war crimes in Ukraine

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Memorial to a monster

Yevhen Zakharov
An article about attempts by Ukrainian communists to glorify Stalin and about the crimes of the Soviet communist regime

The media report that in Zaporizhya on 5 May the communists are to open a monument to Stalin on the territory adjacent to the Zaporizhya Regional Committee [obkom] of the Communist Party. For more than two months the well-known photo of Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill at the Yalta Conference has been posted in several places in the centre of Sevastopol. Sevastopol is the next city where a monument to Stalin is to be erected. The Dnipropetrovsk communists have also announced similar plans, while on 28 April in Luhansk billboards appeared with Stalin’s image. Communists are threatening to put up advertising posts with images of Stalin in Odessa and other Ukrainian cities for 9 May. According to the head of the Odessa Communist Party obkom, Evgeny Tsarkov, Victory and the name of Stalin are inextricably linked. “If not for people like Stalin there would have been no Victory”.

In my view, it is simply blasphemous to speak of any positive role played by Stalin in the Second World War.  It was due to his dictatorial butcher-like policy that the country faced huge human losses, far more than those of the Allies and Germany. “We simply didn’t know how to fight. We inundated the enemy with our blood, our dead bodies”, the eminent writer and War veteran Viktor Astavyev wrote with bitterness.

Erecting a monument to Stalin is about the same as if neo-Nazis wanted to erect a monument to Hitler in Germany or Austria.

Such a monument is an outrage and affront to the tens of millions of his victims and their relatives. Ukrainians understand that. It is no accident that a public opinion survey has shown that a majority of Ukrainians – 56.7% - are against such a monument.

And yet our political establishment in their mass would seem to be in the minority. A mere 141 Verkhovna Rada Deputies supported an appeal to the President stating that it was unacceptable to erect the monument to Stalin in Zaporizhya. The Deputy Prime Minister on Humanitarian Issues, Volodomyr Semynozhenko said that “we will not suppress civic initiatives”. The President firstly stressed that it was not a monument, but a bust, then that the issue of whether it should be erected needed to be determined at a city referendum. And only the Minister of Justice Oleksandr Lavrynovych clearly stated that it was unacceptable to erect the monument.  “All tyrants who have brought grief to people should be left in history as a lesson to posterity, not placed on a pedestal”. He, however, was not heard.

At the same time I can see no legal grounds for prohibiting the monument. The court ruling issued by the Kyiv Court of Appeal on 13 January which found Stalin, Molotov and others guilty of the crime of genocide in relation to Holodomor 1932-1933 was only a preliminary court hearing into a criminal case and does not therefore give grounds for a legally significant classification of the crimes of Stalin and the other six accused. There has been no other court ruling about the criminal nature of Stalin’s actions and those of the communist regime. International agreements to which Ukraine is a party contain no overt bans.

Nonetheless the attitude in Europe to Stalin and communism is somewhat different from that towards Hitler and Nazism which can easily be seen in numerous resolutions of the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [PACE], the Committee of Ministers of PACE, OSCE. Of particular relevance to Ukraine are Items 5 and 6 of the PACE Resolution No. 1481 (2006):

“5. The fall of totalitarian communist regimes in central and eastern Europe has not been followed in all cases by an international investigation of the crimes committed by them. Moreover, the authors of these crimes have not been brought to trial by the international community, as was the case with the horrible crimes committed by National Socialism (Nazism).

6. Consequently, public awareness of crimes committed by totalitarian communist regimes is very poor. Communist parties are legal and active in some countries, even if in some cases they have not distanced themselves from the crimes committed by totalitarian communist regimes in the past.

If the Party of the Regions is seriously speaking of European integration as a priority and of their wish to unite Ukraine, then they must speak out decisively against any immortalizing of Stalin and convince their coalition partners of this. Such immortalizing of Stalin will only further divide Ukraine and will run entirely counter to the idea of European integration (how in general can that be in line with the idea of a city referendum on such an issue?)

Furthermore in Ukraine all the preliminary conditions have been created for a full court trial to obtain a legal classification of the manmade famine of 1932-1933 on the basis of material, the criminal investigation carried out by the SBU [Security Service] in 2009, and the new administration should support such a trial. In actual fact there is no doubt that Stalin and his henchmen were guilty of mass murder, and the totalitarian communist regime which carried out mass terror through its state governance in the USSR was in itself criminal. However it is necessary to establish these facts at a legal level.

