As Russia prepares to mark 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War, with a grand military parade on June 24, President Vladimir Putin has asked for a comprehensive assessment, correctness in the history of World War II in a long-ranging article published in The National Interest journal in English.
Understanding the evolution, the concepts and consequences, prompted Putin to pen an article that aims at straightening the historical records. He first revealed his plans to write this article about the developments of the war during his annual end-of-year news conference in December 2019.
His article was based on archival materials, offered an insight into the history. The president has been mentioning these developments, including the so-called Munich Betrayal, or Munich Agreement, and the role of individual European states, Poland in particular, in many of his speeches. Putin has repeatedly stressed the inadmissibility to falsify the history of WW II.
While the truth about the War must, necessarily, be preserved and narrated to all generations, Putin believes that his article on the history of the War would help straighten historical records. Putin wrote. “On my part, I have always encouraged my colleagues to build a calm, open and trust-based dialogue, to look at the common past in a self-critical and unbiased manner.”
Crimes of Nazi collaborators cannot be justified, and there is no statute of limitations for them, Putin maintains, and stressed further “Today as well, our position remains unchanged. There can be no excuse for the criminal acts of Nazi collaborators, and there is no statute of limitations for them. It is therefore bewildering that in certain countries those who are disgraced by collaborating with the Nazis are suddenly equated with World War II veterans. I believe that it is unacceptable to equate liberators with occupying invaders.”
Names of all citizens of the Soviet Union who perished during World War II must be identified, Putin said in his article. “This painstaking work must be continued to restore the names and fates of all who have perished – Red Army soldiers, partisans, underground fighters, prisoners of war, internees of concentration camps, and civilians killed by death squads. It is our duty,” the president said, adding that the USSR’s casualties during the Great Patriotic War were practically 27 million people.
Displays of historic revisionism of the outcomes of the World War II in the West are dangerous because they blatantly and cynically distort the understanding of principles of peaceful development, laid down during the Yalta and San Francisco conferences, Putin said.
“Historical revisionism, the manifestations of which we now observe in the West, and primarily with regard to the subject of the Second World War and its outcome, is dangerous because it grossly and cynically distorts the understanding of the principles of peaceful development, laid down at the Yalta and San Francisco conferences in 1945,” Putin noted.
The USSR and the Red Army made a decisive contribution to destruction of the Nazi Germany during the World War II, despite anyone’s attempts to prove otherwise, Putin said.
“The Soviet Union and the Red Army, no matter what anyone is trying to prove today, made the main and crucial contribution to the defeat of Nazism,” Putin said. He underscored that Russia contends “for genuine, unvarnished, or whitewashed truth about war.”
Thus, for example, the resolution on the Importance of European Remembrance for the Future of Europe approved by the European Parliament on 19 September 2019 directly accused the USSR together with the Nazi Germany of unleashing the Second World War. Needless to say, there is no mention of Munich in it whatsoever.
Russia called on all nations to step up the process of declassification of archives on prewar and wartime periods, and expressed readiness for a broad international cooperation in this field. “We urge all states to step up the process of making their archives public and publishing previously unknown documents of the war and pre-war periods – the way Russia has done it in recent years. In this context, we are ready for broad cooperation and joint research projects engaging historians,” said Putin.
Over the years, there has been some controversy about the war history. The evolutionary and development processes of the war are in public reference libraries, and are available for any analytical research. According to Russian officials, Europe and the United States have, in the past, attempted to erase or distort the history of the World War.
Quite recently, Russia’s State Duma Chairman, Viacheslav Volodin, also noted that denying the role of the USSR in the common Victory in some states is inappropriate and it is important to transfer historical memory and truth to children and grandchildren.
“We should do everything to protect those who are no longer able to protect themselves, but they gave us the opportunity to live,” said the Chairman at the meeting of the CSTO PA Council and added “we should do everything to ensure that the attitude to Victory, to World War II, is based on the principles of honesty and objectivity.”
“We should not stand to see defamation of memory of the victorious soldiers,” said Volodin and stressed that it is necessary to protect those who are no longer able to protect themselves – 27 million people who died: our grandfathers, great-grandfathers, relatives.
“We should ensure that no one undermines the contribution of the Soviet Union to the Great Victory, a country with many nationalities, a country that had united all of us. We should do everything possible to prevent such war, but at the same time to respect history and not let anyone rewrite it,” he concluded.
Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa, Mikhail Bogdanov, gave an interview to the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, published on June 9. In this interview, Bogdanov explicitly noted that the current tendencies to revise history are alarming.
“We have been seeing this cynical historical aggression for years, unleashed by certain groups abroad. Undoubtedly, this was done for political and opportunistic purposes – they are launching campaigns to rewrite history and demonize the Soviet Union’s and the Red Army’s actions before World War II, during the war and after it ended. Certain countries’ attacks on the monuments and memorials erected earlier as a tribute to those who fought against Nazism and fascism look especially cynical,” he told the Al-Ahram.
He further said that Russia is confident that all countries, as heirs of the Great Victory, have a duty to preserve the truth about the events of that period of time that happened in the European, Asian and African theatres of war, paying tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for the triumph of the ideals of humanity.
In line with efforts at the United Nations to combat the glorification of Nazism and the distortion of history, Russia annually submits to the UN General Assembly the resolution on combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
An official statement by the Foreign Ministers of the Member States of the Collective Security Treaty Organization on the 75th Anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War also condemned various attempts to the distortion of history.
“It is with deepest gratitude that we remember the courage and valiance of all those who gave their lives for the freedom of future generations. Any distortion of the historical truth about those events demeans the memory of those who had suffered the cruelty of the war. Any attempts to rewrite history and misinterpretation of the events that had led to the world war are hindering the awareness of and response to the challenges and threats facing all of us and are fraught with a repetition of the tragic mistakes made in the past,” according to a document released on May 26.
That document was signed by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Russia and Tajikistan.
For the CSTO member states, this is a special commemorative date of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War of the peoples of the Soviet Union, whose contribution became decisive in the outcome of the entire World War II. The deed in a war that claimed the lives of more than twenty-seven million will forever remain in memory. Diminishing the significance of their deed is unacceptable.
Being conscious of the enormous debt owed to the fallen in the fight against Nazism and its victims, following on the principles of protecting historical truth, the provisions of international legal acts adopted after World War II, and urged the parliaments of the member states of the Council of Europe to take following measures at the legislative level:
- to counteract the revival and encouragement of Nazism and its manifestations in modern Europe;
- to protect the historical truth about World War II, to combat attempts to revise its results, to diminish the decisive role of the peoples of the Soviet Union in the Victory;
- to prevent the desecration of graves of participants in the fight against Nazism and military burial places, vandalism against monuments to Soviet soldiers-liberators, harassing of veterans, trampling the honor of those who died and were tortured to death in extermination camps;
- to stop any attempt to justify the Nazis and their accomplices who committed the most serious crimes during World War II, the actions of their followers, the denial or distortion of the decisions of the International Military Tribunal in relation to the prosecution and punishment of the main war criminals of the European Axis Alliance.
The consolidation of the entire international community is crucial for counteracting the resurgence of Nazism. It is the common duty to preserve the memory of the Great Victory, it unites all people who defeated Nazism together. It is important to honor the memory of those without whom the Victory would have been impossible, who gave their lives in the name of the freedom of people and for the sake of the future.