Confronting Anti-Semitism in the OSCE Region

Confronting Anti-Semitism in the OSCE Region

Hon.
Ben Nighthorse Campbell
United States
Senate
108th Congress Congress
Second Session Session
Monday, May 17, 2004

Mr. President, I rise today to submit a resolution supporting the ongoing important work of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in combating anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, discrimination, intolerance and related violence. As Co-Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I remain concerned over manifestations of anti-Semitism that prompted me to introduce S. Con. Res. 7, a bipartisan initiative that unanimously passed the Senate last May. That measure provided impetus to efforts to confront and combat anti-Semitic violence in the OSCE region, the subject of a May 2002 Helsinki Commission hearing.

 

The resolution I submit today is aimed at building upon these efforts. The OSCE and its participating States have done much to confront and combat the disease of anti-Semitism and intolerance, and I urge our government and all other OSCE countries to continue their efforts with vigor and determination. Much of what has been accomplished can be attributed to U.S. leadership, especially to the work of U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE, Stephan M. Minikes, and his team in Vienna.

 

Last month the OSCE convened an historic conference in Berlin focused on anti-Semitism and violence against Jews and Jewish institutions and tools to combat this age old problem. The U.S. delegation was represented at the highest level with the participation of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. The conference brought together elected officials and NGOs from around the globe in common support of efforts to fight anti-Semitism.

 

The resolution I am submitting today follows up on several of the initiatives from Berlin. The conference was punctuated with the ``Berlin Declaration,'' a statement given by the Bulgarian Chairman-in-Office, Foreign Minister Solomon Passy, during the closing plenary session. In addition to declaring that ``international developments or political issues, including those in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, never justify anti-Semitism,'' the Declaration advanced efforts to monitor anti-Semitic crimes and hate crimes, as all OSCE participating States committed to ``collect and maintain'' statistics about these incidents and to forward that information to the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) for compilation. The resolution urges all participating States to ensure these promises are fulfilled, and calls upon the Bulgarian Chairman-in-Office to designate a ``personal envoy'' to monitor compliance with these commitments.

 

The resolution also speaks to the importance of confronting instances of racism, discrimination and xenophobia wherever it occurs. It is important to note that in September, the OSCE will convene a meeting on these matters, the Brussels Conference on Tolerance and the Fight against Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination. This meeting is very important, as no OSCE participating State is immune from these evils.

 

As Co-Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I have been impressed by the efforts of the OSCE and its participating States to address issues of anti-Semitism and intolerance. However, the time for words has passed, and I urge all OSCE countries, including the United States, to take real action. This resolution highlights several areas where steps can and should be taken. I urge bipartisan support and speedy passage of this measure.

 

S. Con. Res. 110

 

Whereas anti-Semitism is a unique evil and an affront to human rights that must be unequivocally condemned, and a phenomenon that, when left unchecked, has led to violence against members of the Jewish community and Jewish institutions;

 

Whereas racism, xenophobia, and discrimination are also pernicious ills that erode the dignity of the individual and such intolerance undermines the achievement and preservation of stable democratic societies;

 

Whereas to be effective in combating these phenomena, governments must respond to related violence while seeking to address the underlying sources of anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, discrimination, intolerance, and related violence through public denouncements by elected leaders, vigorous law enforcement, and education;

 

Whereas all Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) participating states must confront acts of anti-Semitism and intolerance, and must deal effectively with acts of violence against Jews and Jewish cultural sites, as well as against ethnic and religious minority groups, in keeping with their OSCE commitments;

 

Whereas education is critical in overcoming intolerance and it is essential that those responsible for formulating education policy recognize the importance of teaching about the Holocaust and intolerance as a tool to fight anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and discrimination among young people;

 

Whereas ensuring proper training of law enforcement officers and military forces is vital in keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust and to the importance of understanding and responding to incidents of anti-Semitism and intolerance;

 

