Law of the Week: Order No. 591 ‘blocks access to Russian WWII archives.’

Week-ending 2 April 2021

On 1 April 2021 Order No. 591, issued by Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu, came into effect. According to the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, Order 591 “effectively blocks access to Russian military archives concerning the period of the Second World War.” Order 591 was issued on 12 November 2020 but published only on 23 March 2021.


Human Rights in Ukraine, 31 March 2021: Russia’s Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu has issued orders which effectively block almost all access to Russian military archives from the period of the Second World War.  The move is especially alarming given the current regime’s systematic attempts to push its own narrative about that period, distorting or muffling historical facts, for example, about the Soviet Union’s collaboration with Nazi Germany from 1939 to June 1941. It is typical that Order No. 591 was issued back on 12 November 2020, but only published over four months later, on 23 March 2021.  The delay was doubtless deliberate, leaving almost no time to organize protest or for researchers to spend time examining archival material before the measures come into effect on 1 April.

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