Vienna, March 1 – YABLOKO, one of Russia’s remaining liberal parties, is calling for making the denial of Soviet crimes against the people a criminal offense as part of a broader effort to help Russians overcome the communist past and build a political and economic system capable of sustaining itself in the 21st century.
Yesterday, YABLOKO’s leadership, at the urging of party founder Grigory Yavlinsky, issued a statement calling for the Russian government to issue “a clear and unambiguous legal, political and moral assessment of the forcible seizure of power carried out by the Bolsheviks in 1917-1918, the nature of the political regime it created and its subsequent activities.”
And to make that possible, the liberal party called for making any “justification[s] of mass repressions and the destruction of millions of innocent people” or “denial[s] of mass repressions and the destruction of social groups and peoples” crimes and punishable by law (www.yabloko.ru/news/2009/02/28_0).
At the same time, the party said that contemporary Russia “should not and cannot” ignore the efforts of the Russian people during the seven decades of Soviet power, but the country must acknowledge that its victories, including in World War II, do not reflect as some have suggested “the effectiveness of widespread fear” of the Soviet secret police.
In addition, the party urged that Russia define itself as “the legal successor of the Russian state before the October revolution” and declared that “in present-day Russia there must not exist organizations which are or call themselves the successors of the VKP(b)-CPSU and the Cheka-GPU-NKVD-MGB.”
The reason that such actions are necessary, the YABLOKO statement said, is because for Russia today, “the Stalinist system, in which the special services and punitive organs are the supreme power and the final point of appeal and terror has been raised to the level of state policy is not history but a matter of every day actions.”
The brutal killings of Anna Politkovskaya, Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova among others are evidence that the powers that be are prepared “to look through their fingers at killing as a means of suppressing those who think differently and possibly even to protect the murderers.”
The YABLOKO leadership called on its followers and “all thinking people of Russia who understand the threat which hangs over [Russia] in the immediate future to direct all possible efforts” to explain “the danger and destructiveness of bolshevism, Stalinism and nationalism for our people.”
Unfortunately, even if Russians do make these efforts, the statement continued, it is highly unlikely that “the current powers that be” will agree. That is because “the party of Putin, the KPRF, and nationalist and pro-fascist forces do not want any more such discussions on these themes.”
But the YABLOKO document said that those who care about the country must nonetheless go seek to provoke such a discussion and such an outcome because “without a full and absolute rejection of the modified Soviet-Stalinist system in the form of post-Soviet authoritarianism, Russia does not have a future.”
Beyond any question, yesterday’s YABLOKO statement represents a liberal response to the proposal by Sergey Shoigu on February 24th to make those who deny the Soviet victory over Hitler in World War II, something he would extend to those, especially in Eastern Europe, who say that Stalin simply imposed one form of totalitarianism in place of another.
But it would be a mistake to treat this statement as only that. In fact, it represents a broader effort, albeit one with few immediate chances for success, to escape the Soviet past by denouncing its crimes rather than opening the way to its restoration -- as some like Vladimir Putin have done -- by celebrating its achievements regardless of how they were obtained.