Russia: Dangerous law against “falsification of history” fails


The fight against falsification of history has suffered a defeat with the law on criminal liability for denial of the victory in 1945 not receiving parliament’s support.

The newspaper Vedomosti reports that parliament has given a negative conclusion to the draft law on amendments to the Criminal Code which envisaged criminal prosecution for denial of the Soviet victory in the Great Patriotic War [the war between the USSR and Nazi Germany].  The draft law was tabled in spring of 2009 by members of the ruling “United Russia” party including the Speaker of the State Duma Boris Gryzlov. The idea had already been voiced publicly in February. As we reported at the time, on 25 February Russia’s Prosecutor General stated that denying the role of the Soviet people in winning the Great Patriotic War could become a criminal offence. The agency RBK reports his statement:

“I consider that denial of the victory of the Soviet people is at very least a violation of moral norms. In certain circumstances criminal liability could be introduced.”

The day before a similar initiative was put forward by the Minister for Emergencies and Co-Chair of the High Council of “United Russia”, Sergei Shoigu. He said:

“I believe that our parliament must pass a law which would envisage criminal liability for denying the victory of the USSR in the Great Patriotic War and then presidents of some countries, denying this, would not be able to come to our country with impunity. And the mayors of some cities would think before they dismantled monuments”. He was speaking before war veterans in the Museum Panorama “Battle of Stalingrad” in Volgograd (which was called Stalingrad in 1942 – translator).

He noted that some countries had introduced laws making denial of the Holocaust a criminal offence. “The time has come on a legal basis to defend our history, our country”, he added.  In May 2009 the legislative committee of the State Duma recommended that the law be passed, however there had been no movement since that time.

The draft law proposed introducing a new article of the Criminal Code allowing for imprisonment of between three and five years for distortion of the Nuremberg sentence, as well as for declaring criminal the actions of countries of the anti-Hitler coalition and public praising of the Nazis.

The conclusion signed by Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Sobianin states that the above proposal regarding the “declaration as criminal of actions of the countries in the anti-Hitler coalition” arouses doubts since it is not clear what actions this applies to, and also what historical period is meant. They also disliked the wording “distortion of the Nuremberg sentence” since it is not clear “how you can distort a sentence which has come into force”. Finally, the law does not define the body competent to carry out the investigation into such denials, and “could bring undesirable external political consequences”.

The first deputy leader of the United Russia faction, Valery Ryazansky, admits that the draft law has been stopped by the government because of a number of legal objections, but says that the idea itself is supported by the leadership of the country which believes it necessary to pass such a law.

Vedomosti, however, suggests that their sources, supposedly close to the State Duma’s leadership, say that it is most likely that the bill will not go any further.  The same sources say that the draft law bears no relation to the presidential commission on countering the falsification of history.

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