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Go Back   The Soviet Military Awards Page Forum > Soviet Awards Forums > Union Of Soviet Socialist Republics > Soviet Reference And Research Materials > The Researchers' Corner

The Researchers' Corner Research; the mysterious process which slowly sweeps away the passage of time to reveal the unique history within every award and unit.

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Old 06-16-2003, 07:45 AM   #1
otlichnik
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Soviet Military History and the Forum

Discussing History

Several threads on this forum have recently gone off their original topic and into the realm of Soviet military history. There is nothing really wrong with this. However, we should ensure that such discussions stay generally relevant to the issue of Soviet Awards. Though, since most awards were given by the military (or a state representative on their behalf) and for military actions, a discussion of wider military history issues is in most cases definitely related to the main purpose of this forum.

However, there have recently been many accusations flying around about these topics. Some people feel that old myths and errors are being perpetuated, others feel that legitimate views are being stifled. Some argue that people write about dumb ideas, while others say that elitists are taking over and bashing down others. There are truths to all of these views. In order to foster further interesting, educational and constructive debate and discussion while hopefully limiting bad feelings, insults and wholly unsuitable digressions I am submitting some views here about history in general and its possible role on this forum.

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Old 06-16-2003, 07:47 AM   #2
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Some Key Ground Rules.

1) There is no excuse ever for insults or rude behaviour! This can be cause for temporary or permanent banning from the forum (see forum rules). This is an excellent forum which thankfully does not degenerate into the insults and useless flame wars that many forums are full of. Lets all try to keep it that way.

2) Don’t be hypersensitive. While rule one (above) is important and breaches of it will be treated very seriously we must ensure that we are really dealing with insults and rude behaviour. Sometimes we are only dealing with garbled messages and confusion and we jump to the wrong conclusion. Please try to be careful and re-read your message before you post them. But, also re-read others’ messages before you respond to them. If you have a genuine complaint either try to deal with it constructively with the original author or notify a forum moderator.

3) This is an international forum. However, it is conducted in English. This means that there are many participants whose native language is not English. Anyone who has tried to write in another language knows how hard it can be. I have the greatest admiration for all of the members who write in their non-native language. Let’s (native and non-native English speaker alike) cut them some slack and ask for clarification if required.

4) Lets keep things focussed on views and ideas, not individuals. If we have a problem with a post then remember that it is likely a problem with the idea and not the individual behind it. “If I attack your idea I am not attacking you!” This can often be much harder to accept than one would think but it is the key to maintaining good discussion. It is violations of this concept, stepping over the line to insult a person directly, that can lead to the most serious consequences.

5) Contributors come from a variety of knowledge and experience levels and interest areas. This forum was never meant to be an “expert’s only” discussion. It is meant for all interested parties. Also, there is no such thing as an “expert”. I may know a lot about some things. But there are a whole lot more things that I know very little or nothing about. Questions and views from novices deserve the same respect as from more experienced persons. However ...

6) “Don’t re-invent the wheel!” There is some onus on a novice collector, or even a more experienced person who joins the forum, to search and see what has been discussed before. Many, many answers are already there. The forum moderators, just like any experienced collector, get tired of being asked (and especially having to answer) the same questions over and over. There is no Soviet Awards FAQ (it would be too big) but do a search of the forum before you ask. Then, if the answer is not there or is not clear feel free to ask. But be aware that you will receive a much better reaction if you tell us that you heavy searched the forum and read x and y but still want to know z.
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Old 06-16-2003, 07:50 AM   #3
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The Study of History

Some of the views expressed in this section may be more controversial then the rules outlined above. These are my views about the study of history.

1) History is in reality a strict discipline with its own rules and methodology. It is not about sprouting random bits of information or “factual tidbits” or simply stating your opinion as the truth. Anyone can sit down and write about the past, however, that is not history. History is the STUDY of the past - and the word study implies hard work and careful thought. This applies as much to the history of Soviet awards as to the history of the Great Patriotic War.

2) This does NOT mean that you need an formal education or degree to be able to study or discuss history. Many people make excellent contributions to historical study without ever attending university and many more get enjoyment from reading about history. However, a history course, and especially a university level course is one of the few places where you can learn how to study and write history. Anyone can learn about what happened in the past very easily, but it is much harder to learn how to study history well. If you want to learn how to drive a car well you take a driver’s education course. If you want to learn how to study history well you take a university history course.

