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Historical row

July 9, 2009

Russia continues to react angrily to last week’s Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) resolution likening Stalinism to Nazism.

Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin
Russia is angry that Stalin's reign is likened to that of HitlerImage: AP Graphics

"We consider unacceptable the fact that in the OSCE's parliamentary assembly resolution there is an attempt to distort history with political goals," said Russian foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko on Thursday. "This does not contribute to creating an atmosphere of trust and cooperation between the member states of this body," he added.

Earlier this week lawmakers from Russia's two chambers of parliament said in a statement that the OSCE resolution was a "direct insult to the memory of millions" of Soviet soldiers who "gave their lives for the freedom of Europe from the fascist yoke."

The parliamentary assembly of the 56-nation OSCE passed the resolution last Friday at a meeting in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius by an overwhelming majority.

The resolution would make August 23 a day of remembrance for victims of Stalinism and Nazism. That's the day in 1939 that Germany and the Soviet Union signed a pact carving up Eastern Europe between them. World War II started just over a week later.

Resolution condemns Stalinism

Vorkuta Gulag, 120km north of the Arctic Circle, built by forced labourers.
Imprisonment, forced labor and cruelty are synonymous with StalinImage: picture-alliance/dpa

The resolution, proposed by Lithuania and fellow ex-communist state Slovenia, said 20th-century Europe had faced "two major totalitarian regimes, the Nazi and the Stalinist, which brought genocide, violations of human rights and freedoms, war crimes and crimes against humanity."

It urged all OSCE members to take a "united stand against all totalitarian rule from whatever ideological background" and slammed the "glorification of totalitarian regimes, including the holding of public demonstrations glorifying the Nazi or Stalinist past."

"The adoption of this resolution means that a 56-nation alliance has condemned Stalinism, and that's crucial," said Lithuanian lawmaker Vilija Aleknaite-Abramikiene, who drafted it.

Moscow's delegation boycotted the vote on the final day of a week-long session of the OSCE's parliamentary assembly after failing to have the resolution withdrawn. Russia resists fiercely any attempt to equate the regimes of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.

The OSCE assembly comprises 320 lawmakers. Just eight voted against the resolution and four abstained.

Among the opponents was Michel Billout, a French Communist Party lawmaker. "This resolution confuses Nazism and Stalinism," he told reporters. "That won't help to build a future where we're able to stop these crimes recurring."

Stalin remains a hero to many Russians

Gerassimow's portrait of Stalin.
"Uncle Joe" is still seen as a benevolent leader by some

Despite being blamed for the deaths of millions of people through purges and forced collectivism under his rule, Stalin remains a hero for many Russians for his role in defeating Nazi Germany in World War II.

He came third in a nationwide poll last year to find Russia's greatest-ever personality.

However, he is vilified in Eastern Europe for imposing dictatorial Communist regimes across the region that remained in power until the 1980s.

In May, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the formation of a commission to defend Russia from historical "falsifications," and promote Moscow's view that its role in the World War II was heroic and beyond reproach, given the immense human cost sustained by Soviet forces in pushing back Nazi Germany.

The government also brought forward a controversial bill that would make it a crime punishable by up to three years in prison to "rehabilitate Nazism" by denying the Soviet Union's role in the World War II victory over Germany.


Editor: Kyle James