European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism

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European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism/Black Ribbon Day
Observed by European Union, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Canada, United States and other countries
Type International
Significance Day of remembrance for the victims of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes
Date 23 August
Next time 23 August 2015 (2015-08)
Frequency annual

The European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, known as the Black Ribbon Day in some countries,[1] which is observed on 23 August, is the international remembrance day for victims of totalitarian ideologies, specifically communism/Stalinism, fascism and Nazism.

It was designated by the European Parliament in 2008/2009 as "a Europe-wide Day of Remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, to be commemorated with dignity and impartiality,"[2][3] and has been observed annually by the bodies of the European Union since 2009.[4][5][6] The European Parliament's 2009 resolution on European conscience and totalitarianism, co-sponsored by the European People's Party, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, The Greens–European Free Alliance, and the Union for Europe of the Nations, called for its implementation in all of Europe. The establishment of 23 August as an international remembrance day for victims of totalitarianism was also supported by the 2009 Vilnius Declaration of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.[7]

23 August was chosen to coincide with the date of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, in which the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany agreed to divide eastern Europe between themselves, an event described by the European Parliament's president Jerzy Buzek in 2010 as "the collusion of the two worst forms of totalitarianism in the history of humanity."[4] The remembrance day originated in protests held in western cities against Soviet crimes and occupation in the 1980s, initiated by Canadian refugees from countries occupied by the Soviet Union, and that culminated in The Baltic Way, a major demonstration during the Revolutions of 1989 that contributed to the liberation of the Baltic states.

The purpose of the Day of Remembrance is to preserve the memory of the victims of mass deportations and exterminations, while promoting democratic values with the aim of reinforcing peace and stability in Europe.[8]

23 August is also officially recognised by Canada and the United States, where it is known as Black Ribbon Day.[9]

Historical background[edit]

Both the date of 23 August as a remembrance day and the name "Black Ribbon Day" originated in demonstrations held in western countries in the 1980s, organised mostly by refugees from countries occupied by the Soviet Union, to bring attention to Soviet crimes and human rights violations, and to protest against the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in which Hitler gave Joseph Stalin free hands to invade several Eastern European nations as well as subsequent deals such as the Yalta Conference in which Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt gave Joseph Stalin free hands in Eastern Europe, including to annex states occupied by the Soviet Union and impose a totalitarian dictatorship on them that lasted for decades. On 23 August 1986, Black Ribbon Day demonstrations were held in 21 western cities including New York City, Ottawa, London, Stockholm, Seattle, Los Angeles, Perth, Australia and Washington DC. The demonstrations were initiated by Canada’s Central and Eastern European communities.[10]

In 1987, Black Ribbon Day protests spread to the Baltic countries, culminating in the Baltic Way in 1989, a historic event during the revolutions of 1989, in which two million people joined their hands to form a human chain, to protest against the continued Soviet occupation.[1][11]

Proclamation by the European Parliament and support from the OSCE[edit]

The European Public Hearing on Crimes Committed by Totalitarian Regimes was organised by the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the European Commission in April 2008. It aimed at improving knowledge and public awareness about totalitarian crimes.[12][13]

The date of 23 August was adopted as an official day of remembrance for victims of totalitarianism by international bodies and various countries after it was proposed by the 2008 Prague Declaration, initiated by the Czech government and signed by (among others) Václav Havel, Joachim Gauck, Vytautas Landsbergis, Emanuelis Zingeris, and Łukasz Kamiński on 3 June 2008. The declaration concluded the conference European Conscience and Communism, an international conference that took place at the Czech Senate from 2 to 3 June 2008, hosted by the Senate Committee on Education, Science, Culture, Human Rights and Petitions, under the auspices of Alexandr Vondra, Deputy Prime Minister of the Czech Republic for European Affairs.[14]

On 23 September 2008, 409 members of the European Parliament signed a declaration on the proclamation of 23 August as European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism.[2] The declaration pointed out: "The mass deportations, murders and enslavements committed in the context of the acts of aggression by Stalinism and Nazism fall into the category of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Under international law, statutory limitations do not apply to war crimes and crimes against humanity."[2]

On 2 April 2009, a resolution of the European Parliament on European conscience and totalitarianism, calling, inter alia, on its member states and other European countries to implement the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, was passed by a vote of 533–44 with 33 abstentions.[3]

On 3 July 2009, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) adopted the Vilnius Declaration, which supported 23 August as the international remembrance day for totalitarianism and urged its member states to increase awareness of totalitarian crimes.[7]

