Data are never objective and free from bias or ideological convictions, just like historical sources. Data convey conflicts, hegemonies, and colonialisms. In his latest article, our author Peter Haslinger argues for bringing the epistemic baggage of data and data structures into the focus of digital source criticism.
To say that the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24th represents a “turning point in time” oversimplifies the disruption it has caused in global politics.1 Even while it is still impossible to predict the long-term effects of Russia's war against Ukraine, the stunning and pervasive erosion of confidence in relations with Russia will have a significant impact. Historical research has been affected as well. More than before, it will have to take into consideration the fact that all knowledge production is “situational, biased, and shaped by culture.”2  Likewise, there will be immediate consequences for digital source criticism.3 

What is too often forgotten, though, is that our digital helpers are full of ‘theory’ and ‘judgement’ already. As with any methodology, they rely on sets of assumptions, models, and strategies. Theory is already at work on the most basic level when it comes to defining units of analysis, algorithms, and visualisation procedures.4 

Data are never objective and free from bias or ideological convictions, just like historical sources. Data convey conflicts, hegemonies, and colonialisms. They reinforce cognitive biases and subaltern positions, and can sometimes intensify effects of silencing, both in regard to victims and processes of opposition or even defiance. Recognizing the epistemic baggage in data and data structures is thus a key part of carrying out digitally informed source criticism. One requires appropriate methods and tools not only to critically reflect on these inherited legacies and burdens, but also to bring our new awareness of them back into the research cycle and, in doing so, to dynamize it.
For instance, we must find ways to organize research data in a way that takes gender, diversity, and culture into consideration. Another example is the adoption of the CARE principles to enable shared data ownership with the global South. Furthermore, any management of research data needs to be contextualized to bring the aforementioned issues to light. In German-language research, a transformation of sorts has already begun. However, it is still not a standard practice in historical studies as a whole.
1. “Memory Warriors”: De-professionalization, Disentanglement and Supremacy
Even before the current military hostilities began, historical research had become the focus of major historical-political conflicts. The significance of this for Ukraine was confirmed in a text written by Vladimir Putin. More than six months prior to the invasion of Ukraine, on July 12th 2021, the text was published on the president's website.5 Analyzing it, Andreas Kappeler concluded that "Putin's way of thinking, which blends Soviet patriotism, imperial and ethnic nationalism, and a blood-and-soil pathos," has shaped the Russian president's view of Ukraine as "anti-Russia."6 According to Jan Behrends, for Putin, the very existence of a Ukrainian state is an assault on Russia. "He sees Ukraine not as a sovereign nation-state, but as part of an anti-Russia-project of the West."7
Vladimir Putin has repeatedly legitimized his regime's “power vertical” by invoking historical events.8 In Susan Stuart's view, "history is a safe haven for the Russian leadership where they can always return to promote a positive image of the country and inspire national pride.” Accordingly, diversity of opinion emerges as synonymous with sinister social division. "The assertion that there must be a uniform notion of not only the past but also the present and even the future is only a step away.”9
As the demise of the organization Memorial has demonstrated, such a strategy also has long-lasting effects on digital history. One encounters a power-affirmative historical narrative in Russia today that aims to promote an aggressive variant of narcissistic patriotism. As a result, the grand narrative of history is compelled to omit many of the less glamorous or subversive events of the past. When this can no longer be done plausibly, external forces and their internal subordinates often emerge in the official historical landscape. They act as perpetrators and accomplices of alleged undesirable trends with purportedly crippling effects on the development of the nation's strength. Not only narratives but also fundamental ideas and the underlying structure of knowledge are impacted.
Putin's regime today actively pursues a disentanglement and de-professionalization of history as its guiding principle. It purges any form of multiperspectivity that lacks the potential to legitimize the given power vertical. Moreover, it seeks to firmly establish a nationalist worldview in Russian society and the Russian diaspora. It thus dissociates from commonly accepted epistemologies, methods, and notions. Its historical narrative aims to rule society by controlling the past.
According to a model created by Michael Bernhard and Jan Kubik in 2014, which was based on experiences from Poland and Hungary, the mindset of the key actors in this system can be described as that of "memory warriors." They believe that historical truth is objectively ascertainable and that its content is essentially non-negotiable. Such reasoning implies a confrontation between those who uphold a certain truth on the one hand and those who support “falsehood” as well as opportunists who are indifferent to the “correct” history on the other. The "memory warriors" argue that in order for the community to successfully handle the challenges of the present and future, it must be founded on the "true" historical narrative. According to them, one needs to persuade people to adopt this “true” perspective of the past and to discredit or even obliterate alternative, purportedly “distorted” views of the past.10
2. The New Digitality of Major Conflicts in the Politics of History and Memory
Historically, this constellation of factors is hardly new. A comparison with the 1930s is almost unavoidable. However, today's main conflicts in the politics of history and memory are being played out to a large extent in the digital realms, resulting in new environments for the "circulation of memories and their conflictive constellation."11 
Against this backdrop and in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the question arises of whether historiography is methodologically and otherwise sufficiently up to date to address a full host of new challenges. Specifically, in the event of a potential conflict, regimes with a hegemonic aspiration to control the interpretation of the past, such as those in present-day Russia or China, are preparing a preventive and comprehensive set of instruments for subversive or openly destructive policy regarding digital history. Through the global digital network, such a policy can already be implemented on a transnational level. One example of how the corresponding mobilization and misinformation are carried out is the campaign around the website "Bioweapons Laboratory in Ukraine".12  In this campaign, the desired effect was achieved on social media by utilizing a range of "evidence" for which it was not possible to promptly (enough) address concerns about the credibility of each proof.
In comparison, the falsification of historical sources is still rare. However, forgery attempts might not remain uncommon. Quite the opposite. One must be prepared for manipulations of every type at a time when history is taking on a new contentious value amid massive digital conflicts. These could range from the smuggling of fake sources into already-existing databases and digital collections to any kind of digital vandalism, as well as topic, person, or institution-focused defamation and mobilization campaigns. The technological tools required for such activities have long been available.
It is worth recalling Andreas Fickers' argument that the concept of an original is no longer valid given the low cost of duplicating a digital artifact. However, "the question of its authenticity – and especially its integrity" becomes all the more central.13 Concerns regarding freedom from manipulation or transparency of modifications in terms of data integrity are already affecting how we use sources in our day-to-day work. Moreover, new generations of historians as well as the general public will increasingly be approaching history indirectly, through the use of digital communication environments and channels.

