On March 21, it became public knowledge that Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, had declassified documents related to the criminal case against Alexander Kolchak. Kolchak led the White Army movement that attempted to regain control of Russia from the Bolshevik Red Army during the Russian Civil War of 1917 – 1923. Access to the documents declassified by the FSB remains limited: viewing them is still prohibited. Kolchak was executed by firing squad in 1920 after being convicted of war crimes, and in 1999, a Russian court declined to rehabilitate him. Rehabilitation is a legal practice typically used to exonerate the victims of Stalinist and post-Stalinist repressions, often after those victims have died. The fact that Kolchak was not accorded even that level of respect speaks to the controversy his name still inspires: in 2017, a memorial plaque mounted on the admiral’s former home in St. Petersburg was taken down just one year after its construction. At the same time, Kolchak has become the subject of various books and films, and he remains one of the most popular historical figures of the Civil War. Meduza asked history professor Andrey Ganin, a leading scholar at the Institute for Slavic Studies in the Russian Academy of Sciences, to explain contemporary attitudes toward the figure of Alexander Kolchak.

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