Leaders of European countries call to condemn the crimes of communism

1 August 2022

High-ranking officials of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania signed a joint appeal to the heads of EU institutions in Prague on July 29. It emphasizes that the Russian war in Ukraine forces the EU to pay more attention to condemning the crimes of all totalitarian regimes of the 20th century and honor the memory of the victims of these modes. This call is a consequence of the resolution of the European Parliament “On the European conscience and totalitarianism” dated April 2, 2009, regarding the establishment of a memorial to the victims of all totalitarian regimes.

The joint letter is signed by Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

“All of Europe must comprehend what happens if the crimes of totalitarian regimes go unpunished. Russia is repeating the crimes of the Soviet regime every day in Ukraine. While for Western Europe, the end of World War 2 meant peace, for Estonia and other states in our region, it meant new mass killings, deportations, and repressions by communist regimes. In order to stop the Kremlin’s war machine and to hold war criminals accountable, one must understand the roots of Russian imperialism,” Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas said. 

“In addition to the crimes of Nazism, the facts about the crimes of the communism ideology, which is responsible for millions of victims in some parts of Europe, cannot be ignored in the long term. This approach weakens the EU as a whole, which third parties take advantage of. Such a symbolic place of memory is a very important return to the essence of a united Europe and for better sustainability and future of the EU itself,” said the President of the Platform for European Memory and Conscience, Marek Mutor.

The heads of states call on the EU to assume a coordinating role for a broader solution to the problem in EU member states, especially at a time when Russia is intensively attacking Europe with disinformation.

Joint letter on European memory

Dear Colleagues,

The brutal unprovoked and unjustified war of aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine signals about the rise of authoritarianism that neglects and even seeks to destroy the international rules-based order. This is an alarming reminder of  not very distant past, notably the crimes committed by two cruel totalitarian regimes of the 20th century in Europe – Nazism and Communism.

The background and the roots of the current Kremlin regime ideology represent, in many cases, a reflection of the predecessors of recent Russia: the USSR and the Russian Empire. Russia has never condemned the crimes of the Soviets and its current leadership openly tolerates and even enthusiastically supports the Soviet legacy. There is a need to strengthen efforts on the EU level to fight the attempts of Russia to rewrite the history and use the narratives of totalitarian regimes in the context of war against Ukraine, by using legal, political and awareness raising instruments. Without an accurate, honest and comprehensive assessment of the past, we will not be able to effectively prevent future crimes on our continent or investigate the current ones in Ukraine.

The democratic world has decisively condemned the Nazi regime and brought to justice its leaders and perpetrators. The bitter lessons of the Nazism and the crimes perpetrated by the regime have become an obligatory part of teaching about the history in our educational systems. At the same time, the memory and knowledge of Soviet crimes have yet to find their rightful place in the consciousness of the Europeans.

Today more than ever clear and visionary leadership is needed, to promote the European Remembrance narratives across the whole EU, which in the end should become a part of all Member States national educational programs. The EU is best positioned to take up this coordinated role, and such a gesture would also be timely and highly relevant, in the light of an unprecedented level of Russian disinformation and misinformation, including on issues of the European history.

In the recent years, important steps have been made on the European level by establishing the Platform of European Memory and Conscience. The EU could do more by providing the Platform with necessary political and financial resources. The establishment of a Pan-European Memorial for the Victims of Totalitarianism in Brussels would be a very important step in ensuring proper remembrance of crimes committed by totalitarian regimes, including the Soviet one, in our awareness-raising efforts in order to prevent similar crimes and to stop them in Ukraine, and in paying our tribute to the victims.

We very much count on your personal engagement and support for these initiatives which could be addressed in the EU Council.

Kaja Kallas, Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia

Krišjānis Kariņš,  Prime Minister of the Republic of Latvia

Gitanas Nausėda, President of the Republic of Lithuania

Mateusz Morawiecki, Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland

Klaus Iohannis, President of Romania