Russia’s lower house of parliament, Duma, approved a bill on its first reading Friday which would make it illegal to deny the findings of the Nuremberg Trials regarding Nazi crimes. The bill, which was first written five years ago, still needs to pass the Federation Council, Russia’s upper parliamentary council.
The bill was originally drafted by the United Russia Caucus. In its initial form, the bill drew criticism from experts in the field for the precision of its legal formulas. It was withdrawn and resubmitted last week. The current version has the approval of Russia’s Supreme Court and all four major political parties.
The bill would punish what it calls “the rehabilitation of Nazism” with a fine of up to 300,000 rubles (about $8,300) or prison terms of up to 3 years. Should the guilty party have public influence, making such claims to the media or from public office, the fine goes up to 500,000 rubles (over $14,000) and the prison term up to 5 years. Additionally, the bill makes it illegal to “disseminate false information about Soviet actions” during the war.
Conservative pro-Kremlin MP Irina Yarovaya is one of the main sponsors of the bill. In presenting it to parliament, she said, “Our country has not simply defended itself. We have defended the whole world from Nazism. Our people suffered the greatest casualties in this war. For us, the rehabilitation of Nazism will always be a crime against our country and our people. Rehabilitation of Nazism is not only a shot fired at the past and mocking millions of victims. It is also a shot fired at the future, an instigation for new crimes against peace and security.”
There are those who are less keen about the bill. Critics expressed concern the bill could be used to enforce a single, Kremlin-approved version of events.
“It’s directed against liberals and democrats that compare our regime with the regime of (Adolf) Hitler,” political analyst Alexei Makarkin said.
There is a strong connection between the passage of this bill now and recent events in the Ukraine. Several Russian publications have drawn parallels between Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and Hitler’s annexation of German-speaking territory leading up to WWII. One professor, Andrei Zubov, was fired from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations for making such a comparison in March.