Andrei Sakharov Plaza in the center of Washington, D.C., named after late dissident and Nobel Prize laureate, on which the Russian Embassy was located for years during the cold war, is no more. The times have changed since 1984.
Still, since 2013, the modern-day-Kremlin’s foes (the world chess champ and activist Garry Kasparov prominent among them) were pushing for the crusade to put the name of another kind of a dissident—Sergei Magnitsky—in front of the Russian Embassy in the U.S. capitol, as well as, according to Mr. Kasparov, “in front of every Russian embassy in every country that has the courage to stand up for free speech and human rights [in Russia].”
Sergei Magnitsky died in a Russian prison in 2009 at the age of 37 after being deprived of proper medical care by the prison doctors. For many in the West, he became a symbol of the tragic fate awaiting those in Russia who would risk their lives fighting notorious Russian corruption. The famous “Magnitsky List” of corrupt Russian politicians sanctioned by the U.S. government for violating human rights was named after him.
Mr. Kasparov was optimistic to believe he would achieve his goal by the end of 2013.
Now, more than two years later, as the popular Russian proverb goes, “the cart is still stuck at the same spot.” The idea of Magnitsky Plazas around the world remains as elusive as ever. No brave Western government stepped forward to annoy the powerful Kremlin ruler in favor of this politically charged brave initiative.
The idea of reminding the US of her former sins is not new within the Russian political class.
And, to the chagrin of Mr. Kasparov and the supporters of his idea, so far there is also no Liu Xiaobo Plaza named after famous dissident in front of Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C.
But that doesn’t mean the idea went unnoticed in Moscow. In fact, a counterpunch for the initiative is being considered in Russia.
Last week it was made known that the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation—a Russian analogue to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight, which has consultative powers—is planning to put forward a proposal for the installation of a memorial by the site of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, dedicated to the “genocide of the American Indians,” according to the RIA News Agency.
The request for permission to install such a monument was sent to the Administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin, to the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation and to the Moscow city authorities.
“The initiative to install the monument [near the US Embassy] is very timely as an act that will remind [people today] from where the history of the USA started,” stated member of the Civic Chamber Valery Korovin, who supported the proposal. “This monument must become the silent reproach to the modern American elites which had significantly deviated from the idealistic principles that were laid into the foundation of the American state.”
According to Mr. Korovin, the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation should also appeal to the U.S. Congress to consider the “rehabilitation” of American Indians “as the native people of the United States, to admit the fact of their genocide by the US Government, to carry out the act of national repentance and thus to close this dark chapter of the U.S. history.”
“As a state that carried out the highly moral act of recognition of the infringements on the rights of the peoples during the Great Patriotic War [the Russian name for the WW2] and that rehabilitated the Chechens, Ingush, Crimean Tatars and other peoples [of the former USSR that were sent to exile], Russia has the right to call on the United States to repentance. Without repentance by the American society it is not possible to talk about the leadership by the [USA and] the USA would have no moral ground to speak about rights and freedoms of this or other nations.”
The idea of reminding the U.S. of her former sins is not new within Russian political class.
Crimes against humanity don’t fall under the statute of limitations.
Just last summer, for example, during the round-table devoted to the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the U.S., the Speaker of the Russian Parliament and Head of the Russian Historical Society Sergei Naryshkin raised a possibility of creating a special International Criminal Tribunal on bombing of the two Japanese cities.
According to Mr. Naryshkin and a number of other Russian politicians, these bombings clearly constituted crimes against humanity that don’t fall under the statute of limitations.
“The modern-day U.S. administration wants to hide [from the world] not the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—this is not possible to do—but the hypocrisy and cynicism of the American leaders of the time,” Mr Naryshking said during the round-table. He added that “memory about this [crime] is as important as the memory of the atrocities committed by both the Nazis and Japanese militarists.”
As in the case of a lot of other projects in Russia, Mr. Naryshkin’s idea so far has remained nothing but political hot air. Still, soon the Russians will be passing Sitting Bull, waiting for their visas in the long lines to the U.S. embassy.