News of the Day: 12 December 2020

RFE/RL: Russia has begun questioning witnesses to the monumental Battle of Stalingrad as part of a criminal investigation into what authorities term the “genocide” of Soviet citizens by invading Nazi forces in World War II. Officials have cast a series of investigations into events that occurred in wartime more than 75 years ago as part of an effort to establish facts and pursue justice. But they have also indicated that the probes are part of a continuing push by President Vladimir Putin’s government to enshrine a positive narrative of the country’s history, and counter what it claims are efforts abroad to equate the Soviet Union’s wartime role with that of Nazi Germany. News of the summonses sent to Stalingrad witnesses was first reported by the independent newspaper Novaya gazeta. It cited the grandson of a 94-year-old man who was identified only as Vasily N. and lives in Volgograd, as the city of Stalingrad is now known, as saying that the family had received a letter on November 28 instructing Vasily N. to appear for questioning on December 1. “Surely they don’t have to summon him to be interrogated by an investigator if they want to question him, a [former] camp inmate, about Stalingrad?” said the grandson, Denis Chistyakov. “I think this work could be done by historians and archivists.” Chistyakov said he didn’t show the letter to his grandfather, who he said had been taken prisoner by German forces at age 15 or 16 and sent to a labor camp in eastern Germany. When he contacted the investigator, he said, he was told that such summonses are being sent out across Russia.

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