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The Russian History Wars (Plus ça change, plus c’est un peu pareil)

by Judith Armstrong

[Dr. Armstrong’s paper, originally presented at the recent conference of the ANZSA Study Group in Melbourne, is published as an occasional essay, a rubric new to this journal. It is the intention of the editors from time to time to vary the usual fare of academic articles with conributions of a more discursive and informal nature on topics of general interest to scholars in the field.]

The ‘History Wars’ in Australia have been fought for some years now between holders of the ‘bleeding heart’ and the ‘black armband’ versions of this country’s past, using computers for weapons and the open page as the field of battle. In this ongoing conflict the principal issue has been the encounters between white settlers and the long-established indigenous inhabitants. Early on, particularly savage shots were exchanged over the application and interpretation of the words ‘terra nullius’, a term thought to have first been brought into general usage during the seventeenth century in order to designate an empty land, a no man’s land, or a land unclaimed by any recognised sovereign.

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