Staunton, November 15 – Last week, Putin aide Vladimir Medinsky said that “the genocide of the civilian population among the peoples of the USSR during the Great Fatherland War are comparable with the [Nazi] holocaust,” declaring that there were 18 million Soviet citizens killed by the Germans.
“This is a bestial genocide, one no less horrific that the officially recognized genocide of the Jewish, Serbian and Roman population,” Medinsky argued, “a genocide of the peoples of the Soviet Union” (tass.ru/politika/9978097. But Boris Sokolov says this suggestion violates the historical the meaning of the term (graniru.org/Society/History/m.280377.html).
“In fact,” the Moscow commentator says, “the Soviet Union in 1941-1945 lost not 27 but more than 40 million people, of which about 27 million were in uniform and from 13 to 14 million were civilians.” Of course, all these figures are “bestial” and “several times more than the number of the victims of the Holocaust.”
“But the overwhelming majority of victims among civilians in the USSR cannot be considered victims of genocide,” Sokolov says. They were not killed only because they were Soviet citizens but because they fell into categories like Jews or nomadic Roma or because of their resistance to the German invasion.
And those in the Kremlin making these unfounded claims are not interested in justice but rather in creating “a Soviet genocide” alongside the Armenian one of 1915 and the Jewish one in Nazi Germany so as to reinforce the image of the Soviet Union as victim and lead its people to ignore the crimes of Stalin and the Soviet system.
That strategy, Sokolov continues, will allow Moscow to blame the millions of deaths of Soviet citizens in the GULAG during the war on the Germans, further distracting attention to Stalin’s crimes, and leading Russians to rally round the Kremlin leader, reinforcing his power over them.
Medinsky’s statement rises out of a campaign academic and judicial at a lower level to promote the view that “all the victims of the GULAG and the NKVD can be ascribed to ‘the consequences of the Nazi genocide’” and in advance of a Moscow meeting this week on “The Lessons of Nuremberg” at the Victory Museum.
If Medinsky’s words become Russian state policy, Sokolov argues, then a few people may be able to bring suits against surviving Germans who killed their relatives. But “the campaign in fact has a purely propagandist significance,” one in which the Kremlin wants “a genocide of the Soviet people” to be recognized alongside the Armenian and Jewish ones.
That way, Moscow will have yet another response to studies showing that most of those in the Soviet Union who lost their lives even during World War II did so either because they were resisting the German invasion or because their own government and not any invader killed them.
That is an aspect of this genocide no one in the Kremlin wants to consider.