Page last updated at 20:28 GMT, Tuesday, 19 May 2009 21:28 UK

Russia panel to 'protect history'

Soviet soldiers hoisting the red flag over the Reichstag in Berlin, 1945
Russia is fiercely proud of its defeat of Nazi Germany

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered the creation of a commission to act against what the Kremlin terms falsifications of Russian history.

The commission will attempt to defend the official version of Soviet history before, during and after World War II.

Correspondents say Russia is immensely proud of its role in defeating Nazi Germany, and is angered by attempts to re-evaluate the period.

The Kremlin is drawing up plans to make such moves a criminal offence.

The laws could see people fined, or even imprisoned for up to five years, for deviating from the official history.

Mr Medvedev said earlier this month: "We will never forget that our country, the Soviet Union, made the decisive contribution to the outcome of World War II, that it was precisely our people who destroyed Nazism, determined the fate of the whole world."

It's part of the Russian Federation's policy to create an ideological foundation for what is happening in Russia right now
Heorhiy Kasyanov
Ukrainian historian

The commission will be headed by the president's chief of staff, Sergei Naryshkin, and include MPs, intelligence officials, historians and bureaucrats.

Critics say the official view from Moscow glosses over Soviet-era crimes.

In many former Warsaw Pact countries and Soviet republics, the years of the Soviet Union are seen as a hostile occupation.

Russia has strongly objected to its former allies' moving or removing Soviet-era memorials, or attempting to ban Soviet symbols, saying this equates Communism to Nazism.

And it has rejected negative interpretations of Soviet actions, such as Ukrainian claims that a famine in the 1930s was a deliberate genocide.

Some critics, like Heorhiy Kasyanov from Ukraine's National Academy of Sciences, say the Kremlin is trying to whitewash Soviet history in order to justify its denial of human rights.

"It's part of the Russian Federation's policy to create an ideological foundation for what is happening in Russia right now," he told the Associated Press.

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