Whereas OSCE participating states have repeatedly committed to condemn anti-Semitism and intolerance, foremost in the historic 1990 Copenhagen Concluding Document that, for the first time, declared ``participating [s]tates clearly and unequivocally condemn totalitarianism, racial and ethnic hatred, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and discrimination against anyone,'' and stated their intent to ``take effective measures . . . to provide protection against any acts that constitute incitement to violence against persons or groups based on national, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination, hostility or hatred, including anti-Semitism'';

 

Whereas the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has demonstrated leadership by unanimously passing resolutions at its annual sessions in 2002 and 2003 that condemn anti-Semitism, racial and ethnic hatred, xenophobia, and discrimination and call upon participating states to speak out against these acts and to ensure aggressive law enforcement by local and national authorities;

 

Whereas the 2002 Porto OSCE Ministerial Council Decision committed participating states to ``take strong public positions against . . . manifestations of aggressive nationalism, racism, chauvinism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and violent extremism,'' specifically condemned the ``recent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the OSCE area, recognizing the role that the existence of anti-Semitism has played throughout history as a major threat to freedom,'' and urged for the ``convening of separately designated human dimension events on issues addressed in this decision, including on the topics of anti-Semitism, discrimination and racism and xenophobia'';

 

Whereas the 2003 OSCE Vienna conferences on anti-Semitism and racism, xenophobia, and discrimination were groundbreaking, as the OSCE and its participating states met to discuss ways to combat these destructive forces;

 

Whereas the 2003 Maastricht Ministerial Council approved follow-up OSCE conferences on anti-Semitism and on racism, xenophobia and discrimination, and encouraged ``all participating [s ]tates to collect and keep records on reliable information and statistics on hate crimes, including on forms of violent manifestations of racism, xenophobia, discrimination, and anti-Semitism,'' as well as to inform the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) ``about existing legislation regarding crimes fueled by intolerance and discrimination'';

 

Whereas at the 2004 OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism, hosted in the German capital, the Bulgarian Chairman-in-Office issued the ``Berlin Declaration'' which stated unambiguously that ``international developments or political issues, including those in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, never justify anti-Semitism'';

 

Whereas the Berlin Declaration advances the process of monitoring of anti-Semitic crimes and hate crimes, as all OSCE participating states committed to ``collect and maintain'' statistics about these incidents and to forward that information to the ODIHR for compilation;

 

Whereas during the closing conference plenary, the German Foreign Minister and others highlighted the need to ensure all participating states follow through with their commitments and initiate efforts to track anti-Semitic crimes and hate crimes; and

 

Whereas the Government of Spain offered to hold a follow-up meeting in Cordoba in 2005 to review whether OSCE participating states are making every effort to fulfill their OSCE commitments regarding data collection on anti-Semitic crimes and hate crimes: Now, therefore, be it

 

Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that--

 

(1) the United States Government and Congress should unequivocally condemn acts of anti-Semitism and intolerance whenever and wherever they occur;

 

(2) officials and elected leaders of all Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) participating states, including all OSCE Mediterranean Partner for Cooperation countries, should also unequivocally condemn acts of anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and discrimination whenever and wherever they occur;

 

(3) the participating states of the OSCE should be commended for supporting the Berlin Declaration and for working to bring increased attention to incidents of anti-Semitism and intolerance in the OSCE region;

 

(4) the United States Government, including Members of Congress, recognizing that the fundamental job of combating anti-Semitism and intolerance falls to governments, should work with other OSCE participating states and their parliaments to encourage the full compliance with OSCE commitments and, if necessary, urge the creation of legal mechanisms to combat and track acts of anti-Semitism and intolerance;

 

(5) all participating states, including the United States, should forward their respective laws and data on incidents of anti-Semitism and other hate crimes to the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) for compilation and provide adequate resources for the completion of its duties;

 

(6) the United States should encourage the Bulgarian Chairman-in-Office, in consultation with the incoming Slovenian Chairman-in-Office, to consider appointing a high level ``personal envoy'' to ensure sustained attention with respect to fulfilling OSCE commitments on the reporting of anti-Semitic crimes;

 

(7) the United States should urge OSCE participating states that have not already done so to join the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research; and

 

(8) all OSCE participating states should renew and revitalize efforts to implement their existing commitments to fight anti-Semitism and intolerance, and keep sharp focus on these issues as part of the usual work of the OSCE Permanent Council, the Human Dimension Implementation Review Meeting, the Ministerial Council and summits.

