Marcus KolgaThe Kremlin’s support for the revanchist glorification of Soviet symbols aims to subvert Canada’s European alliances and turn Canadians against each other, writes Marcus Kolga.

By Marcus Kolga, May 23, 2018.

The past few years have clearly demonstrated that no Western city or country is immune from the subversive effects of the Kremlin’s propaganda machine. Unlike the rest of the world, which commemorates the liberation of Europe from Nazi tyranny on May 8, the Kremlin has chosen to exploit the event for its own political advantage as a morbid revanchist glorification of Soviet power on May 9.

In crypto-Soviet fashion, the Russian embassies and consulates organize parades and ceremonies that deify the Red Army combatants, the KGB and Stalin himself. Young children are dressed in Red Army and KGB uniforms tailored just for their juvenile figures to emulate Stalin’s soldiers. The bizarre vision of children clumsily goose stepping along western streets is made all the more surreal by the cardboard tanks and naval ships they tugged along with them — effigies of Soviet hegemony in a bygone era.

In some Eastern European countries, provocations have accompanied May 9th celebrations, with reports of “thugs” being hired by pro-Putin groups to instigate violence in Ukraine this year.

The Kremlin’s preference for bare-knuckled “soft-power” initiatives seems to have been exported to Canada this year.

In Ottawa, dozens of Soviet flags fluttered along the roadway leading to the Canadian War Museum on May 9, as over 300 neo-Stalinist activists joined the global festivities led by Vladimir Putin, to pray to the piousness of Stalin’s glory.

The festival of Soviet nostalgia might usually be dismissed as naked Kremlin propaganda, contained to a group of neo-Stalinst buffoons. However, according to witnesses, the parade streamed off the street and into the Canadian War Museum and then, allegedly, took a violent turn.

The group gathered in a Second World War dedicated hall and began singing Soviet anthems and waving their Soviet flags. Russian diplomatic staff were apparently in attendance.

At one point, a member of the Ukrainian community took a Ukrainian flag out of his pocket and silently lifted it above his head. According to the gentleman, a number of participants around him violently tackled him and then proceeded to drag him out of the museum.

Spokesmen for the Canadian War Museum have confirmed that a report has been filed with the Ottawa Police regarding an incident that took place on May 9. The Ukrainian community member who was assaulted has also filed reports with both the RCMP and Ottawa Police Service.

The incident marks an extremely worrying new low in the Kremlin’s propaganda activities in Canada, where federal buildings have now been hijacked by pro-Kremlin extremists whose ultimate intent is to marginalize and belittle the experiences of millions of Canadians and their trauma. Worse yet, is the allegation that pro-Putin extremists violently removed a Canadian citizen from a federal Canadian institution in the presence of Russian Embassy staff.

The incident marks an extremely worrying new low in the Kremlin’s propaganda activities in Canada.

Whether the alleged assault represents a violation of rights or a more serious potential diplomatic incident, millions of ordinary Canadians of Central and Eastern European descent are also victimized by such gross acts of insensitivity and hate.

The overt glorification of Soviet symbols and portraits glorifying Stalin reawaken the unspeakable pain and terror that millions of Canadians and their families experienced before they fled the arbitrary arrests, deportation, famine and murder that were hallmarks of Soviet occupation.

The Kremlin’s support for the revanchist glorification of Stalin’s mass murder and repression has a single aim — to subvert Canada’s European alliances and turn Canadians against each other. By actively denying history through blatant falsification and distortion, Putin hopes to delegitimize the histories of millions of Canadians by spreading a manufactured shroud of false doubt. This represents a direct threat to our cohesion as a nation and our society.

While Canadians are free to express themselves as they wish in private, the display of symbols that represent hate or terror must be outlawed from public lands and buildings.

The allegedly violent turn taken by pro-Putin activists at the Canadian War Museum last week, demands that Canadian authorities and government take a closer look at Russian active measures in Canada, not just in the context of elections or cyber terror, but in securing our society and democracy as a whole.

Marcus Kolga is a writer, documentary filmmaker, human rights activist and an expert on foreign disinformation. He is a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s Centre for Advancing Canada's Interests Abroad.

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