The President of Russia has widened the framework of the narrow, politicised view of the history of World War II
In the fourth month after commemorative events took place on September 1st in Poland on the occasion of the beginning of World War II, it became finally clear why the Poles did not invite the President of Russia to them. Warsaw does not want to hear the truth about World War II from the lips of the Russian President.
The Polish authorities preferred and still prefer a narrow, politicised view when reporting about the events of 80 years ago.
Against this background, Vladimir Putin’s speech at the informal meeting of CIS heads of state on December 20th 2019 in St. Petersburg with the participation of the presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, as well as the first President of Kazakhstan, was unprecedented in its nature and form of presentation. In a concentrated form, based on a large block of little-known or not at all known archival documents, Putin gave a sketch of key events in Europe from the moment World War II started up to its termination.
The Russian president, first of all, drew the attention of summit’s participants to the resolution of the European Parliament from September 19th 2019 “About importance of maintaining historical memory for the future of Europe“ which, as Putin softly said, “was somewhat surprising, even hurtful”. Here there is a reason to be surprised and to be hurt. This concerns the attempt of western politicians and historians to call the so-called Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact (the Soviet-German non-aggression pact of August 23rd 1939) a document that “divided Europe and the territories of the independent states between two totalitarian regimes” and thus “paved the way to the beginning of World War II”.
V. Putin listed and briefly characterised all treaties and agreements that the European countries concluded with Hitler before 1939, and there are a lot of them: the declaration on the non-use of force between Germany and Poland, Pilsudsky-Hitler Pact (1934); the Anglo-German naval agreement of 1935, which allowed Berlin to obtain its own military fleet; N. Chamberlain and A. Hitler’s joint Anglo-German declaration signed on September 30th 1938, hot on the heels of the Munich Agreement; French-German declaration of December 6th 1938; the treaty between the Republic of Lithuania and the Third Reich signed on March 22nd 1939; the non-aggression pact between Germany and Latvia of June 7th 1939.
The treaty between the Soviet Union and Germany was the last in a long series of agreements signed by other European countries, V. Putin summed up. The President emphasised the circumstance that enemies usually keep silent about: “The Soviet Union opted to sign this document [a non-aggression treaty with Germany] only after all possibilities were exhausted and all proposals of the Soviet Union to create a unified security system, an anti-fascist coalition, in fact, in Europe were rejected.”
Putin did not ignore the Munich Conference on September 29th-30th 1938, with the participation of the heads of the government of Great Britain (N. Chamberlain), France (E. Daladier), Germany (A. Hitler), and Italy (B. Mussolini). Leading European democracies reached an agreement with fascist regimes, opting to abandon Czechoslovakia to the German Sudetenland region. This meant the destruction of a sovereign state and the final invitation of the Third Reich re-distribute the world.
V. Putin cited the report of the Commander of the independent operational group “Silesia” of the Polish Army Bortnowski on the preparation of an offensive operation to capture the Cieszyn region of Czechoslovakia; The report shows that the Polish authorities made extensive preparations for the partition of the neighbouring country, and sent fighters there for sabotage and terrorist attacks. And from the transcript of the conversation between the Ambassador of Germany to Poland G. Moltke and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland J. Beck it follows that two predators – large and small – shared the Czechoslovak territory, and Beck assured the interlocutor that “in the regions claimed by Poland, there will be no contradiction with German interests”.
Naturally, when France, bound by its commitment to defend Czechoslovakia, started to probe the ground concerning if it could count on Poland’s neutrality at least, it received a negative response. Prime Minister of France of E. Daladier said that it is impossible to believe in the loyalty of the Poles even during a direct attack of Germany on France. And by refusing to let Soviet troops pass through its territory to the borders of Germany, Poland also prevented Moscow from fulfilling its obligations under the Soviet-Czechoslovak treaty.
The conclusion that V. Putin draws, based on these and many other facts (the volume of this publication does not allow us to cite everything that the Russian President mentioned in his rich speech), is the only true one: “The USSR, left alone, had to accept the reality that Western states created with their own hands. The partition of Czechoslovakia was extremely cruel and cynical, in fact, it was robbery. It can be argued with all the grounds that it was the Munich collusion that served as the turning point in history, after which World War II became inevitable.”
Poland, as Deputy Foreign Minister Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk said, now analyses the words of the President of Russia and studies the possibility of a diplomatic reaction. However, there is no hope that this analysis will be impartial.
As for the national versions of history in other CIS states whose heads were present in St. Petersburg on December 20th, these versions are formed in such a way that the illusion is created that these states were not union republics within the USSR, but participated in the Second World War as independent subjects of international law.
Not everything is smooth with this historical direction in our country – so far there is no single centre that would concentrate the efforts of specialists of the history of the Second World War on fighting against falsifiers. Specialists are scattered in academic institutions, universities, museums, and archives. The specialised commission under the President of the Russian Federation, which once existed, was abolished. From the once militant, offensive structure that two or three years ago was the Russian Association of Historians of World War II, a pale shadow remains. And the Russian Historical Society and the Russian Military-Historical Society have not yet become the flagship of the struggle for the truth of history. If it were otherwise, it would probably not be necessary for the head of state to assume, in general, a mission that is not characteristic of the presidency.
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