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Criminalizing History

Legal Restrictions on Statements and Interpretations of the Past in Germany, Poland, Rwanda, Turkey and Ukraine


Edited By Klaus Bachmann and Christian Garuka

Why do states ban certain statements and interpretations of the past, how do they ban them and what are the practical consequences? This book offers an answer to these questions and at the same time examines, whether the respective legislation was supply-or demand-driven and how prosecutors and courts applied it. The comparison between Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Rwanda and Turkey offers several surprising insights: in most countries, memory law legislation is supply driven and imposed on a reluctant society, in some countries they target apolitical hooligans more than intellectuals or the government’s political opponents. The book also discusses, why and how liberal democracies differ from hybrid regimes in their approach to punitive memory laws and how such laws can be tailored to avoid constraints on free speech, the freedom of the press and academic freedoms.

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Between heroes and perpetrators: Ukraine’s ambiguous legal approaches to the Soviet legacy and independence fighters: Igor Lyubashenko


(Igor Lyubashenko)


In 1991, Ukraine underwent a classic negotiated transition from of the republics constituting the Soviet Union to an independent country declaring liberal democracy as a goal of its further political development. Independence along with the transformation of the political and economic system were the outcome of negotiations between local communists and forces that are often described as nationalists.218 There is no consensus as to what extent it was a genuine compromise219 or whether communists just “hijacked” nationalism.220 What is important from the perspective of this chapter, is that unlike post-communist states in Central Europe, Ukraine did not implement any significant steps to deal with the legacy of the communist era.

Among some symbolic steps there was the rehabilitation of victims of political repressions in Soviet times in April 1991,221 and some steps undertaken to open and facilitate access to declassified Soviet documents, which, however, remained limited in their scope. A slight turn towards historical justice took place under the presidency of Viktor Yushchenko. Because ←127 | 128→of his advocacy, in 2006 the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) of Ukraine adopted a law that recognized the Holodomor222 of 1932–1933 as a genocide against the Ukrainian people.223 However, the real “big bang” of transitional justice policies took place after the famous Euromaidan protest,224 that led to the removal from office of Yushchenko’s successor, Viktor Yanukovych, and to Petro Poroshenko’s accession to power. Historical justice became an important element of the Ukrainian transitional justice...

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