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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kremlin Proposes Probe of 1917 Crimes




In a renewed shouting match between liberals and Communists over anti-Semitism, a deputy head of the presidential administration called Tuesday for a legal assessment of the actions of the Bolsheviks in 1917.


The proposal came in the wake of a furor over Communist Deputy Albert Makashov, who at a political rally in October said Jews were responsible for the country's economic woes.


But political observers said the suggestion looked more like angry reaction to a parliamentary commission trying to impeach the president than a genuine desire to investigate the rise of the Soviets at the beginning of the century.


The proposal came during a three-hour closed session of a presidential commission for averting political extremism in Russia. Deputy head of the presidential administration Yevgeny Savostyanov called for the prosecutor general to "make a legal assessment of the actions of the Bolsheviks in seizing power in 1917," Interfax reported.


The commission's coordinator, Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov, said after the meeting that members would have to discuss a range of questions concerning political extremism in Russia.


"We must talk to both Makashov and [Krasnodar Governor Nikolai] Kondratenko about their behavior," he said in televised comments. He did not mention the investigation into Bolshevik actions in 1917, however.


Makashov's remarks sparked public outrage, but the Communist and nationalist-dominated State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, rejected a motion that would have denounced him. Meanwhile, international human rights groups have put Kondratenko's Krasnodar region on a watch list, following dozens of attacks on Jews.


Communists were outraged by Tuesday's proposal, calling it a pathetic attempt to slander the Communist Party.


"No one is going to take this idea seriously," said Nikolai Fedotov, a Communist Party spokesman. "Savostyanov is a blatant anti-Communist, and this is his feeble attempt to ban the party."


But Yury Korgunyuk, a political analyst at the INDEM research institute, said the threat of an investigation into the Revolution was the Kremlin's tit-for-tat response to the impeachment commission's allegations that Yeltsin was guilty of past wrongdoing.


"It is an indirect attack on the Communist Party," he said.


Although the commission, which is composed mostly of Communist parliamentary deputies, acts more as a soapbox for insulting the president, it is an embarrassment to the presidential administration. The panel has already accused Yeltsin on three grounds for impeachment: instigating the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, using force against parliament in 1993 and launching a war in Chechnya in 1994.


Korgunyuk said the Kremlin was making the point that Yeltsin is no more guilty of dissolving the Soviet Union than the Communists today are responsible for the actions of the Bolsheviks.


But historian Brian Moynahan, author of "Comrades: A Study of 1917," said an investigation into the Bolshevik deeds of 1917 would be fascinating.


"If nothing else, it would show how difficult it was for an infant democracy to survive," he said.