Staunton, March 23 – Warsaw’s decision not to invite Russia to send a delegation to its planned commemoration of the beginning of World War II is entirely understandable. After all, the Soviet Union which the Russian Federation views itself as being the successor state participated in the dividing up of Poland when Stalin was an ally of Adolf Hitler.
But also understandable, given the increasingly official Russian narrative about World War II that ignores everything before the Germans turned on Moscow and invaded the USSR in June 1941, is the outraged reaction of some Russians close to the Putin regime who object to any reference to Moscow’s role in what actually occurred between 1939 and 1941.
The key issue now as in the past is the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in which Stalin and Hitler divided up the lands between them opening the way to the war because it meant that Hitler did not have to fight on two fronts and an accord which gave Stalin the opportunity to annex the Baltic countries, western Belarus and western Ukraine in Poland and portions of Bessarabia.
Until Gorbachev, Soviet authors simply denied that there were any secret protocols to the Pact, rejected the idea that the agreement constituted an alliance despite the pledges each side made and that the Soviets carried out, and insisted that at worst it was a defensive measure forced on Moscow by the West that wanted the Nazis and Communists to fight one another.
Once even Soviet authors had to acknowledge that the secret protocols to the pact did exist, some of them, a minority, argued that this was a Stalin-era crime, while most insisted that what Stalin did bought the Soviet Union time and allowed the Soviet Union to build up its strength.
Over the last 25 years, the attitudes toward the Pact and its secret protocols have changed from denial to defensive to an insistence that whatever unfortunate results it had in the short term, it was a good thing in the longer term because it put the USSR in a better position to fight and defeat Hitler after he turned on Stalin as they say was inevitable.
Now, in a way consistent with the re-Stalinist restoration in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, some Moscow analysts have taken the next step and argued that the Pact and its consequences were an unalloyed triumph for Soviet diplomacy and must be recognized as such by all Russians and everyone else as well.
One taking this position is Igor Shishkin, the deputy director of the Moscow Institute for the CIS, who says that it is long past time for Russia to be apologizing for the Pact and instead recognize and insist that others recognize that it was “a triumph of Soviet diplomacy which to a large extent guaranteed victory in 1945” (regnum.ru/news/polit/2596781.html).
According to this Moscow analyst, the Pact “postponed a full-scale war,” small comfort to those who were victims of the military actions and occupations of both the Nazis and the Soviets between 1939 and 1941, and that this point of view “must be insisted upon not only internationally but within Russia itself in the educational system.”
“The reunification of Western Ukraine, Western Belarus and the Baltics was a triumph of Soviet diplomacy,” he says, something that must be “clearly declared.” To that end Russians “must stop apologizing” for what happened or tolerating those who do not accept that version of events.
Moscow didn’t react sufficiently a year ago when Poland tore down monuments to Soviet “liberators,” Shishkin says. But it should react now both by insisting that Molotov-Ribbentrop was a positive development in the war against fascism and by arguing that the Warsaw commemoration is a failure as such.
Indeed, the Moscow analyst says, not being invited to take part constitutes yet another victory for Russia given who is assembling there. According to him, the countries that will be represented in Warsaw are those who are “responsible for unleashing the war” rather than those who defeated Hitler in it.
“We really do not have any relationships to this. This was a fight of thieves for hegemony in Western civilization. Great Britain and the US bear responsibility for this war. The war touched the Soviet Union only on June 22, 1941; it won this war, and that is the end of it,” Shishkin suggests.
No Soviet ideologue ever went further than Shishkin in offering an Orwellian vision in which black is white, freedom is slavery, and war is peace.