After the European Parliament had proclaimed the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, the governments of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were thanked by the President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering, in 2009, for their efforts to better inform Western Europe on the totalitarianism of the Soviet Union. Pöttering brought up the classic study on totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, which developed "the scientific basis criteria to describe totalitarianism", concluding that "both totalitarian systems (Stalinism and Nazism) are comparable and terrible", Pöttering said.[15] Joseph Daul, chairman of the European People's Party group stated:

"2009 is a deeply symbolic year, since we celebrate both the 60th anniversary of the creation of NATO and the beginnings of the cold war, and the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which ended it. This is why we have proposed to launch a Europe-wide day of remembrance which will help Europe reconcile its totalitarian legacy, both from the Nazis and the Communists."[16]

On 10 June 2011, the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council, that is, the justice and home affairs ministers of all EU Member States, adopted conclusions stating, inter alia, that it reaffirmed "the importance of raising awareness of the crimes committed by totalitarian regimes, of promoting a shared memory of these crimes across the Union and underlining the significant role that this can play in preventing the rehabilitation or rebirth of totalitarian ideologies," and highlighted "the Europe-wide Day of Remembrance of the victims of the totalitarian regimes (23 August)," inviting "Members States to consider how to commemorate it."[17]

On 23 August 2011, the Polish Presidency of the European Union organised a conference on the occasion of the European Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Totalitarian Regimes. The EU presidency cited the Justice and Home Affairs Council conclusions of 10 June and the EU's Stockholm Programme, which emphasises that "remembrance of shared history is necessary to understand contemporary Europe." European officials adopted the Warsaw Declaration for the European Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Totalitarian Regimes.[18][19] The Warsaw Declaration vows that the suffering of victims of totalitarian regimes "will not sink into oblivion."[20] The declaration states that "crimes of totalitarian regimes in Europe should be acknowledged and condemned, regardless of their type and ideology." Justice Minister Krzysztof Kwiatkowski said that the "Warsaw Declaration is a unanimous agreement of all EU member states that we have to do everything we can to prevent any totalitarian regime from reviving in all the countries making up one big European family."[21] EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding stated on this occasion:

"Totalitarian regimes are the denial of human dignity and the violation of all fundamental rights of our societies built upon democracy and the respect of the rule of law. We must offer the victims of those crimes, and their family members, sympathy, understanding and recognition of their suffering. Every victim of any totalitarian regime has the same human dignity and deserves justice, remembrance and recognition by all of us."[5]

On 23 August 2014, EU justice commissioner Martine Reicherts emphasized that the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact "of Nazi Germany under Hitler and the Soviet Union under Stalin would pave the way for the most brutal war to this day, leading to many years of fear, horror and pain for the victims of these regimes," stating that the Europe-wide Day of Remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes is a reminder that we must not take "dignity, freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights" for granted, and that "peace, democracy and fundamental rights are not a given. We have to defend them, every day of the year."[22]

Observance in the EU[edit]

Minister of Justice of Poland Krzysztof Kwiatkowski during the official ceremony marking the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism for the first time in Poland on 23 August 2011

The remembrance day has been officially observed by the bodies of the European Union since 2009.[4] In some countries, the remembrance day has been formally adopted by law (sometimes with slightly different names).

Sweden[edit]

The International Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism has been observed in Sweden since 2008, with participation from members of the government, including Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.[23][24]

Estonia[edit]

On 18 June 2009, the Parliament of Estonia amended the Law on holidays and memorials, and adopted 23 August as the Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism.[25][26]

Latvia[edit]

On 17 July 2009, the Parliament of Latvia adopted 23 August as the Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, under a proposal of the Civic Union.[27]

Lithuania[edit]

Lithuania in 2009 officially renamed "Black Ribbon Day" (23 August) to "European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, and Day of the Baltic Way".[28] On this day, as on other days of mourning, Lithuanian flags are displayed outside all public buildings decorated with black ribbons.