In the field of representation, technological convergence and remediation processes over the last decades have created an amalgamated media space, with the internet in its centre, where all previous ‘technologies of memory’ converge. Narratives, symbols, metaphors, written texts, visual and audio documents, have all ‘migrated‘ into the digital sphere.14 

Accordingly, one witnesses a new digital preoccupation with history on the Internet that all too frequently lacks a professional, critically reflective approach. One might wonder how closely the self-image of those who spread “alternative”, that is, historically erroneous narratives about the past, resembles the already mentioned pattern of memory warriors. Undoubtedly, a problem arises when aggressive national agendas and intentionally manufactured memories merge.
In light of the abundance of historical information available online, as early as 2010, Wolfgang Schmale warned of the "blurring of the boundaries between historical knowledge and its representation on the one hand, and [...] falsification of history with the prospect of widespread reception and impact on the other."15 This kind of propagation of historical narratives through digital means plays to emotions and preconceptions rather than highlighting the ambiguity, contradictions, opposing viewpoints, and multiple perspectives of historical developments. By reducing complexity, this form of telling history follows the marketing dynamics of emotionalization and “attention-based economy” that we are familiar with from social media. Historicity turns into an instrumental and illustrative medium that prioritizes valuing one's own content over any interest in knowledge. The carefully considered, consensus-based search for the truth is being replaced by allegedly authentic content. Priority is given to legitimizing non-scientific beliefs and convictions by setting them to go viral, giving them particularly dynamic visibility via social media, bypassing the ‘traditional’ gatekeepers of knowledge.
Such digital historical narratives result in often alarming research and ethical degradation of forms of presentation and the crystallization, even reiteration (as per Berger and Luckmann16) of fake pasts. They advertise themselves as alternative narratives relative to what they consider mainstream and see themselves as fresh, original perspectives. They deliberately dismiss key historical-methodological principles in order to appeal to an anti-systemic sentiment among susceptible like-minded peers. To this end, Daniela Pscheida spoke of the fatal illusion of a "noble amateur" who conscientiously contributes to historical knowledge.17
"Social media have the potential to be complementary tools for broadening and deepening knowledge and, in turn, for diversifying the basis on which people in a democracy can make their decisions. [...]. Web 2.0, in particular, reveals two misconceptions that point to the roles of Internet users in a democracy. On the one hand, online we are first and foremost consumers. Website providers treat us as customers, as market participants, as people to whom certain products are to be sold. [...] Connected to this is the second aspect of Internet ambivalence. Namely, online opportunities such as social networks or microblog services functionally serve, first and foremost, social integration and networking with more or less like-minded people [...]."18 
The latter, in fact, also proved to be a blessing for the opposition movement in Belarus, with platforms such as Telegram (dubbed "the most important medium in the Ukrainian war"19 ) decisively expanding the range of what can be said, thought, and done. Historical scholarship is therefore encouraged to examine the ambiguity of digital systems of communication, knowledge, and action beyond historical analogies. For example, suggesting the transition to the age of book printing as a counterpart to the digital transformation does not address the core of our engagement with history and the past today. Understanding the structure, history, and context of the digital transformation is essential. If historical scholarship is to remain capable of interacting with society, the professional treatment of historical content cannot be considered separately from the narrative structures, hyper-textuality, and storytelling of social media.
3. Emergency Archiving in Ukraine as a Route to Historical Digital Empowerment
 The overall trend described above clearly demonstrates that source criticism without digital components will no longer be able to deliver the same level of quality and results-oriented approach to historical research in the future. As Putin’s system is fixated on the imperial history of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, the war against Ukraine may grant historical research and its method of digital source criticism a key role in making historical and cultural heritage factual, turning it into a legal asset and documenting it as a future to be rebuilt rather than a past that has been destroyed. 
