ABOUT 75 years have passed since the end of the Great Patriotic War. Several generations have grown up over the years. The political map of the planet has changed. The Soviet Union that claimed an epic, crushing victory over Nazism and saved the entire world is gone. Besides, the events of that war have long become a distant memory, even for its participants.
So why does Russia celebrate the 9th of May as the biggest holiday? Why does life almost come to a halt on June 22? And why does one feel a lump rise in their throat? They usually say that the war has left a deep imprint on every family’s history.
Behind these words, there are fates of millions of people, their sufferings and the pain of loss. Behind these words, there is also the pride, the truth and the memory. World War II did not happen overnight, nor did it start unexpectedly or all of a sudden.
And German aggression against Poland was not out of nowhere. It was the result of a number of tendencies and factors in the world politics of that time. All pre-war events fell into place to form one fatal chain. But, undoubtedly, the main factors that predetermined the greatest tragedy in the history of mankind were state egoism, cowardice, appeasement of the aggressor who was gaining strength, and unwillingness of political elites to search for compromise.
Therefore, it is unfair to claim that the two-day visit to Moscow of Nazi Foreign Minister J. Ribbentrop was the main reason for the start of World War II. All the leading countries are to a certain extent responsible for its outbreak. Each of them made fatal mistakes, arrogantly believing that they could outsmart others, secure unilateral advantages for themselves or stay away from the impending global catastrophe.
And this short-sightedness, the refusal to create a collective security system cost millions of lives and tremendous losses. Saying this, I by no means intend to take on the role of a judge, to accuse or acquit anyone, let alone initiate a new round of international information confrontation in the historical field that could set countries and peoples at loggerheads.
I believe that it is academics with a wide representation of respected scholars from different countries of the world who should search for a balanced assessment of what happened. We all need the truth and objectivity. 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 selfcritical and unbiased manner.
Such an approach will make it possible not to repeat the mistakes committed back then and to ensure peaceful and successful development for years to come. However, many of our partners are not yet ready for joint work.
On the contrary, pursuing their goals, they increase the number and the scope of information attacks against our country, trying to make us provide excuses and feel guilty. They adopt thoroughly hypocritical and politically motivated declarations.
Thus, for example, the resolution on the Importance of European Remembrance for the Future of Europe approved by the European Parliament on September 19, 2019 directly accused the USSR along with the Nazi Germany of unleashing the Second World War. Needless to say, there is no mention of Munich in it whatsoever.
I believe that such ‘paperwork’ – for I cannot call this resolution a document – which is clearly intended to provoke a scandal, is fraught with real and dangerous threats. Indeed, it was adopted by a highly respectable institution. And what did it show? Regrettably, it revealed a deliberate policy aimed at destroying the postwar world order whose creation was a matter of honour and responsibility for the countries a number of representatives of which voted today in favour of this deceitful resolution.
Thus, they challenged the conclusions of the Nuremberg Tribunal and the efforts of the international community to create after the victorious 1945 universal international institutions. Let me remind you in this regard that the process of European integration itself leading to the establishment of relevant structures, including the European Parliament, became possible only due to the lessons learnt from the past and its accurate legal and political assessment.
And those who deliberately put this consensus into question undermine the foundations of the entire postwar Europe. Apart from posing a threat to the fundamental principles of the world order, this also raises certain moral and ethical issues. Desecrating and insulting the memory is mean.
Meanness can be deliberate, hypocritical and pretty much intentional as in the situation when declarations commemorating the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II mention all participants in the Anti-Hitler coalition except for the Soviet Union.
Meanness can be cowardly as in the situation when monuments erected in honour of those who fought against Nazism are demolished and these shameful acts are justified by the false slogans of the fight against an unwelcome ideology and alleged occupation.
Meanness can also be bloody as in the situation when those who come out against neo-Nazis and Bandera’s successors are killed and burned. Once again, meanness can have different manifestations, but this does not make it less disgusting. Neglecting the lessons of history inevitably leads to a harsh payback. We will firmly uphold the truth based on documented historical facts. We will continue to be honest and impartial about the events of World War II. This includes a large-scale project to establish Russia’s largest collection of archival records, film and photo materials about the history of World War II and the pre war period.
Such work is already underway. Many new, recently discovered or declassified materials were also used in the preparation of this article. In this connection, I can state with all responsibility that there are no archive documents that would confirm the assumption that the USSR intended to start a preventive war against Germany. The Nazi ‘strategists’ were convinced that a huge multinational state could easily be brought to heel.
They thought that the sudden outbreak of the war, its mercilessness and unbearable hardships would inevitably exacerbate inter-ethnic relations. And that the country could be split into pieces. Hitler clearly stated: “Our policy towards the peoples living in the vastness of Russia should be to promote any form of disagreement and split.” But from the very first days, it was clear that the Nazi plan had failed.
The Brest Fortress was protected to the last drop of blood by its defenders representing more than 30 ethnicities. Throughout the war both in large-scale decisive battles and in the protection of every foothold, every metre of native land we see examples of such unity.
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. These were heroes who fought to the end surrounded by the enemy at Bialystok and Mogilev, Uman and Kiev, Vyazma and Kharkov.
They launched attacks near Moscow and Stalingrad, Sevastopol and Odessa, Kursk and Smolensk. They liberated Warsaw, Belgrade, Vienna and Prague. They stormed Koenigsberg and Berlin. We contend for genuine, unvarnished or whitewashed truth about war. This national, human truth, which is hard, bitter and merciless, has been handed down to us by writers and poets who walked through fire and hell of front trials.
For my generation, as well as for many others, their honest and deep stories, novels, piercing trench prose and poems have left their mark on the soul forever. Honouring veterans who did everything they could for the Victory and remembering those who died on the battlefield has become our moral duty. In the battles for Rzhev and the Rzhev Salient alone from October 1941 to March 1943, the Red Army lost 1,342,888 people, including wounded and missing in action.
For the first time, I call out these terrible, tragic and far from complete figures collected from archive sources. I do it to honour the memory of the feat of known and nameless heroes, who for various reasons were undeservingly, and unfairly little talked about or not mentioned at all in the postwar years.
We have a responsibility to our past and our future to do our utmost to prevent those horrible tragedies from happening ever again. Hence, I was compelled to come out with an article about World War II and the Great Patriotic War.
It is essential to pass on to future generations the memory of the fact that the Nazis were defeated first and foremost by the entire Soviet people and that representatives of all republics of the Soviet Union fought side by side together in that heroic battle, both on the frontlines and in the rear.
Thus, there is a need to further examine the reasons that caused the world war and reflect on its complicated events, tragedies and victories, as well as its lessons, both for our country and the entire world.
And like I said, it is crucial to rely exclusively on archive documents and contemporary evidence while avoiding any ideological or politicised speculations. (Agency) (This article has been extracted from an official statement from the President of Russia, His Excellency Vladimir Putin. The full article can be accessed through http:// en.kremlin.ru/events/president/ news/63527