Bulgaria[edit]

On 19 November 2009, under a proposal of the center-right Blue Coalition, the Bulgarian Parliament officially declared 23 August the Day of Commemoration of the Victims of the Crimes Committed by Communist and other Totalitarian Regimes and the remembrance day was officially observed for the first time in 2010.[29]

Croatia[edit]

In 2011, the government of Croatia proposed that Croatia adopt the European Day of Remembrance of Victims of All Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes, to be commemorated on 23 August. The government sent its recommendation for urgent parliamentary procedure, stating that the new memorial day is in accordance with the European practice that marks 23 August as the day of remembrance of victims of Stalinism and Nazism.[30] On 23 August 2011, Croatia marked the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism for the first time. Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor emphasised: "We must remember all victims equally."[31]

Poland[edit]

In 2011, the European Day of Remembrance for the Victims of All Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes was officially commemorated in Poland for the first time, during Poland's EU presidency[32]

Hungary[edit]

In 2011, the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism was commemorated by the government of Hungary for the first time. A government spokesman said that "youth growing up in western Europe should learn what it means to be a victim of Communism," adding that there is "little difference" between "national and international Socialism [...] both involve the same destruction, and a basic characteristic for both is inhumanity."[33]

Slovenia[edit]

On 8 August 2012, the Slovenian government adopted a resolution proclaiming 23 August European Day of Remembrance for the Victims of All Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes.[34][35]

Observance of Black Ribbon Day outside the EU[edit]

Canada[edit]

In 2009, the House of Commons of Canada unanimously adopted 23 August as the Black Ribbon Day, as the national day of remembrance of Canada for the victims of Stalinism and Nazism. The resolution was introduced by Liberal MP Bob Rae and co-sponsored by Borys Wrzesnewskyj.[36][37][38][39]

Georgia[edit]

On 21 July 2010, in a unanimous vote, the Parliament of Georgia instituted the Soviet Occupation Day on 25 February and declared 23 August the Day of Memory of Victims of Totalitarian Regimes.[40][41]

United States[edit]

On 16 July 2013, Member of Congress John Shimkus introduced the resolution "H.Res. 302: Expressing support for designation of August 23 as Black Ribbon Day to recognize the victims of Soviet Communist and Nazi regimes," proposing that the United States Congress adopts Black Ribbon Day "to recognize the victims of Soviet Communist and Nazi regimes."[42]

On 21 May 2014, the United States Congress adopted a resolution supporting "the designation of Black Ribbon Day to recognize the victims of Soviet Communist and Nazi regimes" and to "remember and never forget the terror millions of citizens in Central and Eastern Europe experienced for more than 40 years by ruthless military, economic, and political repression of the people through arbitrary executions, mass arrests, deportations, the suppression of free speech, confiscation of private property, and the destruction of cultural and moral identity and civil society, all of which deprived the vast majority of the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe of their basic human rights and dignity, separating them from the democratic world by means of the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall," and stating that "the extreme forms of totalitarian rule practiced by the Soviet Communist and Nazi regimes led to premeditated and vast crimes committed against millions of human beings and their basic and inalienable rights on a scale unseen before in history."[43]

Observance by other entities[edit]

