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Historical Revisionism in Comparative Perspective: Law, Politics, and Surrogate Mourning

31 Pages Posted: 18 Dec 2013  

Uladzislau Belavusau

T.M.C. Asser Institute - University of Amsterdam

Date Written: December 18, 2013


Recently the law on the Armenian genocide denial in France with a subsequent decision of the Conseil Constitutionnel (February 2012) shed fresh light on the controversial issue of historical revisionism. It disposed the issue in a wider perspective than a recurrent legal discussion on Holocaust denial. Furthermore, in drawing their bill, the authors of the French law invoked the EU Council Framework Decision 2008/913. This article demonstrates the chilling effects of that EU instrument for the freedom of speech in Europe. To these ends, it first explores the “European” model of legal engagement with historiography that is radically different from its counterpart in the USA. It further places this model in a fertile yet under-theorized comparative realm of three Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries: the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. The CEE is a primary arena of the Holocaust, a region particularly sensitive to interpretations of World War II, and a battlefield of two totalitarian regimes. In normative terms, this comparative study of semantic and pragmatic differences between historical revisionism and hate speech, of victimhood and mens rea in the crime of Holocaust denial, as well as of the appropriation of selected episodes of World War II, concludes that the criminalization of historical revisionism constitutes a substantial impairment to the freedom of (academic) expression for the sake of politics of memory (Geschichtspolitik).

Keywords: Historical revisionism; Holocaust denial; Armenian genocide; hate speech; freedom of expression; EU Central and Eastern Europe; Council Decision 2008/913

Suggested Citation

Belavusau, Uladzislau, Historical Revisionism in Comparative Perspective: Law, Politics, and Surrogate Mourning (December 18, 2013). EUI Department of Law Research Paper No. 12/2013. Available at SSRN:

Uladzislau Belavusau (Contact Author)

T.M.C. Asser Institute - University of Amsterdam ( email )

R.J. Schimmelpennincklaan 20-22
The Hague, 2517 JN


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