Kiev’s Purge

Behind the New Legislation to Decommunize Ukraine

Participants wave communist flags near a statue of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin during an International Worker's Day, or Labour Day, parade in Donetsk, east Ukraine, May 1, 2014. Marko Djurica / Reuters

Earlier this month, the Ukrainian parliament approved four bills intended to decommunize Ukraine. Critics slammed the legislation, claiming that it would limit free speech and cause unnecessary friction between Kiev and some parts of the country’s eastern regions. Supporters, however, insist that the terms of the bills align with international norms and are necessary to Ukraine’s adoption of pro-Western reforms.

The debate over whether these four bills are valid need not be so fraught. One simple way to evaluate their merit is to focus on whether they promote two key values: freedom and justice. If they do, then they make good laws. If they do not, then the laws should be amended or thrown out. And if they make tradeoffs between freedom and justice, which is often the case, then that’s just life.

Americans and western Europeans generally consider Nazism as one of the greatest evils, much

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