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    Well-documented Russian bombings and missile strikes in Ukraine have decimated hospitals, schools, and apartment buildings, including a theater in Mariupol where hundreds of children were sheltering and the Kramatorsk rail station where thousands were waiting to escape the Russian onslaught. The withdrawal of Russian troops from towns like Bucha, Chernihiv, and Sumy has revealed horrific scenes of civilian carnage, mass graves, and reports of rape and torture. Several world leaders have accused Russia of committing genocide against the people of Ukraine. In March, 45 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) states began proceedings to “establish the facts and circumstances of possible cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity…and to collect, consolidate, and analyze this information with a view to presenting it to relevant accountability mechanisms.”  The resulting report, issued on April 14, found “clear patterns of international humanitarian law violations by the Russian forces” and recommended further investigations to “establish individual criminal responsibility for war crimes.” The Government of Ukraine, Ukrainian NGOs, and the International Criminal Court are collecting evidence for use in future legal proceedings. Witnesses at the hearing discussed the findings of the OSCE report, examined evidence being collected to document Russian war crimes in Ukraine, and analyzed paths to bring perpetrators to justice.   Related Information Witness Biographies  

  • Co-Chairman Cohen Condemns Lavrov’s Antisemitic Comments

    WASHINGTON—In response to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's recent antisemitic comments regarding Ukraine’s president and the people of Ukraine more generally, Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) issued the following statement: “In a despicable attempt to justify Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine, including well-documented indiscriminate murders of civilians, including children; torture; and rape of women, children and also men, Lavrov stooped to the basest antisemitism by claiming that Hitler had Jewish heritage and President Zelensky, although Jewish, can still be a Nazi and Ukraine a Nazi state. “By outrageously restating the false and offensive tropes of Holocaust denial and claiming that Jews are the worst antisemites—all while Russian forces commit genocide against the Ukrainian people at the behest of Vladimir Putin—Lavrov and the state he represents show that they are clearly disconnected from reality, morality, humanity, and sensitivity, and that they have no problem embracing the very ideology they claim to rebuke so long as it serves their propaganda. “Comparing President Zelensky to Hitler should be shocking. Unfortunately, this level of depravity is consistent with the reprehensible, repugnant, and reptilian conduct of Putin’s government. Such comments are no longer surprising as we witness Putin’s bloody attempt to destroy the people of Ukraine.” Co-Chairman Cohen, in his capacity as Head of the U.S. Delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA), along with other Helsinki Commission leaders, recently urged the OSCE PA to adopt a declaration by the parliament of Ukraine that recognizes Russia’s actions in Ukraine as genocide.

  • Helsinki Commission Regrets Closure of OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine

