Seventy years ago Russia and Germany struck the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that carved up eastern Europe among the two totalitarian regimes. Moscow is still adamantly denying its collusion with Hitler’s Berlin in initiating the destruction of Europe that followed.
The Kremlin insists that the non-aggression pact, which relegated eastern European territories to the control of either Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia was purely strategic in nature, motivated solely by self-defense considerations.
Why does Moscow become extremely perturbed when one suggests otherwise? Perhaps the obvious self-denial generates an uncomfortable guilt that in turn results in vehement accusations against western interpretation of Soviet-Nazi relations.
In fact Russian authorities insist that any contradiction of Joseph Stalin’s policies and actions is offensive to Russians and Russia. Anyone who suggests that the Red Army, after “liberating” eastern and central Europe, became in fact an occupation force, could be criminally charged by Moscow, even if the statements were made on foreign territory.
(Oddly enough Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre recently made a somewhat similar statement that those who try to draw parallels between the crimes of the Nazis with those of Stalin’s USSR are in effect Holocaust deniers, belittling the suffering of Jews during WW II.)
The most recent cause for major consternation was the resolution adopted in July by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that refers to a European Parliament initiative to declare August 23rd as a day of commemoration for the victims of Stalinism and Nazism. The resolution clearly states that Europeans were made to suffer from two brutal totalitarian regimes who perpetrated human rights violations, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity – on a massive scale.
The resolution does not touch on the causes of the Second World War nor the pivotal role of Russia in achieving victory over Nazi Germany. It makes no effort in “rewriting history” or minimizing the role of the USSR in the conflict.
Still, Konstantin Kosachyov, chair of the Duma’s International Affairs Committee perceived the resolution as “nothing but an attempt to rewrite the history of World War II by placing responsibility for its causes and results equally on Hitler’s Germany and the former Soviet Union”.
Alexander Kozlovsky, Russia’s chief delegate to the OSCE stated that “those who place Nazism and Stalinism on the same level forget that it is the Stalin-era Soviet Union that made the biggest sacrifices and the biggest contribution to liberating Europe from fascism.”
One must ask why the Kremlin’s reaction is so hysterical? Some might draw certain conclusions: that Russia is opposed to the universal access to all of its archives that don’t have current national security restrictions; that Russia doesn’t think Stalin’s regime was criminal and totalitarian; that Russia is opposed to protecting human rights and freedoms.
Perhaps the answer is self-evident: “Methinks they complain too much.”
August 23 marks Soviet-Nazi joint culpability in starting World War II (1)