By Julius Strauss in Moscow
London, England, UK
January 28, 2003
After 12 years of stalling, the Russian Duma has finally passed a law to
compensate the sons and daughters of victims of Stalin's purges.
Each will receive the equivalent of £2 (US $3.25) a month, one free train
ticket a year, 50 per cent off the cost of medicines and free false teeth.
The award, paltry even by Russian standards, is the latest sorry chapter in
a compensation process that has been blocked by Communists and Right-
In Russia there has been a concerted effort to brush over the crimes of the
Communist era. Officials refuse to countenance talk of atrocities committed
by Soviet soldiers during the Second World War, while the FSB, the
revamped KGB, is once again an admired institution.
Attempts by the Baltic states to bring Moscow's former secret policemen to
book are met with howls of protest from the Kremlin. Almost 50 years after
Stalin died, some of the millions of victims of the purges have been
rehabilitated, but few have been compensated.
A law passed in 1991, under Boris Yeltsin, stipulated that victims of the
Gulags could claim compensation for property confiscated by the KGB. But
it set a cap of £600 on each pay-out, and judged that the burden of proof
lay with the victim. Each had to produce three witnesses to prove their
Alexei Vasileyevich, of the Russian Association of the Victims of Political
Repression, said: "In almost every case all the witnesses where dead or
missing. I know of one case when a woman received a few rings back after a
former KGB officer helped her gain access to the archives. But that was the
In 1996 the Duma passed an amendment allowing children deported to
camps with their parents to make claims against the state. But they usually
received only a few hundred rubles.
For years all compensation attempts by the sons and daughters of Gulag
victims were blocked. It was only when local courts began ruling in their
favour last year that the Duma was forced to bow to legal precedent and
table a fresh amendment.
Critics of the new legislation say that a 92 ruble (£2) pension bonus is all
they will receive for their suffering. The other social and medical benefits
are accorded to all Russian pensioners.
Valeriya Dunayeva, 65, of the Russian human rights group Memorial, said
she was outraged by last week's law. Her mother was shot in 1941 as a spy
and her father sentenced to 25 years in northern Siberia as a political
prisoner. She and her brother were raised in a state orphanage where they
were both regularly abused.
She said: "In Russia today nobody is willing to recognise the horrendous
crimes of the past. There are 17,000 of us who lost parents under Stalin in
Moscow alone but the authorities simply pretend we don't exist."
The Telegraph, London, UK
For personal and academic use only