Once again, I must state that this is not to say that any idea from someone who has not been to university is any less valuable. Not at all!!! It is simply that if you want to learn more about studying history and the discipline of history you should consider a university course or a good university historiography (the study of history) textbook.

3) History is not simple. There are no simple one cause, one line answers or explanations for things. Sometimes it may be convenient to summarize things with a short conclusion, however, this should really be a short-hand for a larger and deeper explanation.

4) The questions of history can not all be satisfactorily explained. However, many answers are possible. The idea that “there are no facts” or “there can be no real answers” is simply not true. The earth is round and not flat - end of story. We make an error if we assume that we have the end-all explanation, but we also make an error if we assume that there is no answer.

5) All theories are not equal. Some are backed up with more research, better facts, more thorough analysis, etc. Sometimes, another, better, theory comes along to challenge the contending theory. However, none of this should ever be allowed to disparage the people behind the theories. Having a better theory does not make anyone a better person - they may have read more widely or spent more time studying a subject, they may have read more up to date information, etc. but to conclude that one theory is better than another does not make the person behind that theory any better.
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Old 06-16-2003, 07:54 AM   #4
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A History Primer

The key aspects of historical study are: research, analysis, documentation, and argumentation.

RESEARCH

History is based on research. Anything not based on careful research is simply not history. It may be fiction, rumour, popular culture, wishful thinking, etc. It may even, by chance, be correct. But it is not history.

Research can simply involve reading secondary sources - other people’s books and articles, or it can be primary source research. Primary source research - going directly to the documents, archives, files, records, etc. is often better, but is much, much more time consuming work. No one can do it for too many subject areas.

For example, if you want to learn about Soviet uniforms, you can study the uniforms. You can study uniform photos. You can study books about uniforms. You can even study the official regulations about uniforms. Really, you need to do all these things if you want to learn as much about uniforms as possible.

ANALYSIS

This is the most important and most neglected area of historical study. For most subjects you will not find simple straight answers. Instead you will find a variety of answers, theories and information some of which conflict each other. There will also be missing “holes”. To really understand the issue you need to analyse the sources and the information they give you. You need to ask where did this book get its information? Who wrote it? Why? What biases do they have? What could they really know at the time? (Can a man who was an infantryman in the army tell you about much of use about the strategic decisions of his country in war? No. Can he tell you much about his uniform, daily life, fighting experience? Yes.) How out of date is the information? How is their memory? How many sources, records, interviews, etc. does the idea come from? (In a war where millions fought on each side you can find testimony evidence of any experience or belief. The experiences of an individual, in isolation, can only define their reality. They can not be used to make sweeping generalizations.) What are the conflicting ideas and where to they come from? And many more questions. You need to check for the internal consistency and the reliability of a source.

To go back to the example of Soviet uniforms. There are many books out there. As you do more reading and research you will discover that many are full of errors. If a book is full of errors that you know about how much do you trust the other parts of the book? What if it has many errors you don’t know about? You will also find that many books were written by people who never read or saw the official regulations. On the other hand, genuine photos show many uniforms being worn which break the official regulations. It is a lot of work to determine (or at least give a good guess as to) what should have happened, what did happen and why.

DOCUMENTATION

To make up your own mind all you need to do is the research and analysis. However, to convince someone else of your ideas you need document you sources. This demonstrates to the reader where you got your information and allows them to look it up themselves. It also demonstrates how solid you argument is. Even the smartest person in the world would only come up with bad ideas if they have only examined bad, put of date, biassed, etc. sources.

ARGUMENTATION

This is the skill of intelligently making your case. You give you theory or thesis, back it up with some relevant and documented facts and voila. People may dispute the facts or criticise the sources or even question why you drew the conclusion or theory you did for those facts but that is what historical debate is like. However, any theory that is given with no facts or justification, or with rudeness or sarcasm is not likely to be taken seriously by anyone or even responded too.


I hope that these comments can help foster some more discussion of Soviet military history. (Although, I would strongly urge that we only post comments on this thread about the study of history and forum rules and ettiquette concerning it and post any actual discussion of Soviet military history under new threads.)

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