    WASHINGTON—On April 28, the OSCE announced that Russia had definitively forced the closure of the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, following its veto of the mission’s mandated activities as of April 1. In light of this announcement, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker (MS), and Ranking Member Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) issued the following joint statement: “Moscow’s choice to force the closure of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine is only its latest offense against the rules-based international order. The brave monitors and staff who served the mission, in place since 2014, did exactly what they were supposed to do. Despite continual harassment and under constant threat, they reported objectively on ceasefire violations, informing the international community about the brutal reality of Russia’s war against Ukraine. The monitors’ clear and continuous reporting allowed the world to draw its own conclusions about the roots of Russia’s aggression. Moscow’s move to force the mission to close only underlines its desire to hide this ugly fact. “As we commend the service of these brave monitors and condemn Russia’s obstruction, we renew our call on Moscow to immediately release all Ukrainian SMM staff members who have been detained in occupied parts of Ukraine. “We also mourn the recent loss of Maryna Fenina, a Ukrainian national serving with the SMM who was killed by Russia’s shelling in Kharkiv on March 1, and we will never forget American paramedic Joseph Stone, who was killed while serving in support of the mission when his vehicle struck a landmine in Russian-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine on April 23, 2017.” The SMM was established in 2014 as an unarmed, civilian mission and served as the international community’s eyes and ears on the security and humanitarian situation in the conflict zone. It operated under a mandate adopted by consensus among the 57 OSCE participating States, including the United States, Russia, and Ukraine.

  • Helsinki Commission Digital Digest April 2022

  • Following in the Footsteps of Tsar Nicholas II

    As Vladimir Putin attempts to turn back the clock to the Russian Empire of the pre-Soviet era, he also adopts a tool of political manipulation used in Imperial Russia—fostering violent extremist organizations as a means to a political end. Tsar Nicholas II used this technique with terrorist organizations like the Union of the Russian People and the Black Hundreds, and Putin follows his example today with the Russian Imperial Movement and Imperial Legion. The Russian Imperial Movement Putin advances his political agenda by allowing the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM)—a white supremacist extremist organization based in St. Petersburg—to freely exist and operate in Russia and beyond. RIM holds ultranationalist and monarchist views and believes in two pillars of authority: the political power of the tsar and the spiritual power of the Russian Orthodox Church. The U.S. State Department labeled RIM a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity in April of 2020, making them the first white supremacist extremist organization to receive the title. RIM received the designation due, in part, to their paramilitary training course, Partizan. The course—ostensibly teaching survival skills, marksmanship, and hand-to-hand combat—functions as RIM’s citizen-to-terrorist pipeline. Attendees have gone on to join RIM’s paramilitary unit, the Imperial Legion, and fight alongside pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. And Russians are not the only ones enrolling. In 2016, two members of Sweden’s largest neo-Nazi organization, the Nordic Resistance Movement, bombed a café and a migrant center and attempted to bomb a refugee center in Gothenburg, Sweden. The subsequent investigation discovered that the bombers were trained at Partizan. RIM has attempted to broaden its network beyond Europe. American neo-Nazi Matthew Heimbach, former head of the Traditionalist Workers Party, met with RIM representatives, and RIM offered paramilitary training to organizers of