Holocaust Deniers in Russia Now Face Five Years in Prison

Law Also Outlaws Distortion of USSR's Role in WWII

Members of an ultra nationalist group face off against Russian guards.
Getty images
Members of an ultra nationalist group face off against Russian guards.

By Reuters

Published May 05, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law on Monday making the denial of Nazi crimes and distortion of the Soviet Union’s role in the World War Two a criminal offence punishable by up to five years in jail.

The law, described by critics as an attempt to curb freedom of expression to appease conservative Russians, the ex-KGB spy’s main support base, also criminalises the public desecration of war memorials.

The Kremlin has used World War Two as a pillar to unite a society that Putin has said lost its moral bearings following the 1991 Soviet collapse.

It has become increasingly risky for Russians to dispute an official line that glorifies the wartime achievements of the Soviet leadership and plays down its errors.

The new law would ban “wittingly spreading false information about the activity of the USSR during the years of World War Two”.

Russian officials and media have raised the spectre of Nazi Germany repeatedly during Moscow’s confrontation with the West over Ukraine, calling the overthrow of a Russian-allied president in February a coup carried out in part by “neo-Nazi” forces.

Independent channel Dozhd (TV Rain) was taken off the air earlier this year after asking viewers whether Leningrad, now St Petersburg, should have been given to German troops to save lives during its 872-day siege during World War Two.

Viktor Shenderovich, a blogger critical of the authorities, came under fire from Kremlin supporters in February after comparing the Sochi Olympics to the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, used by Adolf Hitler to burnish the image of the Nazi Germany.

In a comment posted when the legislation was first introduced, veteran TV host Vladimir Posner said he believed its aim was “to shut the mouths of journalists, historians and writers”.

He said he feared it would “practically ban criticism of Stalin” for “grave mistakes that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of our soldiers”.

It was unclear whether the wording of the bill had been changed since its introduction and Posner could not immediately be reached for comment.

Kremlin critics say Putin, in power since 2000, has used legislation, court cases and other levers to tighten control during his current term, which he won despite large opposition protests in 2011-2012. Putin denies the accusations.

Separately on Monday, Putin signed a law imposing fines for the use of expletives on television, radio and in films shown in theatres. Music and movies containing foul language will have to have a warning on the label, state-run RIA news agency said.

Putin also signed a law imposing stricter rules on bloggers, which opponents say is aimed at suppressing criticism on the Internet.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.