Staunton, February 15 – Vladimir Putin’s obsession with World War II arises from the fact that the Soviet contribution to victory in that conflict represents a universal moral solvent that dissolves any criticism of Bolshevik crimes at home and abroad and thus justifies Moscow’s despotism in the past, present and future, Pavel Luzin says.
The Perm commentator says that the attacks on Poland and the Balts that Putin has launched are not only intended to suppress any challenge to Moscow’s desire to gain international recognition of its special and superior role in Europe but also to suppress any challenges within Russia to its authoritarian rule (region.expert/memopolicy/).
If other countries focus only on Russia’s role in World War II, they will be more likely to dismiss or at least downplay the totalitarian crimes that Moscow visited upon its own peoples and its neighbors, he continues. And as long as 1945 is the key date for them, Moscow’s special role in Europe and its veto power in the UN Security Council will be recognized.
But what is most important to Putin and his regime is that the focus on “the great victory” as Moscow calls it will make it more difficult even for people abroad to draw attention to the many ways in which Stalin’s Soviet Union and Hitler’s Germany resembled one another, a resemblance it is difficult to deny but is impossible for Putin and company to acknowledge.
“The Kremlin’s current struggle for its military-history narrative is based on something more than just the construction of a myth about common sacrifice and common victory,” Luzin says. Above all, “the victory in World War II has become a political ‘indulgence’ for the Bolsheviks,” excusing them in the eyes of many for all their many crimes.
Given that the Putin regime insists on being the continuation of the Soviet Union as well as the Russian Empire, any challenge to that “indulgence” must be contested; and that is what the Kremlin is doing at the present time because it wants to exclude any alternative understanding or even attention to those who fought both totalitarian systems.
“In this connection,” Luzin writes, “the experience of the surprising self-organization of the Polish underground state and army which challenged both the Germans and the Bolsheviks is simply unbearable and horrible even for the present-day Russian authorities. It shows that an alternative is possible even under conditions of despotic power.”
Moscow insists on this not only because it believes that any challenge to the way in which history worked out is a challenge to its past but also to its future not only internationally but also domestically because Putin is engaged in a life or death struggle against the idea that “people can live and act autonomously from the government.”
That idea, on which the democracies of the West is based, is something the Kremlin cannot accept because to do so is to open the way to challenges to its despotic power – and so its defense of Stalin’s crimes in Eastern Europe is in fact almost entirely about the defense of its own crimes and above all those against its own people.