The international Black Ribbon Day movement co-ordinated from Toronto, resulted in public demonstrations on August 23rd in over 50 cities worldwide prior to fall of the Soviet Union in 1901. It was meant to promote the cause of peace and freedom in Central and Eastern Europe by stressing that World War II was not instigated by Nazi Germany alone, but was a direct result of the collusion of Moscow and Berlin through the signing of the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact in 1939.
Black Ribbon Day drew attention to the fact that one of the aggressors of the war was still holding Central and Eastern Europe captive and that the West should be more vigilant and pro-active in finding non-confrontational means to liberate the millions of people of the region. Only then would a non-antagonistic world emerge from the tragic ruins of World War II.
The same message to the world came powerfully through from the first August 23rd conference, entitled History, Memory & Politics in Central and Eastern Europe, to pick up the spirit of the Black Ribbon commemorations. The nonchalant and lackadaisical attitudes of western governments is allowing the steady replacement of the weak democratic institutions with totalitarian counterparts in Moscow.
The roster of speakers invited to participate was impressive. Not only were they recognized experts in the topics they presented, but their observations were based not only exhaustive investigation and research but was drawn also from the realm of their own personal experience. Thus the conference, organized and chaired by film-maker Marcus Kolga, was uniquely different from traditional academic gatherings.
The presenters: Robert Amsterdam, international lawyer/commentator with vast experience in Russia; Dr. Iivi-Anna Masso, political scientist, journalist, expert in Russian influence in west; Vladimir Kara-Murza, RTVi (Russian language) Washington bureau chief, co-founder of Committee 2008 (Russian political opposition); Taras Kuszio, political scientist, writer, international recognized expert on developments in Eastern Europe particularly Ukraine; Boris Nemtsov, former Russian deputy prime minister, co-founder of the Russian political opposition Union of Right Forces and Russian Solidarity; Dr. Lee Edwards, historian, chairman Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (USA); Imbi Paju, historian, author, filmmaker; Borys Wrzesnewskyj, member of parliament, co-sponsor of 2009 parliamentary resolution making Black Ribbon Day an officially recognized memorial day for victims of communism in Canada; Warren Kinsella, lawyer, writer, targeting racially motivated hate mongers. The sessions were moderated by Laas Leivat, Dr. Iivi-Anna Masso and Marcus Kolga. Markus Hess, chair of the Central and Eastern European Council of Canada presented closing remarks.
One warning that resounded throughout the conference from nearly all speakers: The phenomenon known as `Putinism` was the root cause of many negative developments in Eastern and Central Europe. The abandoning of Ukraine`s pro-western stance and its sharp turn towards Moscow; the reluctance of countries such as Finland to stand up to Moscow`s propaganda; the saturation of Russian life with corruption; the denial of Soviet culpability in killing tens of millions of its own people and those of the countries it occupied; the aggressive elimination of any viable political opposition in Russia.
Building on the success of this conference, the event is surely to become an annual tradition. As a fitting way to commemorate Black Ribbon Day these conferences can help in bringing into focus the unsolved problems of a part of the world not often covered by the Canadian media, problems if left to fester can seriously affect Canada`s relations with Russia.
Successful conference reminds us of Black Ribbon Day message