Jan 2, 2021
Izvestia, the Russian news outlet formerly known as News of the Central Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies this Christmas published a pamphlet by Vladimir Putin entitled ’75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE GREAT VICTORY: SHARED RESPONSIBILITY TO HISTORY AND OUR FUTURE,’ writes Gary Cartwright.
Whilst the title may sound like that of a forthcoming Borat movie, it is in fact based on an article written by the Russian President earlier in the year, written to call into question the credibility of the European Parliament’s ‘motion for a resolution on the 80th anniversary of the start of the Second World War and the importance of European remembrance for the future of Europe.’
The motion, which was passed by the Parliament in September 2019, makes considerable references to collusion between Hitler and Stalin and to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939 by which much of Europe would be divided up between Nazi-Germany and the Soviet Union. The resolution was of particular importance to those EU member states whose countries were indeed absorbed into the Soviet Union, and whose people were to endure decades of misery as a result.
“The Kremlin is still active in Ukraine, in Moldova, in Georgia. It propagates the cult of stalinism and spreads lies,” said Lithuanian Christian Democrat MEP Rada Jukneviciene. “We have to oppose the attempts at glorifying communist and fascist regimes and attempts at playing down the crimes committed by these regimes.”
“My colleagues from the far-left say that the Red Army defeated Hitler, and that’s true, but they don’t want to remember that the USSR was the ally of fascist Germany for two years and that the communist regimes are responsible for the deaths of around 100,000,000 of their own citizens,” said Radosław Sikorski, MEP from the Polish Civic Platform party.
All this makes uncomfortable reading for Putin, who felt the need to put forward his own version of history.
The Anglo-French-Soviet negotiations of 1939, which sought to create a triple alliance against Nazi Germany, have largely been airbrushed out of the post-Soviet narrative. Certainly the involvement of Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, who was to be the principal Soviet signatory to the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, is rarely discussed.
Indeed, whilst negotiations between the three powers were underway in Moscow, Molotov was secretly negotiating with his Nazi counterpart Joachim von Ribbentrop. What was to be know as the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was signed in the Kremlin on August 23rd 1939.
Under the terms of this pact, with its secret protocol, the very existence of which was denied by the Kremlin for decades, but which Putin now openly admits to, much of Europe was to be divided between the two powers.
The image of the Soviet Union as the greatest enemy of Nazism has been carefully cultivated since 1945, and so the truth of the pact and how it came to be signed was hidden from the people, who were taught that it was a mere deception by Stalin in order to buy time to prepare for war.
From 1934 Britain began a major programme of rearmament recognising the threats posed in Europe by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and in the far-east by Japan.
On September 3rd 1939, on the very day Britain declared war on Germany, the country was able to move an expeditionary force that would total 390,000 men to the French-Belgian border.
At the same time Stalin was still negotiating with Hitler.
The last attempt to persuade the USSR to act together was made by Hitler during Molotov’s visit to Berlin in November 1940. But Molotov accurately followed Stalin’s instructions (Document No. 8) and limited himself to a general discussion of the German idea of the Soviet Union joining the Tripartite Pact signed by Germany, Italy and Japan in September 1940 and directed against the UK and the United States.
“Hitler tried again and again to draw the Soviet Union into Germany’s confrontation with the UK. But the Soviet government stood firm”, Putin writes.
The truth, as is often the case, is very different to what the Russian president writes: at that very time, Nazi bombers, powered by engines supplied by Soviet factories, were over London.
Between September 7, 1940 and May 11, 1941 more than 30,000 civilians were killed in the nightly raids in what was to become known as The London Blitz. A further 10,000 died in raids on other ports and cities, with countless more injured and more than 2 million houses destroyed or damaged.
In fact, under the German-Soviet Commercial Agreement of February 11, 1940, as well as military hardware, the Soviet Union was also supplying the Nazi war machine with petroleum, manganese, copper, nickel, chrome, platinum, lumber, cotton and grain, much of it transported via the trans-Siberian railway from the east.
Since 1939, German U-boats and supply vessels had been operating from the then secret Basis Nord naval base at Zapadnaya Litsa, in Russia’s Murmansk region.
In late May and early June 1940, the Baltic states were collectively accused of military collaboration against the Soviet Union by holding meetings with German representatives the previous winter – something the Soviets were doing at that moment, and would continue to do for some months to come.
On June 14 the government of Lithuania received an ultimatum from Moscow to accept Soviet troops on its territory. Unprepared for any military conflict Lithuania was forced to concede, promptly losing its independence. A puppet government was installed, and following an election of the type one would associate with the Soviet Union, and indeed modern-day Russia, the country petitioned to be accepted into the Soviet Union.
A similar process was carried out in Latvia and Estonia, and the three states laboured under the Soviet yoke until the long awaited collapse in December 1991 of what Ronald Reagan called “the evil empire”.
Also in 1940, on the orders of Stalin himself, as many as 300,000 Jews from Russian-occupied Eastern Poland were transported to Soviet Gulag labour camps deep in the Soviet Union.
Overall, some 50% were to perish during their forced labour, 55% of those who perished were women.