Monday, March 02, 2009

Procurator-General Yuri Chaika's Bold New Initiative: Criminalizing Great Patriotic War Denial!

The Motherland is Calling! [Родина-мать зовёт!/
Rodina Mat Zovyot!] This monumental statue on Mamayev Hill in Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) commemorates the Battle of Stalingrad.

Robert Amsterdam (2-27-09) writes:

Russia wants a Holocaust denial law, "just like the other kids". But it doesn't really want that, so it's had to come up with a surrogate. Let's see... The Holocaust is treated with great solemnity as a horrible human tragedy that happened, as the Russians say, "during the time of the Second world war". What have the Russians got that's similar? Yes! The Great Patriotic War (1941-1945). Most of our readers are probably aware that while the rest of Europe was busy fighting World War II "during the time of the Second world war", the Soviet Union was engaged in a separate war of its own against Germano-fascist invaders. And the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) is absolutely sacred in all of the former Soviet Union. So, it fits the bill perfectly: solemn, horrible human tragedy, right time in history - but uniquely Russian, unlike the Holocaust.

So Procurator-General of the Russian Federation Yuri Chaika, instead of doing his job and finding the assassins of journalists and lawyers or fighting corruption or prosecuting skinheads who attack foreigners or soldiers who rape and murder Chechens, has come out with a bold new initiative to declare denial of the Soviet people's "achievements" in the victory in the Great Patriotic War a criminal offense. But is GPW denial really such a big problem in Russia? Anyone who's seen the child honor guards standing in front of eternal flames in even small Russian cities, or the old men and women walking around the streets with chests bedecked in medals, or the massive fireworks displays all over the country on May 9, or the myriad hero-tanks on pedestals in villages, or the massive memorial complexes such as Mamayev Kurgan in Volgograd (Stalingrad) or the Piskarevskoye Cemetery in St. Petersburg (Leningrad) or the relatively recently created Poklonnaya Hill complex in Moscow would find it hard to believe that there's any problem at all. Everybody in Russia seems to regard the Great Patriotic War as the greatest event in their country's history, so is there really any need to criminalize something that doesn't even exist? Wouldn't it make a lot more sense if Russia were to criminalize Gulag denial instead? [See the full text]

Brian Whitmore of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (3-2-09) comments:

Well, it appears that the liberal Yabloko party had that very idea. On Saturday, Yabloko approved a statement, "The Disavowal of Bolshevism and Stalinism As a Pre-condition for the Modernization of Russia in the 21st Century," which is posted on the party's website.

The statement called for the criminalization of "attempts to justify mass persecutions and the annihilation of millions of innocent people" as well as the "denial of mass persecutions and of actions to eradicate social and ethnic groups." It also called for the banning of organizations that are -- or call themselves -- successors of the Soviet Communist Party or the KGB and its predecessors.

The leader of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Lyudmila Alekseyeva, participated in the drafting of the document, as did members of the human rights organization Memorial. Alekseyeva said such a statement was "long overdue for the democratic movement." [Full text]

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