the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. There are also reports that members of the Imperial Legion fought in conflict areas in Syria and Libya. The Russian Imperial Movement is vocally anti-Putin, decrying him and his regime. Despite this criticism and RIM’s monarchist beliefs, Putin has been lenient toward the group and allows it to operate as long as its attention remains turned away from domestic politics. Though reinstatement of a tsar remains a foundational pillar of RIM’s doctrine, it is not their main selling point. Dr. Anna Kruglova, a lecturer in Terrorism Studies at the University of Salford, finds RIM’s large web following surprising “since the group has a relatively narrow agenda—monarchist ideas are not particularly popular in Russia as only 8 percent of Russian people would want monarchy restored, according to one poll.” RIM’s appeal for potential members and Putin himself lies in its vicious ethno-nationalism. RIM demands that Russia maintain influence over all territories where ethnic Russians reside, particularly in Ukraine. For instance, Partizan-trained Russians fought alongside pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine in 2014 as members of the Imperial Legion. In the words of Denis Gariev, an instructor at Partizan, “We see Ukrainian-ness as rabies. A person is sick. Either quarantine, liquidation, or he’ll infect everyone.” Putin also values RIM as a tool to sow discord in the West. RIM supports and collaborates with other white supremacist extremist organizations, even in the United States, and trains individuals like the Swedish NRM bombers. RIM is convenient for Putin: it poses no real threat as a monarchist organization yet benefits his attempts to colonize Ukraine and destabilize the West. The Union of the Russian People The Union of the Russian People (Soyuz russkovo naroda, or SRN) was a right-wing, fanatically anti-Semitic political movement active in the 1900s. They came to prominence in the wake of the Russo-Japanese war. After the Russian Empire’s devastating defeat, there was such discontent and domestic unrest that strikes and mutinies flooded the empire, forcing Tsar Nicholas II to enact constitutional reforms. This moment, known as the 1905 Revolution, left the Russian Empire shaken and greatly polarized. Fears that the imperial system would collapse led to a rise in reactionary extreme right-wing ideologies and groups, one of which was SRN. Members of SRN and its paramilitary branch, the Black Hundred, were fervent monarchists and bore the colors of the Romanov family—the reigning imperial dynasty in Russia from 1613 to 1917—as their insignia. They also had deep ideological connections with the Russian Orthodox Church and identified Jews as the source of all evil in Russia. From 1905 to 1906, the Black Hundred carried out relentless pogroms, killing hundreds of Jews across the Russian Empire. The ruling class at the time held mixed opinions on SRN, ranging from hesitance to fanaticism. Lower-ranking officials viewed the Black Hundred’s pogroms as a convenient way to keep Jewish and ethnic minority populations in their place. The tsar called them a “shining example of justice and order to all men.” SRN was a convenient political tool for the tsar. Tsar Nicholas II believed anti-Semitism united people behind the government, and that Jewish capitalism and Jewish socialism were revolutionary forces that threatened his regime. In this way, SRN and the Black Hundred, while too radical for many members of the Duma and the public, served the tsar’s political interests. Utilizing extremism as a political weapon is not a new tool in Russia’s repertoire. As Putin harkens back to a grand Imperial history and conducts brutal military invasions into former Soviet states, like Ukraine, and political invasions of others, like Belarus, he demands comparison to the power-grasping techniques of the past. As Tsar Nicholas II’s grip on power loosened with civil unrest in the Russian Empire, he supported extremism to preserve his regime. Putin repeats this pattern today as he lets the Russian Imperial Movement and the Imperial Legion train neo-Nazis to wreak havoc and terror in the West.

