Wednesday

12th Aug 2020

Letter

Storm in a teacup

The "RIA Novosti and Stalin" story unfolded according to the classical "storm in a teacup" scenario. Initially just a story like many others, it grew out of a journalist's mistake, poor knowledge of the subject, or bias and adherence to stereotypes. Unfortunately, it caused an uproar and damage to the reputation of RIA Novosti.

In essence, EUobserver wrote that somebody told somebody else about Russia's efforts to "improve the image of Joseph Stalin," as if anyone can improve the image of historical personas. It further claimed that RIA Novosti "is trying to recruit one of the top 10 PR firms in Brussels to put the project in play."

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  • "The Novosti Press Agency (APN), the Soviet forerunner of RIA Novosti, was never accused of defending Stalin during its 40-year history" (Photo: kremlin.ru)

Also, according to EUobserver, RIA Novosti plans to hold a high-level conference about the Arctic in Moscow in late November, which "is likely to be followed up by similar conferences in the Middle East and the Far East next year."

But this is just another 'eurorumour'. The journalist asked RIA Novosti to comment on it, but the agency's spokesman discarded the idea of improving Stalin's image and said about the Middle East project that the agency would soon resume the publication of the Arabic-language newspaper Anba Mosku (The Moscow News) in 16 countries.

The journalist was also told of the agency's plans to host a major conference on the Arctic within the framework of the Valdai international discussion club of experts, which was first held six years ago with the assistance of RIA Novosti. As for plans in the Far East, EUobserver was probably referring to the upcoming launch of the RIA Novosti economic newswire in the Chinese language.

This is not a sensation but a routine work of RIA Novosti as a large news agency. This is exactly what the journalist did not hear – or refused to hear from RIA Novosti. Instead, he opted for fusing all these elements in such a way as to create a sensation.

Even the Novosti Press Agency (APN), the Soviet forerunner of RIA Novosti, was never accused of defending Stalin during its 40-year history. Moreover, Solomon Lozovsky, the founder of Sovinformburo, which was later reorganised into APN, was one of Stalin's victims. He was executed in 1952. The average age of journalists at RIA Novosti today is 28, and for most of them Stalinism is a shocking, but very old page in Russia's history.

On a personal level, I can add that the great-grandmother of my elder son spent 10 years in the Gulag labour camps after her father was shot in 1937, the peak of Stalin's persecution campaign. My generation, aged around 40, grew up during Gorbachev's perestroika. The brightest events of my student years – I studied in Europe – were the fall of the Berlin Wall, the execution of Romanian dictator Ceausescu, and the dissolution of the socialist bloc countries in Eastern Europe.

The article alleging a link between Stalin and our news agency has made it obvious that RIA Novosti must do its best to promote a professional dialogue with foreign historians on complicated historical issues that concern modern Russia. The vacuum must be filled. Such professional dialogue will eventually lead to a public discussion that should provide assessments and lead to practical actions.

Svetlana Mironyuk is Editor-in-Chief of RIA Novosti

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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