Welcome to Captive Nations Week. Never heard of it? You’re not alone. Yet this usually-forgotten, federally mandated occasion — now in its 60th year — is worth resurrecting in the 21st century.
Congress created Captive Nations Week in 1959, making the third week in July a time to show Americans’ solidarity with the nations dominated by communism. The original law listed 22 captive nations, most of which had substantial communities of citizens in major American cities. After the law’s passage, these communities began to hold parades and rallies every year, from Miami to New York to Los Angeles to Chicago and many other cities.
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Mayors and governors often participated in local parades, while presidents, obliged to issue an annual proclamation under the 1959 law, did their part, too — especially Ronald Reagan, who touted the week in public speeches. Cherished by refugee communities and well-known in political circles, Captive Nations Week played an important role in the triumph of liberty during the Cold War.
Since 1989, Captive Nations Week has almost completely faded from view. Yet there are still many captive nations around the world. More concerning: Communist-dominated nations are once again growing in number.
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The original list included mainland China, Tibet, North Korea, and Vietnam — all of which are still under communist sway. So are several countries added to the list over the years — for instance, Cuba and Laos. The original law also noted geographic areas, such as the part of Turkestan, now called Xinjiang by the People’s Republic of China, which is still brutalized by Communist China.
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As a congressionally authorized organization, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation continues to raise awareness about the plight of these nations and peoples. Three years ago, we also recognized three new captive nations.
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