  • Helsinki Commission Leaders Condemn Detention of OSCE Officials by Russian-Led Forces in Ukraine

    WASHINGTON—Following the detention of four Ukrainian nationals serving as members of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Russian-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine who reportedly were accused of illegal activities including treason and espionage, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), and Ranking Members Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) and Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) issued the following joint statement: “The targeting and detention of OSCE officials by Russian-controlled forces is utterly unacceptable. Those detained must be released immediately. We will hold Russian officials responsible for any mistreatment they suffer.” On April 24, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) confirmed that four Ukrainian staff members of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) had been detained and held “for engaging in administrative activities that fall within their official functions as OSCE staff.”   The SMM had served a critical function as the eyes and ears of the international community in the conflict zone since 2014, until a Russian veto forced its mandated activities to cease on April 1. Since then, Ukrainian mission members had been carrying out minimum necessary administrative tasks focused on efforts to ensure the safety and security of its mission members, assets, and premises throughout Ukraine, including in Russian-controlled areas.

  • Helsinki Commission Urges OSCE PA to Adopt Ukrainian Declaration Recognizing Russia’s Actions as Genocide

    WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), who serves as Head of the U.S. Delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA), along with other Helsinki Commissioners who hold leadership roles in the commission and the OSCE PA, today released a letter urging the assembly to adopt a declaration by the parliament of Ukraine that recognizes Russia’s actions in Ukraine as genocide. Co-Chairman Cohen was joined in the letter to OSCE PA President Margareta Cederfelt by Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), who serves as the OSCE PA Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism and Intolerance; Senate Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker (MS), who serves as an OSCE PA vice-president; Commissioner Rep. Richard Hudson (NC-08), who chairs the OSCE PA Committee on Political Affairs and Security; and House Ranking Member Joe Wilson (SC-02). The letter read in part: “It is clear to us that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and his military regime are engaging in acts of genocide against Ukraine and its people and we urge the OSCE PA to also endorse the Rada’s declaration and issue a similar statement. “We do not come to this conclusion lightly, and we recognize the importance of precision in employing such terminology. However, given the overwhelming evidence—from Putin and his regime’s many comments denying the existence of Ukrainian nationhood and the deliberate targeting of civilians, to the wholesale destruction of Mariupol, the mass graves that now pockmark Ukrainian lands, and reports of forced deportation of Ukrainian people including children to Russia where they are being indoctrinated in “reeducation camps” in attempts to destroy Ukrainian identity—we cannot be silent. The OSCE PA must raise its voice and speak with unity and unmitigated clarity about the unspeakable horrors that are unfolding in Ukraine and be truthful about what is happening there… “Given Russia’s disregard for the 10 Helsinki principles guiding relations between participating States, its manipulation of OSCE rules for its own destructive ends, and its encouragement of neighboring Belarus to be complicit in its war crimes and genocidal actions, the Parliamentary Assembly should make clear where we as a credible body stand. Russia’s horrific war of choice in Ukraine and this unfolding genocide must be described just as it is.” The full letter is available online.

  • Debunking “Denazification”

