Swedish campaign on crimes conducted by communist regimes

March 13th, 2008 - 9:58 am ICT by admin  

Stockholm, March 13 (DPA) A Soviet-era schoolboy who became a propaganda hero after denouncing his own father has inspired the title of a just-opened exhibition under the auspices of the Swedish government agency Living History Forum. The exhibition was part of a new information drive aimed at schools and the general public highlighting crimes against humanity committed by communist regimes.

Eskil Franck, head of the agency, said the information campaign was commissioned by the Swedish government in December 2006 and aimed at improving “the general knowledge” about crimes that included mass killings, labour camps and deportations.

Examples were drawn from the former Soviet Union, China and Cambodia between 1917 when the communists took power in Russia until 1989 when the Berlin Wall collapsed.

The five-year-old Living History Forum has earlier mainly focused on issues related to the Holocaust. It was set up under the previous Social Democratic government to promote issues relating to tolerance, democracy and human rights.

A mobile exhibition entitled “Little Brother Sees You” draws on the mythology and alleged feats of Pavel Morozov (1918-1932).

Known as “Pavlik”, he was lauded by state propaganda for denouncing his father and later killed by his uncles. The exhibition was to tour libraries around the country, project coordinator Erika Aronowitsch said.

Shaped like a huge black-and-white sugar lump, the exhibition uses texts and a few photos “as a shard to increase interest about totalitarian regimes”, Aronowitsch said, adding that organisers hoped to raise queries about heroism, morality and denunciations.

Ukraine-born Stephan Adamenko, 83, recalled how three of his brothers died of starvation during the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine that was the result of policies ordered by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to enforce collectivisation of farms.

“There were no cats or dogs to be seen,” Adamenko told reporters, adding that cannibalism also occurred.

At school, Adamenko said he remembered how teachers urged students to emulate Morozov and spy and inform on their parents.

Chinese dissident Chen Shizong, who was held in prison 1963-1977 welcomed the initiative, saying there was need to highlight events during Mao Zedong’s regime.

“I was an orphan and Mao was like a father to me,” the 71-year-old told DPA, recalling how he met the Chinese leader while studying in Moscow during the 1950s.

His criticism of policies conducted during Mao’s rule, including the personality cult and failed efforts to industrialize China during the Great Leap Forward landed him in trouble. He was sentenced to years in labour camps and prisons as part of his “rehabilitation”.

Digging into a bag, he then shows a pair of worn slippers, a “reminder” of his time in jail.

After Mao’s death he was reinstated and resumed work, but fell out again with the authorities after bringing to light cases of illegal executions by prison guards that led to new trials. Since 2000 he has refugee status in Sweden.

In addition, to the mobile exhibitions, the Living History Forum has produced a catalogue with testimonies and numerous documents highlighting various atrocities, a teacher’s guide as well as a magazine aimed at high school students.

At the end of May, an overview of research on totalitarian communist regimes was to be handed over to the government, History Professor Klas-Goran Karlsson of Lund University said.

Karlsson told DPA that “interest was growing” to study the early era after the communist party took power in China 1949-1953, also in China but “you can’t write about everything”.

Karlsson said that as a historian, he “welcomed research that dealt with the main issues of our time, terror, genocide, world wars and so on that are part of our historical consciousness”.

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