Bad-Neighbor Policy

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President Dmitry Medvedev chose not to travel to Ukraine to attend the memorial ceremony marking 75 years since the Holodomor -- the Stalin-induced famine of 1923-33 that caused a particularly high number of deaths in Ukraine. Instead, he sent an angry letter condemning the mean-spirited opportunists who refer disparagingly to the famine as the "so-called Holodomor" and are trying to drive a wedge between two fraternal Slavic nations.

Two weeks ago, I appeared on Savik Shuster's television talk show in Kiev, "Shuster Live," in which the Holodomor was discussed. The program's guests were divided into two camps. One was composed of pro-Russian politicians, who first claimed that the Holodomor never happened and then said Ukrainians were just one of many different nationalities who suffered from the famine. The most outrageous statements came from former State Duma Deputy Alexei Mitrofanov, who revealed a hitherto unknown historical fact: that the U.S. Great Depression and the Georgian mafia were responsible for the tragedy.

What was most most striking, however, was that the pro-Russian guests were fighting against imaginary charges since the Ukrainian side did not blame Russia for the famine. Leonid Kravchuk calmly pointed out that as Ukraine's first president, he could only investigate Stalin's crimes committed in Ukraine and not those committed in Russia.

It seems that the closer a country is located to Russia, the worse Moscow's relations are with that nation. The Kremlin wants to be on good terms with France and Germany, for example, but if any country that was once part of the Soviet empire tries to shed light on its own history, the Kremlin lashes out with angry reproaches that it is deliberately provoking a conflict.

Poland has repeatedly requested that Russia open a criminal case into the Katyn massacre, the Soviet army's mass execution of Polish officers and civilians in 1940. That request has been met with a refusal and a flurry of Russian publications claiming that, first, the mass executions never took place, and second, the Poles got what they deserved. Instead of initiating an investigation into how nearly 22,000 Polish officers, doctors, teachers and others were lined up in rows, shot in the back of the head and dumped into ditches by Soviet forces, then-President Vladimir Putin in 2005 established a new holiday on Nov. 4 commemorating Moscow's victory over Polish invaders in the early 1600s.

In April 2007, authorities in Tallinn relocated the Bronze Soldier monument for fallen Soviet soldiers to a cemetery outside of town. Pardon my lack of "patriotic correctness," but they had every right to do this. I wouldn't like it either if a monument to "Mongolian liberators" stood on Red Square.

Moscow was also upset when Estonian authorities tried NKVD veteran Arnold Meri on genocide charges against his own people. What possible gripe could Moscow have with Estonians who are trying a fellow Estonian on charges of killing Estonians? Meanwhile, the Duma accused the Estonians of rewriting World War II history, and a street in the city of Gorno-Altai was renamed in Meri's honor.

What is the Kremlin is trying to achieve in pursuing this aggressive policy toward its neighbors? It seems as if Russia wants to show that the current Kremlin leaders are from the same ilk as their predecessors who executed innocent Poles by the thousands in Katyn and who exported millions of tons of grain to other countries while their own people were dying from hunger.

The only difference is that the Soviet leaders despised their own people while dreaming of world revolution and domination, while the current Kremlin leaders have more modest aspirations, such as acquiring a villa in Nice or stashing away a large sum of money in a Swiss bank account. Today's rulers are too contemptible to befriend and too insignificant to fear.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.