Amnesty

Amnesty. Complete or partial remission of punishment issued by a proper state authority to whole groups or categories of prisoners. Special occasions in public life or in the life of the head of state provide opportunities for the granting of amnesty. Traditionally the granting of amnesty has been an act reserved for a head of state; however, it can also be granted by parliament. Russian tsars granted amnesty through their ‘illustrious manifestoes.’ However, only a very few condemned Ukrainians in the Russian Empire were granted amnesty. Polish presidents from 1920 to 1939 also exercised this privilege rarely in relation to Ukrainian political prisoners. In the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and and the Ukrainian SSR the right of granting amnesty was reserved for the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet; the Ukrainian SSR rarely used this authority. In fact, it was exercised solely by the USSR, which had enacted a wide amnesty in 1955–6 and a limited one in 1967, 1977 (anniversaries of the October Revolution of 1917) and 1982; these amnesties contained various clauses restricting applicability and, although advertised as ‘general’ amnesties, benefited common criminals more than political prisoners. A special type of amnesty, known as povynna, was aimed at the enemies of the Soviet regime, eg, insurgents and émigrés. To receive this amnesty, such persons had to have voluntarily give themselves up to the authorities with an admission of guilt. The government of the Ukrainian SSR decreed several such amnesties to the members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and to political émigrés in the West in the 1940s and 1950s. There was also an act of individual amnesty known as pardon (pomyluvannia).

Vasyl Markus

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]




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