Weekly Experts Panel: the Wars of History
Introduction by Vladimir Frolov:
August 2009 marks the 70th anniversary of one of the most
controversial diplomatic episodes in European and Russian history Ė
the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939 between Nazi
Germany and Joseph Stalinís Soviet Union. How justified are the
present-day attempts to draw parallels between Nazi Germany and
Joseph Stalinís Soviet Union? What political objectives do East
European countries pursue with their politically motivated
interpretations of history? What would be the right strategy for
Russia to defend its legacy as the victor and liberator in World War
Many East European countries use the pact as historic evidence of
Moscowís equal blame with Nazi Germany for unleashing World War II,
while Russia tries to portray it as a case of Stalinís calculated
realpolitic, which helped him win more time before the inevitable
war. As of late, this argument of Nazismís and Stalinist
bolshevismís equal responsibility has gained increasing popularity.
In July of 2009, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE) adopted a resolution (ďUniting a Divided Europe:
Defending Human Rights and Civil Liberties in the OSCE AreaĒ) that
brought Adolf Hitlerís national socialism in line with Stalinist
bolshevism as similar totalitarian regimes, bearing equal
responsibility for the outbreak of World War II and the crimes
against humanity during that period.
The debate over this OSCE resolution, which Russia strongly opposed
but failed to prevent from being adopted, has raised the issue of
whether there is a threat of political and legal rehabilitation of
national socialism in some East European countries, particularly in
the Baltic states, Poland and Ukraine.
In Ukraine, President Victor Yushchenko spared no effort in trying
to portray Stalinís regime as genocidal toward ethnic Ukrainians,
while seeking to portray Nazi collaborators from the Ukrainian
Liberation Army as national heroes who fought for Ukrainian
independence and against Stalinist rule.
In the Baltic States, veterans of SS divisions are openly praised as
members of the national resistance to the Stalinist regime, while
Estonians or Latvians who fought on the Soviet side against the
Nazis are portrayed as traitors.
The concept of the ďPolish blameĒ for provoking the Nazi invasion
and the ensuing world war has also been taking shape in Russia,
resulting in the publication on the official Ministry of Defense Web
site of a provocative anti-Polish article that the ministry was
quickly forced to disavow.
In a move of true historic significance Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin traveled to Poland to deliver a commemorative address on the
day World War II began, as Russia and Poland are about to put the
so-called Katyn massacre (a mass murder by Stalinís security forces
of 22,000 Polish officers held as war prisoners after the Russian
and German attack on Poland in September of 1939) behind them.
How justified are the attempts to draw parallels between Nazi
Germany and Stalinís Soviet Union? Doest this have any bearing on
the European politics of today? What political objectives do East
European countries pursue with these politically motivated
interpretations of history? Should Russia fight Western attempts to
equate Stalinist bolshevism with national socialism, or should it
ignore them? What would be the right strategy for Russia to defend
its legacy as the victor and liberator in World War II?
with permission of