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Russia: To Deny Holocaust is Now a Crime

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Russian Pres. Putin has outlawed denial of Nazi war crimes in an attempt to smear motives of Ukrainian officials

Russian Pres. Putin has outlawed denial of Nazi war crimes in an attempt to smear motives of Ukrainian officials

Russian Pres. Putin has outlawed denial of Nazi war crimes in an attempt to smear motives of Ukrainian officials

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law making Holocaust denial illegal. Those found guilty of the crime could be fined up to $8,300 or imprisoned up to three years. The law signed Monday makes denial of Nazi crimes or misrepresentation of the Soviet Union’s role in World War II punishable by up to five years in jail or a $14,000 fine for celebrities or public officials.

Both houses of Russia’s parliament approved the legislation last month. Russia already bans public display of Nazi symbols.Comparisons with Nazi Germany have arisen in recent months amid Russia’s conflict with Ukrainian nationalists.

“Rehabilitation of Nazism is not only a shot fired at the past and mocking millions of victims,” the head of the Lower House Committee for Security, Irina Yarovaya, a main sponsor of the bill, said in parliament. “It is also a shot fired at the future, an instigation for new crimes against peace and security.”

The law was authored five years ago and resubmitted in February.” Holocaust denial is illegal in only 17 countries, most of which are in Europe, where the majority of crimes against Jews, as a people/religion, have been committed.

However, there is a substantial body of research and evidence that argues that those crimes were reactions to previous offenses, or provocations.

Jews in Russia are victims of especially pernicious discrimination that draws upon attitudes rooted in centuries of anti-semitism. Anti-semitic views today are an increasing feature of the public statements of a wide range of public figures, nationalist political parties, and extremist groups and can also be found in the mainstream media. Antisemitic literature is widely available, sold in Russia’s kiosks and bookstores.

During the 90s Anti-Semitism was an enduring undercurrent and source of anxiety, its presence affirmed by easily accessible anti-Semitic newspapers and other publications, street or popular anti-Semitism. The number of anti-Semitic incidents rose sharply after the 1998 Russian financial crisis the devaluation of the rouble and the ensuing economic hardships affecting a broad segment of the general population.

Since the mid-2000s incorporation of antisemitic discourse into the platforms and speeches of nationalist political movements in Russia has been reported by human rights monitors in Russia as well as in the press. Antisemitic slogans and rhetoric in public demonstrations are frequently reported, most of them attributed to nationalist parties and political groups.

The vast territories of the Russian Empire at one time hosted the largest population of Jews in the world. Within these territories the Jewish community flourished and developed many of modern Judaism’s most distinctive theological and cultural traditions, while also facing periods of antisemitic discriminatory policies and persecutions. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, many Soviet Jews took the opportunity of liberalized emigration policies, with over half their population leaving, most for Israel, the United States, Germany, Canada, and Australia. Despite this emigration, the Jews residing in Russia and the nations of the former Soviet Union still constitute one of the largest Jewish populations in Europe.

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