Saturday, May 9, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Draft Bill on ‘Rehabilitation of Nazism’ Embodies the Totalitarianism It Denounces, Moscow Commentator Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, May 9 – Draft legislation introduced in the Duma this week intended to prevent “the rehabilitation in the new independent states on the territory of the former USSR of Nazism, Nazi crimes and their accomplices” embodies “the totalitarian terrorist method of rule” that the bill specifically denounces, according to a Moscow commentator.
In an article posted on the portal yesterday, Aleksandr Kramov says that the measure, which is almost certain to pass given United Russia’s support, represents the latest effort by the powers that be “to restore the Soviet empire under the cover of the struggle with ‘those who are rehabilitating Nazism’” (
The measure sets fines of up to 500,000 rubles (14,000 US dollars) and imprisonment of up to five years for “actions directed at revising the results of the International Military Tribunal at Nurenburg and also any actions or inactions directed at … the restoration of the reputations of Nazi criminals, the accomplices of Nazism, and their organizations.”
No one is talking about revisiting the Nuremberg trials, Kramov says. Instead, the measure is clearly directed at those who, from the Kremlin’s point of view, are engaged in “the rehabilitation of the accomplices of Nazism, including the governments of Estonia, Latvia and Ukraine and “its own citizens (for example historians and researchers).”
The bill defines “accomplices of Nazism” as including those “who cooperated with the occupation administration on the territory of the USSR,” whether this cooperation was voluntarily or involuntary and regardless of whether those who cooperated did so “not out of a desire to fight for Hitler and Nazism but [because of] hatred to Stalin and Soviet totalitarianism.”
Soviet propagandists, Kramov continues, “loved to talk” about “those who betrayed ‘the Soviet motherland’ out of a desire to save their own skins. But for millions of people, no ‘Soviet motherland’ existed.” Instead, there was only “a prison house of peoples from which they wanted to escape by any means.” The German occupation gave them “a convenient chance.”
And it is those feelings rather than any desire to support the Nazis that explain “the completely unheard of extent of collaborationism of the population of the USSR during the war years,” the Moscow commentator writes, as many historians have pointed out and as any careful and unbiased investigation of the facts will show.
As an example of the opposition to Stalin rather than support for Hitler, Kramov points to what happened in Estonia in 1944 when “Estonian soldiers, seeing that the German units were evacuating and leaving them to their Soviet ‘soldier-liberator,’ engaged in a battle with the Germans in order to get weapons and ammunition in order to resist the Red Army on their own.”
Such people, seeking to defend the independence of their country which Stalin had earlier occupied as a result of a deal with Hitler, can hardly be called “accomplices of Nazism,” although that is exactly what the new Russian measure would identify them and many others who found themselves in an equally tragic predicament.
“Stalin and his marshals without pity sacrificed millions of their soldiers’ lives not to unselfishly ‘liberate people from the fascist yoke.’” Instead, “having liberated territories from German occupation, the Soviet forces brought a Soviet occupation.” That Soviet empire died “20 years ago, but its ghost continues to float above Russia.”
Kramov argues that “the Kremlin no longer can intimidate its independent neighbors with armed interference” – although the case of Georgia would appear to raise doubts on that score – but it can and does use its control of gas and its ability to selectively employ memories of World War II in order to try to regain some of the influence it has lost.
Consequently, the commentator continues, Moscow’s current and much ballyhooed struggle AGAINST “the rehabilitation of Nazism” as exemplified in this latest piece of legislation must be seen for what it is: the current Russian regime’s struggle FOR “the rehabilitation of the Soviet and [in particular the] Stalinist past.”
“The Kremlin wants to ban respect for the memory of those who struggled with arms in their hands against the Soviet empire because up to now it has not given up the idea of reestablishing it in one form or another on the post-Soviet space,” he writes. And thus what the backers of the new bill want to defend is not the Nurenburg court “but Stalin.”
And to that end, the supporters of this effort are prepared to hand over “the interpretation of history” not to historians but rather to “prosecutors,” an approach to Russia’s own history that is “one of the signs of ‘the totalitarian terrorist method of power’ which is how the [pro-Kremlin] deputies define Nazism.”

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