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21 Apr, 2009 21:20

Tackling Neo-Nazi rise in post-Soviet era

Russian politicians are looking at measures to combat the rise in Neo-Nazi sympathizers across former Soviet states.

In recent years, events organised by fascists have led to violence and vandalism. To mention just few of them: SS veterans' parades in Latvia; the appearance of billboards in Ukraine commemorating its Nazi World War II divisions; the relocation of a monument to those who died fighting Nazi troops in Estonia, along with the remains of Soviet soldiers.

Maksim Reva is a member of the Estonian Night Watch movement set up to protect the monument.

“These people are trying to forget that Nazi concentration camps existed and that there was a horrible war,” Maksim says.

He was among the many ethnic Russians who protested against the monument’s relocation in Tallinn.

After the Bronze Soldier's statue was removed, more than 200 people were arrested during protests and one demonstrator died.

The risk of pro-Nazi revisionism has led to the establishment of an expert working group in the Russian Duma to draft new laws banning any type of rehabilitation or glorification of fascism.

The new draft law being discussed by the State Duma is aimed at condemning the rehabilitation of Nazism in post-Soviet states, including Ukraine, Latvia and Estonia.

“In Ukraine and the Baltic States, we're not only seeing a social campaign to rehabilitate Nazism, but a state campaign as well. We have to react on a state level. Russia can't be partners with states which are trying to rehabilitate Nazism,” said Kirill Frolov from the Institute of CIS countries.

The working group is made up of historians, experts, lawyers and Duma deputies.

They're recommending the creation of a new public body that will hunt down those involved in the rehabilitation of Nazism in post-Soviet states.

They also want new criminal laws with up to five years in jail for those found guilty of rehabilitating Nazism.

But how will this be applied to foreign citizens, especially high-ranking officials?

“If a foreigner is acting to rehabilitate Nazism on our territory, we would be able to start a criminal case. If it's a politician, he should understand he could face trial in Russia after his term is over,” says State Duma deputy Konstantin Zatulin.

Holocaust denial is explicitly or implicitly illegal in 13 countries: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, and Switzerland.

But there are no specific laws against the rehabilitation of fascism in Russia.

And before this draft law is reviewed by deputies, its promoters plan to publish it on the internet so that ordinary people in all post-Soviet states can voice their views on whether or not it is necessary.

Within the EU, Holocaust denial is not prohibited outright but “denying or grossly trivializing crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes” is fraught with a maximum term of three years in jail.

More than 20 million Soviet people died fighting the Nazis in the Second World War, and almost every family was affected.