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60-Year Law Still Valid?


Sep 19, 2011
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Who Enslaved Whom or What Cramps US-Russia Cooperation

On July 15 Russian Foreign Ministry published its official statement, calling on the US to abandon the survivals of times past once again, as they hinder normal development of the two countries' relations. The question at issue is Captive Nations Week celebrated in the USA.

National Captive Nations Week – the third week of each July – involves official ceremonies and demonstrations in support of "enslaved nations." It first took place in 1953 and was declared by a Congressional resolution and signed into law (Public Law 86-90) by president Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1959.

According to the law, every successive US President was empowered to declare Captive Nations Week annually until such a time as freedom and independence shall have been achieved for all the captive nations of the world.

The list of captive nations included China, Poland, East Germany and many former Soviet republics like Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, as well as such claimants for independence like fictional Idel-Ural, Cossackia and White Ruthenia republics.

During more than 50 years since the law was adopted each American president has been careful to issue such proclamations. Though, the list of nations changed a little under president George W. Bush in 2008: White Ruthenia transformed into Byelorussia, China was taken away from the list, but North Korea was left, as well as Sudan, Syria and Zimbabwe. At that time Bush also appealed for "supporting young democracies of Afghanistan and Iraq."

Russian Foreign Ministry's statement dated July 15 says: "It has long been apparent that the provisions of the legislation do not correspond to the contemporary reality of the world. Thus, the document contains criticism of our country for allegedly being responsible for the "enslavement" of more than 20 states, this despite the fact that many of themÂ… have long since not only become sovereign and independent, but have also acquired full membership in such structures as the United Nations, the European Union and NATO."

According to the original tenor of the law, "direct and indirect aggression of Communist Russia" has led not only to the subjugation of the national independence of Lithuania, Poland and Czechoslovakia, but Ukraine, Byelorussia, Tibet, North Vietnam and even mainland China, as well as many other Eurasian countries.

Captive Nations Week hasn't been calling for affranchisement of these nations for a long time, as well as Russia hasn't been called an enslaver, however the list of countries to be emancipated is still an issue. And the basis of the law is still the same, and its tenor is still anti-Russian.

Besides, the provisions of the legislation can be well applicable to the United States themselves, since their history is intimately connected with impairment of native-born population rights – North American Indians, for instance, say nothing of exploitation of the slaves, imported from Africa. The examples of that could be found even in the US modern history – let's take repeated international human rights violations in Iraq and Afghanistan, infringement of international standards of prisoners rights protection (take an example of Guantanamo). The USA violate human rights and enslave indigenous nations, whilst supporting authoritarian rule where needed. But somehow there isn't a mention about that in the National Captive Nations Week Law…

It is also quite interesting that some national entities described in the law – like "Cossackia" and "Idel-Ural" – did not ever exist, but were borrowed by American Russophobes from…Nazi military strategists. The case is that the authors of Hitler's "General Plan for the East" thought out these titles to name North Caucasus and Ural territories, respectively.

In 2009 US president Barack Obama was the first to refuse calling any nations as captive. In his proclamation he just issued a call of solidarity to peoples across the world who can't exercise basic human rights. "The Cold War is now consigned to the history books,"- he said then.

Nevertheless, despite Obama's refusal from the Cold War, the mentality underneath the resolution is still alive. And the PL 86-90 is also still alive and well, and every president of the US just interprets it in his own way. But if the present president (an Afroamerican, by the way) is all the way eager to extirpate the negative impact of the document, adopted in full play of the Cold War, why doesn't he just repeal the law?

It's worth mentioning that the Congress of Russian-Americans has been fighting for the revocation of the law or at least making some amendments in it for many years, since Public Law 86-90 accuses the Russian people of being the captors of all these other "captive nations." So far, their appeal has no proper response among politologists and experts community neither in the US, nor in Europe.

In conclusion, the words of the recent Russian Foreign Ministry statement are to be quoted: "Given the current nature and momentum of Russian-American dialogue, we find it very hard to explain the retention of such an anachronism, which is a direct legacy of the bygone Cold War. We look forward to our American partners grasping this objective and simple truth: persistently looking back at the long outdated ideological tenets and labels can hardly be accommodated in our bilateral cooperation."

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