When laws change, people who were once convicted as criminals are (sometimes) pardoned. We often find that just and necessary, like in the case of those convicted of homosexual acts when this was still a crime (which isn’t all that long ago), or those sentenced by previous dictatorial regimes. Reading Emmanuel Carrère’s book Limonov, I found an interesting new perspective of these kind of pardons, in the context of Gorbachev’s glasnost policy.
In 1989, Alexander Yakovlev, Gorbachev’s principal adviser, explained on television that the decree rehabilitating all those who had been persecuted since 1917 was not at all a measure of clemency, as people in the Party were saying, but of repentance: “We are not pardoning them, we are asking their pardon. The goal of this decree is to rehabilitate us, who by remaining silent and looking away were accomplices to these crimes.”