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Henry M. Robert

The Norilsk uprising commemoration bill has already passed the committee stage

Valentyn NALYVAICHENKO: “The entire Verkhovna Rada must approve the resolution commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Norilsk uprising”
18 June, 2013 - 09:29

The draft resolution calling for the nationwide commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Norilsk uprising has passed its appropriate committee of the Verkhovna Rada, the bill’s sponsor, the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms (UDAR) MP Valentyn Nalyvaichenko told The Day. “The parliamentary Committee on Culture and Spirituality recommends to vote in the first and final readings for the draft resolution commemorating the Norilsk uprising anniversary,” the committee’s decision reads.

Let us recall that the draft resolution calls for the Cabinet of Ministers to form an organizing committee which will adopt a list of commemorative events, and for the anniversary promotion through broadcasting the Norilsk uprising-themed radio and television shows, commemorative coin minting by the National Bank of Ukraine, and issuing a series of stamps dedicated to the event by the Ukrposhta.

Commenting on the resolution passing the appropriate committee, Nalyvaichenko said: “Public hearings on the 60th anniversary of the Norilsk uprising, held at the Kyiv Mohyla Academy by NGOs, broke through the routine of everyday life, told the truth about the Ukrainians who rose up in concentration camps to get freedom and dignity.”

According to the politician, “civic activists’ success with the hearings inspired me and other MPs to get the event honored by the state and understood by the entire Ukrainian society now, because every Ukrainian who stood up against totalitarianism was fighting for our and our children’s free future.”

It should be noted that the Norilsk uprising is of interest not only to the Ukrainians, but also to people of other nations that took part in it. The delegation including Ukrainian participants of the peaceful act of disobedience and film director, creator of The Mystery of the Norilsk Uprising film Mykhailo Tkachuk met with Lithuanian survivors of the uprising who were participating in the Norilsk Heroes commemoration event in late May, 2013. “Eighteen former political prisoners came together in the exposition hall of the Lithuanian parliament, the Seimas,” Tkachuk told The Day. “It was a commemorative event rather than a parliamentary hearing. MP Vytautas Saulis inaugurated it, but it was the Norilsk Heroes association’s chairman Bronius Zlatkus who presided over it. Leading public figures spoke at the event, and presentation of a female Norilsk survivor’s book was held there. The Ukrainian delegation got to speak there, too. We passed a loaf of bread and donated the black-red-black flag of the uprising to the Lithuanians. Finally, I showed the short film Snow, Snow based on the eponymous song.”

 The Day has repeatedly stressed the important role of the Norilsk Labor Camp prisoners’ uprising in the history of Ukraine. Nalyvaichenko agreed: “Every nation attained European values through such battles and sincere understanding and respect for those who fought for their native country’s freedom and dignity.”

The MP saw the draft resolution finding support in the parliament: “All of us are sure the entire Verkhovna Rada must approve the resolution.”

Chairman of the Committee on Culture and Spirituality Viacheslav Kyrylenko was less optimistic. In an interview to The Day, he noted that he was moderately skeptical about chances that the draft resolution on the 60th anniversary of the Norilsk uprising would be approved. However, in his opinion, the situation was not hopeless: “For the first time since Ukraine’s independence, the parliament passed resolutions on honoring the Kruty Battle heroes, marking the 150th anniversary of the president of the West Ukrainian People’s Republic Yevhen Petrushevych, and the 60th anniversary of Kvitka Tsisyk whom the majority factions had felt somehow ideologically alien to themselves and to Ukraine.” He stated further: “Of course, these initiatives were approved after lengthy debate and several votes, but the end result is positive.”

One reason for the passivity of many MPs when the abovementioned issues were brought forward was their lack of knowledge regarding people or events which were proposed for commemoration. “We will conduct outreach work with the MPs who have no idea of the Norilsk uprising before the vote [this raises a number of questions about the state of our information space, with most media having ignored this topic. The greatest question is ‘How can an uninformed MP make correct decisions?’ – Ed.] and will take the floor during the debate immediately preceding the vote. I, in particular, as the committee’s chairman, will take the floor and cover the uprising and its anniversary’s great importance,” the MP said. “Moreover, we still have a few survivors of the uprising with us. Should the opposing MPs disbelieve our words, we may invite the survivors to speak as authorities on the issue,” Kyrylenko added.

The vote for the Norilsk uprising resolution must become a test for MPs. “Every resistance movement, fighting for the freedom of man and the whole nation should deserve respect from all sides in the parliament. However, it would be so only if they supported the Ukrainian statehood. So now, we will see who recognizes the importance of the resistance movement, which led, in particular, to the emergence of the modern Ukrainian state in 1991, and who, on the contrary, has a principled stance against everything that reminds us of the Ukrainians’ centuries-long struggle for freedom, liberty, and independence,” the MP said.

Finally, Kyrylenko highlighted the anniversary commemoration’s particular importance in the context of the young people’s civic education. “The example of this uprising will teach them that our parents and grandparents never gave up, even under the terrible conditions of the Stalinist Gulag, but rose up there and led the resistance,” he explained.

According to Kyrylenko, the appropriate committee decided virtually unanimously to recommend the draft resolution for adoption in the first and final readings. “I think we will table it by the end of this session,” he stressed.

By Anna CHEREVKO, The Day