    By Worth Talley, Max Kampelman Fellow​ On February 24, 2022, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” to “demilitarize and denazify” Ukraine—in reality, a Russian invasion designed to subjugate the democratic, peaceful people of Ukraine. When the news broke, Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen immediately decried the statement. “Like Mr. Zelensky, I am Jewish; Nazis kill Jews,” he said. Putin’s claim of “denazification,” not only patently false, borders on incoherent to a Western audience, which immediately links Nazism with antisemitism and the Holocaust and thus understands the “denazification” of a country led by a Jewish president to be impossible.   The real nature of Putin’s claim is clear: it is a fallacious attempt to drum up domestic support for his war of aggression in Ukraine designed to resonate with a Russian audience. Putin draws on the Soviet myth of the Great Patriotic War in an attempt to validate his invasion and to obscure the true nature of his war—an attack on Ukrainian identity—under the guise of a mission against Nazism. Within this historical footing, Russians can accept the “denazification” of Ukraine precisely because the myth, like other holdovers from Soviet policy, deemphasizes antisemitism’s connection to Nazism and reimagines Nazism primarily as an attack on Soviet and Russian identities, not Jewish ethnicity. The Great Patriotic War World War II occupies a central place in Russian historical memory. The Russian conception of the Great Patriotic War has existed in multiple formulations since the defeat of Nazi Germany, but it consistently centers the role of the Soviet people in defeating Nazism, placing equal emphasis on Soviet victory and on the suffering and sacrifices of the Soviet people. In fact, the Great Patriotic War begins in 1941—rather than 1939—with Nazi Germany’s invasion of the USSR under Operation Barbarossa. The fact that the Great Patriotic War is the term commonly used for World War II by Russians obscures the nature of Russian involvement in the war prior to 1941. This state-sponsored narrative eschews a nuanced understanding of Soviet participation in the Second World War, particularly of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and of the Soviet atrocities committed in Poland and the Baltics during that period of non-aggression between the 1939 pact and the 1941 Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. The Law Against the Rehabilitation of Nazism, signed into law by Putin in 2014, effectively criminalizes speech regarding these Soviet actions. As the Great Patriotic War emphasizes Soviet anguish, it glosses over the suffering of Jews and other minorities and even the Holocaust itself. Soviet policy historically downplayed the centrality of the Holocaust by centering a collective, Soviet suffering over a particular, Jewish one. Furthermore, denouncing the antisemitic core of Nazism would have directly contradicted the Soviet Union’s own state-sponsored antisemitism. The Holocaust, particularly the millions of deaths that occurred in Soviet territory, was written off in Soviet historical narratives as a crime against the (ethnically ambiguous) Soviet citizenry. For example, the Soviet memorial at Babyn Yar—a site in Kyiv, formerly in the Soviet Union, where 33,000 Jews were murdered by Nazi troops and Ukrainian collaborators over the course of two days—featured an inscription to the “peaceful Soviet citizens” that died there, insinuating that the site formed part of a collective, Soviet suffering rather than acknowledging it as a site of antisemitic genocide. The myth of the Great Patriotic War thus classifies the actions of Ukrainians who collaborated with the Nazis—such as Stepan Bandera and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists—primarily as a crime against the Soviet people, with the antisemitic actions and beliefs of these Ukrainians nationalists occupying a secondary—or altogether irrelevant—level of importance. Nonetheless, the collaboration of some Ukrainian nationalists with Nazis during World War II has allowed the Kremlin, through a peculiar melding of myth and reality, to conflate Nazism with the very development of Ukrainian national identity (though, of course, Ukrainian national identity is not synonymous with Nazism, nor did it only begin to develop during the Second World War). Language Laws and Russian Rhetoric As Ukraine has distanced itself from Russian political influence, establishing a distinct national identity has become of a question of greater importance—particularly considering the stifled development of such an identity under the Soviet Union. Putin’s current, baseless, claims of genocide against Russian speakers in Donetsk and Luhansk occur against the backdrop of Ukrainian language laws, which make Ukrainian the country’s sole official language and set forth requirements for the use of Ukrainian in education and media. The most recent of these laws, passed in 2019, was met with harsh criticism from Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who termed it “a law of forced Ukrainization,” and with skepticism from Volodymyr Zelensky, then the president-elect of Ukraine and himself a native Russian speaker. In an earlier reaction to such legislation, Zakharova claimed that “Ukraine uses language genocide on a state level,” echoing the rhetoric of genocide now used by the Kremlin to justify its invasion. Zakharova’s statements recall Soviet policy against Ukrainian national identity. Her use of the term “Ukrainization” echoes the use of the same term under Stalin in a 1932 decree to combat the growth of Ukrainian language and culture (i.e. “Ukrainization”). This decree was issued during the beginning of Holodomor—the genocide against Ukrainians, which began as an unintentional famine yet was retooled by Stalin to deliberately kill millions of Ukrainians. In this sense, contemporary Kremlin claims of “Ukrainization” and “language genocide” toward Russian speakers in Ukraine recall Stalin’s policies of both cultural and literal genocide directed at Ukrainians and Ukrainian national identity. Now, through the distorted lens of the Great Patriotic War and other Soviet policy, the Kremlin misrepresents the development of Ukrainian national identity as a crime against Russian speakers. Analysis of this historical manipulation, however, lays bare the reality of the war as an act of flagrant aggression committed against Ukrainians intended to destroy their culture and identity.

  • Helsinki Commission Leaders Mourn the Death of Finnish Politician Ilkka Kanerva

    WASHINGTON—Following the death of Finnish parliamentarian Ilkka Kanerva, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), and Ranking Members Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) and Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) issued the following joint statement: “We are saddened by the death of our former OSCE colleague Ilkka Kanerva. We send our deepest condolences to his family and friends. “An outspoken advocate for democracy and human rights, Ilkka was the only person to have served as both the OSCE Chairman-in-Office and the president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. “He was first elected to the Finnish parliament in 1975, the year the Helsinki Final Act was signed, and started his tenure as president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in 2014, the year Russia first invaded Ukraine. He was an able leader who shaped the OSCE PA’s robust response at that time, speaking out against Russia’s violation of its OSCE commitments and its violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. “Ilkka will be missed.” Ilkka Kanerva served as the OSCE Chairman-in-Office in 2008 and as president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA) from 2014 to 2016. He subsequently served as OSCE PA president emeritus and remained active as a member of the Finnish delegation to the OSCE PA.

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