The following press (click here) release by the UCCLA (Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association) calls on President Yushchenko to prosecute Soviet war criminals to expose the crimes of the Soviet era. This is a most important step if the people of Ukraine and also Russia wish to move forward and acknowledge and openly air the manifold crimes against humanity committed by the communist regime of the Soviet Union. Without such an airing the younger generation, and even the older one, risks falling back into dangerous patterns of thinking about and viewing the former regime.
My mother tells me that she only really learned of the horrors and truth of what had been happening in the Soviet Union after she emigrated and began reading uncensored accounts of what took place and talking to survivors of the gulags and prisons. When she lived there she and others knew it was dangerous to speak out. People knew about the famine, but were forbidden to speak or write about it. They knew that their neighbors and friends and family "disappeared" on a regular basis, but no one ever knew what happened to them. They did not know of the gulags. Although there were rumors, most people were afraid to discuss such things with their most trusted friends or neighbors, because even children were indoctrinated to inform on their parents.
As a result of there having been no purging of the former criminals of the Soviet regime, many Ukrainians and Russians are still not fully aware of the crimes committed by the communists. This also explains why many Russians nostalgically long for the days of Stalin and Brezhnev. They are in many cases ignorant of the extent of the abuses, the tortures, the gulags, and the executions -- they only remember that Russia was a great power, and they long for that prestige once again.
Similarly in Ukraine, many Ukrainians are simply still uninformed about the true extent of the crimes perpetrated against the Ukrainian people by the communist regime. After the war, Germany waged an intensive de-Nazification program, declared the Nazi party illegal, and prosecuted war criminals. Unfortunately a similar undertaking did not take place in Ukraine or Russia. People were eager to move on and forget the past. The Communist party, instead of being exposed as a genocidal criminal enterprise, became just another benign party, competing with all the others in "free" parliamentary elections. Just imagine a Nazi freely campaigning to become the new Chancellor of Germany under the Nazi flag, and representing a new and revived Nazi party. The German people -- and the world -- would not stand for it. Why should we stand for it in the former Soviet countries, which lost millions upon millions of its citizens to this evil ideology.
We must never forget the fateful words of George Santayana, "Those who
do not know history, are doomed to repeat it."