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Statement on Ukrainian Legislation on Historical Research and Debate

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is deeply concerned about a series of legislative initiatives that the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian Parliament, adopted on April 9, 2015.

Certain provisions of the proposed legislation on “The Legal Status and Honoring of Fighters for Ukraine’s Independence in the 20th Century” and “Condemning the Communist and National Socialist (Nazi) totalitarian regimes and prohibiting propaganda of their symbols” attempt to legislate how the history of Ukraine should be discussed and written, especially regarding the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).

Ukraine from 1917 to 1991, under Soviet, German, and renewed Soviet control, was the setting of enormous suffering inflicted upon Ukrainians and many minorities, especially Jews and Poles, and of varying degrees of complicity from segments of the population with these totalitarian regimes. During this period, ruling authorities dictated the narrative of Ukrainian history solely according to their propagandistic goals.

Only after Ukraine achieved independence in 1991 could archives open to scholars and an honest examination of the past become possible. We applaud Ukraine for the initial steps it has taken and welcome the cooperation of various organizations, archives, and individuals with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

As Ukraine advances on its difficult road to full democracy, we strongly urge the nation’s government to refrain from any measure that preempts or censors discussion and politicizes the study of history.  Ukrainian democracy must continue on the path of unfettered scholarly research and open debate on all aspects of the national past. 

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