On 8 August 2011, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People approved the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, stating that "the Crimean Tatar people [...] suffered the crimes, committed by the Communist regime of the USSR in the 20th century admitted as a genocide."[44]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Black Ribbon Day: An International Day of Remembrance, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 23 August 2013
  2. ^ a b c "Declaration of the European Parliament on the proclamation of 23 August as European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism". Europa.eu. Retrieved 2011-05-10. 
  3. ^ a b "European Parliament resolution of 2 April 2009 on European conscience and totalitarianism". Europa.eu. Retrieved 2011-05-10. 
  4. ^ a b c "President Jerzy Buzek on the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism". European Parliament. Archived from the original on 10 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-10. 
  5. ^ a b "Statement by Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner on the Europe-wide Day of Remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes". europa.eu. 23 August 2011. Archived from the original on 22 January 2012. Retrieved 2011-08-23. 
  6. ^ "Annual European Day of Remembrance For Victims of Stalinism, Nazism". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 23 August 2012. Retrieved 2011-08-23. 
  7. ^ a b "Vilnius Declaration of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and resolutions adopted at the eighteenth annual session". Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCEPA). 29 June to 3 July 2009. Retrieved 2011-05-14. 
  8. ^ "EU Calendar: Remembrance Day for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism". Europa.eu. Archived from the original on 10 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-10. 
  9. ^ Daniel Proussalidis (23 August 2011). "Victims of totalitarianism remembered". Toronto Sun. Retrieved 2011-08-23. 
  10. ^ 2013 National Black Ribbon Day Commemoration events announced, eesti.ca
  11. ^ Jānis Škapars, The Baltic Way to Freedom: Non-violent Struggle of the Baltic States in a Global Context, Zelta Grauds, 2005, ISBN 9984986306
  12. ^ "European hearing on crimes committed by totalitarian regimes". Europa.eu. 08/04/2008. Archived from the original on 2011-05-10. Retrieved 2011-05-10. 
  13. ^ Crimes Committed by Totalitarian Regimes. Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
  14. ^ "Prague Declaration – Declaration Text". Institute for Information on the Crimes of Communism. 3 June 2008. Retrieved 28 January 2010. 
  15. ^ "Baltic States opened Western Europe's eyes on Soviet Union totalitarianism -- EP chairman in Vilnius". BNS. 2009-04-28. Archived from the original on 2011-05-10. Retrieved 2011-05-10. 
  16. ^ "A day to condemn Communism". New Europe. 6 April 2009. Archived from the original on 18 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-16. 
  17. ^ "Council conclusions on the memory of the crimes committed by totalitarian regimes in Europe". Council of the European Union. Archived from the original on 12 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-12. 
  18. ^ "Conference – The European Day of Remembrance of the victims of the totalitarian regimes". Presidency of the European Union. Archived from the original on 23 August 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-23. 
  19. ^ "European day of remembrance of the victims of the totalitarian regimes". Europa.eu. Retrieved 2011-08-23. 
  20. ^ "Europe remembers victims of Stalinism and Nazism". TODAYonline. Retrieved 2011-08-23. 
  21. ^ "Warsaw declaration against totalitarianism signed". thenews.pl. Archived from the original on 23 August 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-23. 
  22. ^ Statement by Martine Reicherts, EU Justice Commissioner on the Europe-wide Day of Remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, europa.eu, 23/08/2014
  23. ^ "Swedish Government honours victims of Communism and Nazism at August 23 Day of Remembrance". Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. 30 August 2010. Archived from the original on 10 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-10. 
  24. ^ "Swedish Minister of Education, Mr. Jan Björklund inaugurates the August 23 international Day of Remembrance for the victims of Communism and National Socialism". Institute for Information on the Crimes of Communism. Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-14. 
  25. ^ "23 August: The Europe-wide remembrance day for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes". Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 18 August 2009. Archived from the original on 10 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-10. 
  26. ^ "В Эстонии 23 августа учреждено Днем памяти жертв сталинизма и нацизма". Interfax.ru. 20 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-28. 
  27. ^ Латвия утвердила День памяти жертв сталинизма и нацизма Baltinfo.ru.
  28. ^ http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=354685
  29. ^ "Bulgaria Marks 1st Day against Totalitarianism". Novinite. 23 August 2010. Archived from the original on 18 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-10. 
  30. ^ "New memorial day to remember victims of communism". Croatian Times. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-06. 
  31. ^ "Croatian officials honour victims of totalitarian regimes". Croatian Times. 23 August 2011. Archived from the original on 23 August 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-23. 
  32. ^ "The European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Totalitarian Regimes – Warsaw, 23 August 2011". Institute of National Remembrance. Retrieved 2011-08-23. 
  33. ^ "Communist terror just as potent as Nazism, says gov’t official". politics.hu. 23 August 2011. Archived from the original on 23 August 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-23. 
  34. ^ Spominski dan na žrtve vseh totalitarnih in avtoritarnih režimov (Slovene)
  35. ^ Borci dneva žrtev totalitarizma ne bodo praznovali (Slovene)
  36. ^ "First National Black Ribbon Day to Be Commemorated in Canada". Eesti.ca. 20 August 2010. Archived from the original on 10 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-10. 
  37. ^ "International Black Ribbon Day". blackribbonday.org. Retrieved 2011-05-10. 
  38. ^ Central and Eastern European Communities to mark Black Ribbon Day. Ukrainian Canadian Congress.
  39. ^ "Aug. 23 to become Black Ribbon Day of remembrance". CTV.ca. 1 December 2009. Archived from the original on 31 January 2012. Retrieved 2011-05-10. 
  40. ^ "Georgia declares February 25 Soviet Occupation Day". kyivpost.com. 21 July 2010. Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-14. 
  41. ^ "February 25 Declared Day of Soviet Occupation". Civil.ge. 21 July 2010. Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-14. 
  42. ^ H.Res. 302: Expressing support for designation of 23 August as Black Ribbon Day to recognize the victims of Soviet Communist and Nazi regimes, govtrack.us
  43. ^ United States Congress resolution on "Recognition of victims of Soviet Communist and Nazi crimes"
  44. ^ "Decision of Mejlis 'On Events, Dedicated to the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism to Preserve the Memory of the Victims of Mass Deportation and Exterminations'". Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People. Archived from the original on 2011-12-20. Retrieved 2011-12-20.