MOSCOW. (Konstantin Zatulin for RIA Novosti) - France intends to pass a bill stipulating criminal liability for denial of the 1915 Armenian genocide in Turkey.
Other countries are also working on creating instruments concerning the acknowledgement of the tragedy, but with varying consistency of legislative efforts and at varying levels of authority.
The State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, made a statement in 1995 to acknowledge the 1915 genocide in the Ottoman Empire, and April 24 was declared Remembrance Day. I made a parliamentary report on the subject as head of the Duma committee on CIS Affairs. The document we passed back then remains a model of precise wording and balanced stances.
Many countries have joined the cause since then. For example, two thirds of states in the United States now have legislative acts demanding that Armenian genocide is exposed in textbooks and its history taught at school. Certain states intend to establish liability for denial of genocide as in the case with Jewish genocide during World War II. The federal Congress, however, has shelved a similar act, blocked by a part of the military-industrial complex that is lobbying Turkish interests. Not all Europeans support the cause, either, though the majority of countries have recognized the tragedy, which is of extreme importance to Armenia and Turkey alike.
Turkey attempts to deny the ethnic background of atrocious crimes committed in 1915, and has not acknowledged its responsibility as the bloodshed goes back to the Ottoman times. We can see Turkey's point-the issue implies not only moral condemnation, which would put it on a par with rogue countries, but can also lead to material claims: lawsuits by victims' descendants, territorial claims, and disputes concerning cultural artifacts, especially considering their deplorable state in Turkey.
Europe is rather skeptical about Turkey's arguments, which shows not only respect for the dead but also a lack of political will to see Turkey joining the European family, with its values.
If you ask me, I believe that past crimes must always be acknowledged.
Some former Soviet countries, however, are abusing the term "genocide." For example, certain present-day Ukrainian political activists accuse Russia of genocide with reference to the 1930s famine. Their opinion has no documentary proof, contrary to the 1915 Armenian tragedy, with numerous papers to witness government resolutions of massacres and ethnic reprisals.
Ossetian spokesmen have also appealed to the State Duma. But Georgian-Ossetian disputes need a much more detailed study than has been made so far. Georgian leaders have done much for the issue to appear on the agenda. However, the Ossetian drama is more likely to qualify as reprisals than genocide such as what Nazis did to Jews or Ottoman Turks to Armenians.
Konstantin Zatulin is Director of the CIS Institute.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.