By Anastasiya Pershkina
A dictatorship has been replaced by a military regime. A political scandal broke out in Chile after the attitude to the period of General Augusto Pinochet’s rule was changed in the schoolbooks. Now, under the influence of the right-of- centre government, children are taught that Chile was ruled by a “military regime” from 1973 till 1990.
Augusto Pinochet was one of the organizers of a military coup-d’etat in Chile on the 11th of September 1973. That well-planned action with the use of artillery, air force and infantry still remains one of the largest internal military operations. The presidential palace was attacked by missiles. It took the plotters a few hours to occupy all state institutions, overthrow Salvador Allende’s government and shoot officers who refused to join the coup. Pinochet became a dictator. Over 40,000 people suffered over 17 years of his rule, about 3,000 died or were missing. Most human-rights organizations accept this understanding of Pinochet’s policy but the right-of-centre government does not. At the suggestion of the government, the word “dictatorship” in history schoolbooks was replaced by “military regime”. What is a military regime if not a dictatorship? – asks Deputy Director of the Institute of Latin America at the Russian Academy of Sciences Boris Martynov:
“A military regime is nothing but a dictatorship because it is not a democracy and rulers come to power by way of a coup d’etat. It was like this in Chile where the legitimate president was killed.”
Pinochet was president of Chile and commander-in-chief of the armed forces from December 1973 till March 1990. Court martials, secret centres of torture and political concentration camps were established all over the country at that time. The Santiago stadium where opponents to the regime were executed still remains a public place of sorrow. Pinochet’s economic reforms are quite a different matter. Some experts believe that Pinochet saved the country from a deep economic crisis, civil war and the disintegration of the state. We wonder if that was the only way to salvation. Probably not.
Now, 20 years later, the events in Chile raise even more questions and generate a great number of versions. Their aim, however, is not finding the truth, which historians have no doubts about, but politics. Changing “dictatorship” to “military regime” is mere speculation, Boris Martynov says:
“The internal political situation in Chile is far from perfect at present, there are a lot of angry student groups, so some representatives of the elite are ready to play around with contradictions and draw away people’s attention. Pinochet’s name can be used in some narrow selfish interests.”
The political scandal in Chile is an example of clashes of interests which Boris Martynov mentions. It is a conspicuous but not the only example, says Marina Vasilieva, the president of the Russian Committee for Cooperation with Latin American Countries:
“Revision of historical events has never brought good results. We cannot change history. If we keep re-writing it we will forget our origins. I don’t know why Chileans are doing it. Unfortunately, Chile is not the only country with a trend to re-write history. Many historiographers in other Latin American countries are doing it too.”
It is worth mentioning that this trend exists in other countries outside Latin America. In 2003 the Ukrainian parliament approved a legislative act defining the famine in the USSR in the 1930s as genocide of the Ukrainian people carried out by Stalin’s regime. Ukrainian politicians must have forgotten that among the victims of that famine there were Russians, Kazakhs and a lot of other nationalities that lived on the territory of the USSR. What is more surprising is that 26 countries, Chile among them, have recognized this version of the Soviet Union’s tragedy. In this context, restyling their own history by Latin American politicians does not look unexpected and shocking any more – they have done it before.