FIDH Releases Mini Documentary on “Crimes Against History” as Russia Reoffends

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International Memorial

(Moscow, Paris) 1 July 2021 — Russia’s President has just signed into law the prohibition of public comparisons between the roles and actions of Nazi Germany and the USSR during the Second World War, adding to the arsenal of legislation restricting the work of historians, activists and NGOs dealing with the Soviet past. Following the publication 10 June of its report Russia: Crimes Against History, today FIDH is releasing a short documentary illustrating the government’s ongoing, concerted campaign to cement its monopoly on historical memory.

Directed by Olga Kravets/NOOR in collaboration with Grigory Vaypan, lawyer for the so-called "children of the Gulag" and the report’s main author, the video reveals the various strands of “crimes against history” as a specific category of human rights violations. The video reviews some of the major events in Russia impacting memory of and accountability for Soviet-era crimes: the trial involving the rights of children of deportees to the Gulag; the prosecution of Yuri Dmitriev; the excavation of mass graves in Sandarmokh; the denialism of Soviet crimes like Katyn; and the closure of the Perm 36 museum, among others.

The lack of adequate remedies for victims of the Soviet past, the persecution of historians, rights defenders, and NGOs, the rewriting of history to serve the government, the criminalisation of historical research and speech, sanctifying the Soviet Union’s victory during the Second World War, such as in today’s newly adopted memory law, are all highlighted as obstacles impeding the overcoming of the past by Russian society.

In light of these observations, the nine-minute film conveys the recommendations made in our report, such as the establishment of legal guarantees and protections to preserve the independence of historians’ work. The report also proposes the official recognition of historians as human rights defenders by the UN special procedures, as well as the creation of a "historians’ day" by UNESCO.

If nothing is done to combat crimes against history, the countries that commit them — several countries in the region and around the world have taken a page out of Russia’s playbook and have created similar or virtually identical impediments — may face dangerous deterioration: societies unable to confront the crimes of their past are condemned to relive them.

Read the full report Russia: Crimes Against History

Watch the round table discussion

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