Kiasma-lehti | Kiasma Magazine
Kiasma-lehti 22 | Kiasma Magazine 22
No 22 Vol 7

The Rosy Past

Memories change with time. Discard some awkward episodes, add a pinch of romantic flavour and some good intentions, and you’ll create a flatteringly rosy past to share proudly with your grandchildren.

History works in the same way. ’Politically incorrect’ details are conveniently forgotten, ’appropriate’ facts are blown up out of all proportion. Every nation wakes up in the morning and starts mending and polishing its history, applying fresh makeup for the new day.

Theoretically, an individual should be able to make his personal choice at any given point in history. Yet in practice, under the Stalin or Hitler regimes, a person had to convince himself for his own safety that everything was being done right, that he was on the right side with the right people, amongst the ’good ones’. Today, the fear of admitting guilt is not the only reason we cannot face our past, or make amends. Another reason is that deep down, many people still believe they did the right thing ’under the circum-stances’.

History condenses with time. Eventually, most of the facts that seem so important today will be left out. A few lines of dry information – that’s all that will be written on Russian 20th century history in children’s school books 500 years from now. There will be no right and wrong, just ’objective process’.

Showing Tales on the Marshes in a loop suits this fairytale very well. The story of the ’Good People’ is as old as the history of humankind, and indeed has neither beginning nor end. While making this film I wanted to get a simplistic view of recent Russian history, without trying to reason, to justify or explain it. To see it with the innocent eyes of an alien, or a child. It turns out that this innocent film evokes quite different reactions in people; some take it as a joke, others say it’s very true, and some are deeply insulted. My objective was none of these. Anyway, I’m glad if it makes somebody smile; history should sometimes be funny.

Mikhail Jeleznikov
Artist, St Petersburg

Extract from the Faster than History catalogue.