“United Russia”: five years for “falsifying history”
The “United Russia” party has drawn up a new version of the draft law on criminal liability for “rehabilitation of Nazism” and reviewing the results of the Second World War. According to Oleg Zhdanov from the State Patriotic Club of the ruling party, the draft law has taken in all the comments of the Cabinet of Ministers which rejected the first version of the law. The new draft law is expected to be tabled in the State Duma next week.
According to the explanatory note, it is proposed to add a new article to the Criminal Code. This would state that: “approval or denial of the crimes of Nazism against peace and security of humanity, as established by the verdict imposed at the Nuremberg Tribunal, made publicly, shall be punishable by a fine of up to 300 thousand rubles or deprivation of liberty for a period of up to three years.”
The same views, spread through the use of ones official position or the media, would be subject to a fine up to 500 thousand rubles or imprisonment for up to 5 years.
The authors of the draft law have prepared it as the 65th anniversary of Victory approaches.
Russian historians are divided in their attitude, with some believing that the law will only bring harm to the development of historical studies in Russia, while others say that the initiative will make it possible to obstruct the spread of Neo-Nazi ideas.
All, however, find the wording in the document contentious. As reported here, the first version of the draft law was tabled in parliament in May last year. The government supported the “United Russia” idea, but asked that certain formulations be clarified. The Cabinet of Ministers assessment said that the document needed “serious historical and legal expert assessment”.
According to the State Patriotic Club, one of the authors of the new draft, Irina Yarovaya, explains that the differences between the two versions lie in “more exact wording “approval or denial of the crimes of Nazism as established by the Nuremberg Tribunal”, instead of “distortion of the verdict of the Nuremberg Tribunal”
She is reported as saying that “Soviet soldiers were and will be soldier-liberators”.
The document envisages criminal punishment “for approval or denial of the crimes of Nazism, of Nazi criminals, calling the actions of the anti-Hitler coalition illegitimate”. The last part of this formulation bemuses Russian historians.
Historian Nikita Petrov, from Memorial: “It turns out that, according to the law proposed, [historians] should not doubt the legitimacy of any acts of the allies, from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to any operations involving the total bombing of German cites”.
“This is the subject of academic discussion and we know that they are continuing. What is the point of prohibiting discussion of any historical facts?”
Alexander Dyukov, Director of the Historical Memory Fund who on the whole supports the deputies’ initiative, believes that such formulations are the weak links in the draft law. While he supports the view that the actions of the anti-Hitler coalition and the USSR were legitimate, he believes that this position should be justified in academic discussion not through administrative means.
He points out that the document also fails to give an exact definition of “Nazi crimes”, and that the reference to the Nuremberg trials leaves scope for interpretation which could result in its affecting conscientious historians. Mr Dyukov however sees it as much better than the first version and believes Russia needs a law preventing propagandizing Nazism. He thinks it could help fight rightwing extremism, and says that Russia could go further, for example, preventing foreigners “rehabilitating Nazi accomplices” from entering the country, and blocking their economic activities on RF territory.
He does, however, find it surprising that the draft law envisages a fairly hefty sentence for individuals differing little from that for those using official position or the media. He believes that there needs to be differentiation between the views of individuals and situations where “denial of Nazi crimes turns into the policy of an organization, publication, and still more so, a State body”.
Historian and human rights defender, Nikita Petrov, sees no need for the draft law proposed by “United Russia” and believes it will cause enormous damage.
The State can in effect “put a spoke in the wheel of historians studying the Second World War.”.
“After all we know how laws work in our country, as they say, “from a broad point of view”. People could end up falling under the law who had no intention of rehabilitating the Nazis or those who abetted them, but were simply involved in studying historical truth.”
He stresses that in the academic world nobody questions the sentences passed at Nuremberg, and sees this initiative as the “latest propaganda campaign ahead of the Victory anniversary.”
“As we know, you can’t restrict thinking by means of a law, and you only criminalize this or that scholarly sphere of activity of historians.”Slightly abridged from the original at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/russian/russia/2010/03/100330_bill_against_rehabilitation_nazism.shtml