In the judgment of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, passed on 30 November 1992, it is clearly stated: “In the country over a long period there was a regime of unlimited power, based on violence, on a narrow circle of communist functionaries united in the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party headed by the General Secretary of the Central Committee”.

The list of crimes of the Soviet regime beginning from 1917 is extremely large with it including a huge number of events and occupying many papers. The following is therefore only a list of the most serious and significant crimes of the communist regime, confirmed in documentation (compiled by the Memorial Society)

  1. The Red Terror which, in accordance with a Soviet Government Resolution from 5 September 1918 introduced the taking of hostages, extra-judicial executions and concentration camps for the “socially alien” layers of society and political opponents.
  2. Mass repression against the peasants, dekulakization, deportation, arrests and executions at the ruling of OGPU Secret Police] “troika” [threesomes].
  3. The mass-scale requisition of grain for state storage and sale abroad, organized by Stalin and the Politburo. This resulted in a manmade famine from which between 7 and 12 million people died in the USSR, including 3.5 to 4.5 million of the population of Ukraine in 1932-1933.
  4. Mass arrests and executions in the so-called “kulak” operation of the NKVD. These were executions according to prior quotas from July 1937 to November 1938 (767397 were arrested, and 386798 executed).
  5. Mass arrests and executions on ethnic grounds as part of so-called “national operations” of the NKVD (German, Polish, Kharbin, Latvian and others) July 1937 – November 1938 (around 350 thousand people were arrested, of whom around 250 thousand were executed).
  6. Mass arrests and executions of citizens of Mongolia carried out by the NKVD in 1937-1938 1938 (around 25 thousand people were arrested, of whom around 20 thousand were executed)
  7. Repression against members of the families of those convicted of “treason”. In 1937-1938 as “members of the families of traitors against the motherland” more than 18 thousand women were arrested and 25 thousand children placed in NKVD children’s homes.
  8. Executions and convictions according to “execution lists” where the punishment was not determined by court bodies, but by Stalin and his close henchmen from the Politburo – Molotov, Voroshilov, Kaganovich, Zhdanov, Mikoyan and others. From February 1937 to October 1938 sanction was given for the conviction according to 383 lists, containing 44 thousand names, of whom 39 thousand were for execution.
  9. Sanction from Stalin for the use by the NKVD during investigation of “measures of physical influence”, i.e. torture. The telegram signed by Stalin on 10 February 1939 confirmed the “lawfulness” of this practice adopted in 1937. In later years Stalin continued to give sanctions for the use of torture, for which in the case of the doctors in 1952-1953.
  10. The non-aggression pact with Germany and secret protocols on spheres of influence of the USSR and Third Reich. In accordance with these, the USSR began seizing neighbouring territory, taking part in the destruction of Poland, beginning a war with Finland and occupying the Baltic States and Bessarabia. The Soviet Union was accused of aggressive expansionist policy and expelled from the League of Nations. August 1939-Summer 1940.
  11. The sanctioning by Stalin and the Politburo of mass deportation of the civilian population on the grounds of “class” or ethnic origin. - deportation of Poles from Western Ukraine and Western Byelorussia in 1939-1940;

- deportation of citizens of the Baltic Republics and Moldova in May – June 1941;

- deportation of Germans, Kalmyks, Chechens and Ingushis, Karachayevtsi, Crimean Tatars and others between 1941 and 1945;

- deportation of “kulaks” from the Baltic Republics and Moldova in 1949’

- deportation of Ukrainians during the second half of the 1940s for “abetting the UPA” [Ukrainian Resistance Army].

  1. The mass execution of Polish prisoners of war and civilians at the decision of the Politburo on 5 March 1940 during April and May 1940 by the NKVD at Katyń, Mednoye and Kharkiv. 21,857 Polish nationals were murdered.
  2. Extra-judicial executions ordered by Stalin of prisoners in Autumn 1941, in the Orlov and Moscow prisons and in Kuybyshev.
  3. Acts of individual terror sanctioned by Stalin personally – secret political killings carried out by the Security Service abroad and in the USSR.
  4. Show trials organized at Stalin’s instruction by advisers from the Soviet Security Service in Hungary, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia in 1949-1952.

Ukrainian society and the authorities face an urgent task of establishing a legal classification for the crimes concerning Ukraine listed above and many others, for example, the repression against Ukrainian churches. And the truth told about our history and the crimes of the communist regime. The better this task is carried out, the smaller the legacy left our children and grandchildren. If this is not done we will constantly experience shame and disgrace at attempts to honour and glorify Canibalissimus.

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