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State Of Denial

President Dmitry Medvedev lays flowers at a monument honoring victims of Stalin purges
Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika raised a few eyebrows last week when he called for a law making denial of the Soviet Union's victory in World War II a crime.

I believe that denying the victory of the Soviet people is, at the very least, a violation of the norms of ethics and morals. In certain circumstances, it may result in criminal liability.

Russia is clearly mimicking European laws making Holocaust denial a crime. But is denial of the Soviet victory in World War II really a problem worthy of criminal prosecution?

In an excellent post over at Robert Amsterdam's blog, James had this to say:

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 Cemetary 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?

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."

-- Brian Whitmore

About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or


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