Twenty seven MEPs are calling for online retail giant Amazon to discontinue the sale of clothing and other goods emblazoned with Soviet symbols.
Lithuanian MEP Antanas Guoga authored the letter, addressed to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and signed by MEPs from a wide range of political groups in the European Parliament and from nations which both laboured under Soviet occupation, including Estonia, or fell within its sphere of influence, as well as those which did not.
MEPs from Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia joined colleagues from Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal and the UK in signing the letter, stating they "condemn the use of the aforementioned symbols of totalitarian regimes – Nazi or Soviet", stating that these regimes "systematically abused human rights, suppressed freedom and democracy".
No Swastikas, plenty of hammers and sickles
A search on the amazon site aimed at the market of a current EU member state, the UK, yielded dozens of T-shirts, hats, flags, posters etc. illustrated with Soviet symbols including the hammer and sickle, red star, CCCP* lettering, as well as images of Lenin and first man in space Yuri Gagarin.
Conversely, a search under 'swastika', a largely illegal display in many EU states, threw up one t-shirt so emblazoned but with the symbol crossed out and with the wording ''Nazi punks f**k off'', a song title from US rock band The Dead Kennedys, and various books of a mostly academic nature, exploring the origins and semiotics of a symbol which predated Nazi Germany by several millennia and has been found across a variety of Indo-European cultures.
"The total number of victims of the Soviet regime is estimated to be more than 60 million. Over 10 million people were sent to labour camps in Siberia, where they endured inhumane living conditions, forced labour, starvation and physical violence. The bloody actions, terror and inhumanity of the Soviet regime affected nearly every family in the formerly occupied countries. The tragic consequences of these actions are felt to this day", the letter explains.
Walmart and Adidas already discontinued Soviet items
The letter follows the WhyNotSwastika social media campaign, which rhetorically asks the question about the apparent double standard.
Earlier this year, US retail titan Walmart, as well as sportswear company Adidas, stopped selling goods carrying Soviet symbols following widespread protests, including from the Baltic States.
Estonia first came under Soviet occupation in 1940 and was subsequently occupied by Nazi Germany 1941-1944, before being reoccupied by the Soviet Union until the latter collapsed in 1991. Latvia and Lithuania were occupied in the same way over practically the same timeframe; Finland lost large swathes of territory to the Soviet Union after World War Two and had to maintain cordial relations, which necessitated some media censorship, thereafter.
In September, UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt (Conservative) faced strong criticisms from embassies and authorities of the three Baltic States, amongst others, after likening the EU to the Soviet Union in the light of Brexit negotiations.
* The cyrillic alphabet rendering of 'SSSR', the Russian name for the Soviet Union (Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik).
Editor: Andrew Whyte