Antony Beevor: why did Ukraine ban my book?

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After the Ukraine government condemned his book Stalingrad, Antony Beevor reflects on governments’ desire to alter the past and warns of the dangers of censorship

According to an old Spanish proverb, “history is a common meadow in which everyone can make hay”. It has also long been a battleground for the perpetuation of nationalist myths and political attempts to reshape the past. In recent decades there have been encouraging developments, with many more international history conferences and foreign academics recruited by universities. All of this has helped to reduce the tendency of countries to view the past uniquely from their own patriotic perspectives. At the same time governments of all shades still long to impose their versions of the past through education, pressure on the media and if necessary outright censorship and even legislation.

Motives vary. In France, attempts by the former president Nicolas Sarkozy to criminalise denial of the Armenian genocide were strongly suspected to have been aimed at attracting the votes of the large Armenian community. Meanwhile, Holocaust denial laws in Germany and Austria in 2000 were no doubt brought in with the best intentions, yet the conclusion of the Irving-Lipstadt case in Britain – in which historian David Irving sued US academic Deborah Lipstadt for branding him a Holocaust denier – triumphantly proved that open debate, if necessary in court, is a far better way of nailing the lies of extremists. Irving’s short term in jail in Austria in 2006 simply encouraged him to play the political martyr.

Related: Stalingrad author Anthony Beevor speaks out over Ukraine book ban

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Source: russia
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