Council of Europe

   Intergovernmental organization. Established in the wake of World War II, the Council of Europe was created to promote reconciliation between the various peoples of Europe and prevent the vicious nationalism that characterized earlier periods of history. Founded by Western European governments, most of which were North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members, the organization focused on human rights, democracy promotion, and the rule of law. As such, the council emerged as a keen critic of the actions of the Soviet Union and the various regimes of the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War for their treatment of ethnic minorities and religious groups. Such criticisms were integral to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and its allies subscribing to the Helsinki Accords in 1975, which committed the regimes to respect of human rights and dignity.
   Beginning in 1989, the council was reinvigorated by the political shift as the Iron Curtain fell across East-Central Europe. As part of their larger project of European integration, the post-totalitarian regimes of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics began to actively seek admission to the organization. With the spread of ethnic violence in the Caucasus, Moldova, and other parts of the former USSR, the council became an important player in publicizing minority issues and resolving conflicts. Russia joined the organization on 28 February 1996, after promising to end the death penalty (although a number of executions took place after that date). Russia’s membership, however, has been criticized as diluting the overall mission of the council since the country, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, is not beholden to any external political influences and frequently flouts Europeans norms, particularly in relation to its conduct in Chechnya.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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