Monday, July 6, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Europe’s Reaction Shows Moscow’s Miscalculation on ‘Falsification of History,’ Russian Commentator Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, July 6 – A decision by an OSCE Parliamentary Assembly committee to declare August 23 an international day of memory of the victims of Nazism and Stalinism underscores just how much Moscow miscalculated with its campaign against “historical falsification” of the Soviet role in World War II, according to a Moscow commentator.
In an essay posted on today, Boris Sokolov who writes frequently on historical and political questions, said that it is “extremely likely” that this call remain in the final text of an OSCE resolution on the reunification of a divided Europe and be approved by a plenary session of that body (
And when that happens, he continued, Russia will bear “a large share of the blame because now the OSCE has dotted the ‘I’ and equated to one another the two most bloody totalitarian regimes of the 20th century,” Hitler’s and Stalin’s, and called on all OSCE member states to avoid “prettifying” this history or praising totalitarian regimes.
That represent a direct response, Sokolov argued, “to the commission on the struggle with falsifications of history, that was created by President Dmitry Medvedev at the same time as a law was being prepared prohibiting the denial of [the Russia’s understanding of the Soviet role in] victory in the Great Patriotic War.”
The OSCE actions, of course, are timed to the approaching 70th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, in which Stalin and Hitler divided Eastern Europe between them and in which Hitler, having been assured that he would not be confronted by a two-front war, secured a free hand to launch his attack on Poland.
But the Putin-Medvedev government “does not intend to reject the Soviet heritage at least concerning [its] myths about the Great Victory in the war,” Sokolov continued, because “this is the only thing which, in the opinion of the powers that be ties together the [non-ethnic] Russian nation.”
Consequently, in order to avoid having to deal with the issue of the secret protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and even more Stalin’s alliance with Hitler, “the Russian side decided to go over to a propagandistic counter-attack and accuse Poland of provoking the war,” thus resuscitating Hitler’s version of events that were “long ago unmasked.”
Poles, of course, “could not view this as anything but a provocation -- and not only because there are no secret protocols to the Polish-German Non-Aggression Treaty of 1934, but because Japan in 1939 did not plan to begin a major war against the USSR,” whatever some in Russia say.
But all these charges were made on Russian television, Sokolov pointed out, “and only a very naïve individual believes in the sly references to freedom of speech on Russian television. Such a program as ‘News of the Week’ is state propaganda in pure form,” even if some of those who repeated it believe what they said.
There is one possible additional explanation for this effort, the commentator suggested. Some in Moscow may want to call off Putin’s visit to Warsaw September 1. But “more likely,” Sokolov said, is that Putin plans to use that visit to present himself as “the good cop,” by acknowledging “in one way or another” the Katyn tragedy and the secret protocols.
In that way, the commentator suggested, Putin “will show Poland and Europe that only he is in a position to restrain the imperial-patriotic bacchanalia in his own country,” without of course having to acknowledge his own role in promoting and then whipping up those kinds of attitudes.
But however that may be, Sokolov continued, it is clear that Moscow hopes to use World War II as “the occasion for a broad propagandist attack on the countries of Eastern Europe,” a development that is disturbing because “as the war with Georgia shows, [such] an attack in definite circumstance easily can be transformed into a military one.”
In any case, Moscow’s revival of “the Hitlerite treatment of the causes of World War II” is certain to infuriate the Europeans, who are likely in short order to focus on the fact that unlike the USSR, “post-Soviet Russia in its official declarations has never condemned the protocols and recognized as an occupation and annexation of Eastern Polish land the Baltic states.”
Given that turn of events and however angry some Russians may be about what the OSCE has done, Sokolov asked, how are the Putin-Medvedev tandem, which has condemned the GULAG, going “to explain now to world public opinion that Russia is not prepared to recall the victims of communism on August 23?”

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