Staunton, September 18 – The Investigations Committee of the Russian Federation has set up a special department to combat falsification of history and any rehabilitation of Nazism. Aleksandr Bastrykin, the committee’s head, says that the size of the task requires this concentration of effort.
Many connect this move with the amendments to the Constitution which call for fighting against any “falsification of ‘historical truth’” especially with regard to World War II and the Soviet fight against fascism, noting that there still isn’t a paragraph in the criminal or administrative codes about this (polit.ru/article/2020/09/17/sledcom/).
Since 2014, there has been a provision in the criminal code about revisionism of the historical record on Nazism. Since that time, the Agora Human Rights Organization, the authorities have brought a small number of cases to court, two in 2014 five in 2016, and eight in 2017. The creation of the new department suggests there will now be more.
Over the last two years, the Investigations Committee has brought forward four cases against those who are charged with committing crimes for the Nazis on occupied territories of the USSR. Even though few of those people remain alive, there is every indication that cases will be lodged even against the dead to make the point.
Svetlana Petrenko, a representative of the Committee, says that if those the committee determines committed crimes during World War II are dead, “we simply must specify the crime which was committed by this or that individual and name them.” There are “very many” such cases, she adds (sledcom.ru/press/smi/item/1462061).
What that means is that the remit of the new division is much larger than it might appear and that Moscow now has an institutional arrangement that will allow it when the Kremlin finds it useful to charge this or that person in Russia or abroad with war crimes even if the individual so charged is already dead.
It is likely that many will draw parallels with the Office of Special Investigations in the US Department of Justice, but that group has focused only on those still alive rather than on all those who may have committed war crimes. To open the judicial system to the issue of crimes by those already dead is a vast expansion of the normal role of government investigators.