The missing graves

Meditating from Ukraine on the new draft law that Russia plans to introduce, which will criminalize “denial of the Soviet victory in World War II” — i.e. criticism of the idea that in postwar Europe Soviet troops had a right to occupy Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and the Baltic States after the hostilities were ended, because hundreds of thousands of Soviet soldiers and officers sacrificed their lives to liberate those countries — Halya Coynash points to one of the glaring lacunae that after 70 years still characterize the landscape of what was once Soviet and Soviet-occupied territory:  the absence of graves.

…there is so little humour in the situation that we should be shouting to the world. Anniversaries are approaching which will be commemorated by the leaders of all democratic countries. Seventy years ago, on 1 September 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland with this directly leading to World War II. They will also be remembering 17 September when the USSR, as Hitler’s ally, invaded what was then part of Poland. Historians can provide a huge number of dates and details which did not get into the arsenal of Soviet propaganda about the War.

Do they really hope in the Kremlin that such a law will force everybody to tremble and avoid “indelicate” facts? As if anyone in their right mind would deny the crucial role placed by the USSR in the victory, however if you read the draft law carefully, it is clear that its scope is much broader.

I recently came upon the following phrase: “Memory about millions of victims is a key element in State creation.” Winced, I can’t deny, and the mere thought of substituting for the first part either Holodomor or the Holocaust makes me feel very sick. There was similar squeamish disgust at how the Soviet regime plugged its propaganda version of the “Great Patriotic War”, trying to conceal its ideological nakedness and bankruptcy. It is galling that the Kremlin has decided to drag Russia along this lie-ridden path.

If we are speaking of those in Russia for whom Soviet has long meant Russian, and both are inimitably positive, then all is clear. However when some political forces in Ukraine, instead of offering specific measures to put the country out of permanent crisis try to win votes by playing on old bitterness, and using monuments to the dead for their games, then it is worth considering precisely what their motives are.

If such politicians wish to serve their long-tormented country, let them spend less time trumpeting about the transfer of monuments to the fallen, and instead look for the graves their Soviet counterparts lied about. 70 years after the Terror we still have no graves on which to lay flowers and light candles of remembrance.

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