"In the early days of the war, like so many others, I merely followed the news and felt miserable. It was [...] a music librarian at Tufts University who was the first person to act [...] Even though I was on the opposite side of the world, I liked the idea of actually doing something to help, but I was worried that even a week's delay might be too long. [...] On March 1, SUCHO [Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online, P. H.] was launched. We created the website, wrote the web archiving tutorials, set up Slack, and created volunteer sign-up forms. [...] Many of our volunteers come from cultural heritage backgrounds, but we also have members in our group who just want to help. They range in age from retirees who want to use their leisure time in a meaningful way to elementary school kids who have just started learning about web archiving and the war. Since institutions dealing with cultural heritage follow protocols and procedures that make them work considerably more slowly than would have been necessary in this situation, it was essential that SUCHO be volunteer-driven and not formally affiliated with any organization."20
History and the historical sources of the future are currently acquiring new meanings, which will require historians to broaden their scope of work to include areas like digital forensics or the legal retention of evidence. The list of things to be addressed includes dealing with the problematic origin of artifacts as well as data and underlying epistemologies and knowledge systems. As David Berry and Anders Fagerjord put it, the aim is "to avoid the danger of treating the computer like a 'truth machine' or allowing the technical issues of the research infrastructures and projects to drive the kinds of questions that digital humanities is allowed to ask."21
The new and profoundly activist type of digital documentation directly responds to Gerben Zaagsma's call for "increased attention to methodological and epistemological considerations" in order to oppose a "tendency toward technological determinism."22 This also relates to the handling of dynamic relationships between text, image, and sound, the integration of commercial services, and a new cultural critique of how historical scholarship has been algorithmized. New legal and ethical aspects of the digital world are also included. An increased awareness of different approaches to history needs to act as a guiding principle, in addition to privacy and individual rights.
In terms of research on Ukraine in Germany, we need to reconceptualize our research efforts and their position in East European studies. Furthermore, the Ukraine subject’s nature must be clearly reflected in data structures and digital knowledge hierarchies. On that account, the current situation requires us to decolonize both our data culture and our narratives. Using the fields of digital history and source criticism, we have the opportunity to strengthen the perception of Ukraine as an actor in the development of history and to highlight the problematic complexity of data structures. Making our data dynamic in light of recent historical events in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus is crucial in order to highlight the threads that bind this region to European history.
4. Conclusion

In an early draft of my undergraduate thesis I wrote that a source ‘spoke for itself.’ My advisor crossed that out and wrote in the margin something like ‘sources almost never speak for themselves, you have to explicate what the source means for your argument and justify your interpretation.’ I imagine this sort of experience is how many individuals learn the ropes of historical research and writing. The task of the historian is to interpret sources.23 

Since February 24th, historians, archivists, and employees of cultural heritage institutions24  have demonstrated how digital networking in an existential crisis opens up new perspectives and functions for digital historical scholarship. The documentation of the destruction and theft of cultural goods through the systematic archiving of Telegram chats and mobile phone records makes the new possibilities apparent. The archived data captures crimes against historical, cultural, and architectural assets for the benefit of future generations and alters the profile and structure of historical studies in a future-oriented way.
Translation: Stefan Trajković-Filipović
Proofreading: William Connor