Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Stalin’s horrors still throw Russia into turmoil

Financial Times
April 26, 2011

Arseny Roginsky, a Soviet-era dissident and one-time Gulag inmate who is now a leading Russian human rights campaigner, is not easily rattled. But even he was shocked by a recent e-mail whose author threatened to bring a can of petrol to the Moscow offices of his Memorial rights group and burn them down.

“We’re getting all kinds of letters,” says Mr Roginsky. “People are phoning us with threats and abuse.”

The sudden hatred was prompted by Memorial’s role in drawing up proposals to confront Russia’s totalitarian past and commemorate victims of Stalinism.

The programme, prepared by an advisory council on human rights set up by President Dmitry Medvedev, was accepted for consideration by the president in February. If even some of it is implemented, it would be an extraordinary step for a country that, 20 years after the Soviet collapse, has never properly come to terms with its turbulent 20th century history.

What is proposed includes monuments to victims of Stalin’s purges alongside the memorials to those killed defeating the Nazis.