only to a handful of historians. Instead, Kirill Alexandrov’s dissertation became the talk of the town and sparked fear and fury in academic circles.

Alexandrov’s dissertation topic is “Generals and Officers in the Armed Group Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia 1943-1945.” It is a detailed look at the individuals and motives behind the short-lived anti-Stalin military group created by Nazi Germany under the command of Andrei Vlasov, a talented Soviet general who turned traitor after his capture in 1942. After the war ended, he was convicted of treason by a Soviet tribunal and hanged.

The customary small-print public announcement of the March dissertation defense drew unprecedented crowds to the Russian Academy of Sciences’ History Institute in St. Petersburg. The local prosecutor’s office was asked by “concerned citizens” to review the presentation for extremism, and a local lawmaker’s staff appealed to the FSB, saying that the defense should not be held at all. “I just don’t want any dissertations like this,” explained Anatoly Artyukh, an aide to lawmaker Valery Milonov.

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