75th Anniversary of The Great Victory: Shared Responsibility to History and Future – by Vladimir Putin
By Vladimir Putin, translated to German by Thomas Roper, translated from German to English by Russel "Texas" Bentley
At the end of 2019, Putin announced that he would write an article on the prehistory of the Second World War. The very long article was published on Friday and its content should surprise many. I translated Putin’s article.
Since Putin’s article is indeed very long, I would like to allow myself a few introductory and summarizing words which, in my opinion, will help you understand the article.
In his article, Putin goes a long way. He writes about what he has found in archives about the way into World War II and about the course of the war, and cites new original documents published in Russia. That makes up most of the article.
But Putin then draws the link further to the post-war period and to this day. He advocates learning from the past, not rewriting history or weakening existing rules and institutions that have prevented a new world war since 1945. On the contrary, Putin advocates maintaining and respecting international law that came into being after 1945 and advocates what some journalists have called the “new Yalta Conference”, as Putin writes at the end of the article. At this conference – according to Putin’s wish – the “Big Five” should agree on rules that can also prevent a global conflict in the future.
To understand the article, it is also important to know a little about Russia, because part of the article is also intended for the Russian audience. During the Second World War, every seventh Soviet citizen lost his or her life, every family lost people, the war is deeply burned into the Russian soul and the collective memory of the Russians. The Second World War is still present in Russia, much stronger than in any western country.
Therefore, Victory Day over Fascism is the most important holiday in Russia and cannot be compared to anything we know in the West. Recently, a new tradition has been launched by Russian civil society: The Immortal Regiment. People move through the cities with photos of their ancestors who fought and died in the war. The procession lasts for hours and tens of thousands watch by the roadside. Millions of people are out on the streets that day commemorating the victims and the hardships of their ancestors. I don’t know of any other public holiday that people attend in such large numbers.
The atmosphere is not aggressive or “anti-German”, it is a peaceful atmosphere, a mixture of commemoration, respect and pride. People don’t have to be forced to participate, they do it of their own accord, because this commemoration is important to them. You have to know that to understand some passages of this article.
Putin’s article is something of a policy statement. In the article, Putin explains to ordinary Russians as well as to important world politicians how he sees historical connections and, above all, what lessons, in his opinion, should be drawn from them for current and future politics. The historical facts that he gives are indisputable, but they do not claim to be complete, the article is not a history book. The lessons Putin draws from history can be discussed and that is exactly what he calls for.
So much for a better understanding, now the translation of Putin’s very long article begins.
– Thomas Roper, The Anti-Speigel
75th Anniversary of The Great Victory: Shared Responsibility to History and Future
by Vladimir Putin
75 years have passed since the end of the Great Patriotic War. Over the years several generations have grown up. The political map of the planet has changed. The Soviet Union, which won a great, devastating victory over National Socialism and saved the whole world, no longer exists. And the events of this war have moved into a distant past, also for its participants. But why is May 9th celebrated as the most important holiday in Russia, and why does life seem to freeze on June 22nd and you have a downright lump in your throat? ( Editor’s note: Germany attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 )
They say that the war left a deep mark in the history of every family. Behind these words are the fates of millions of people, their suffering and the pain of loss. And also pride, the truth and the memory.
For my parents, the war meant the terrible agony of besieged Leningrad, where my two-year-old brother Vitya died, where my mother miraculously survived. My father volunteered to defend his hometown, doing the same thing as millions of Soviet citizens. He was seriously wounded at the Nevsky Bridge. And the further these years go, the greater the desire to talk to the parents, to find out more about the time of war. But today it is impossible to ask anything, so keep the conversations with my father and mother about this subject in my heart, including their withheld emotions.
It is important for me and my peers that our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren understand the trials and fears their ancestors went through. How and why did we survive and win? Where did their really iron strength come from, which surprised and fascinated the whole world? Yes, they defended their homes, their children, their loved ones, their families. But they were all united by their love for the fatherland. This deep, personal feeling is fully reflected in the nature of our people and has become something decisive in their heroic, self-sacrificing struggle against the Nazis.
I often ask myself: How will today’s generation behave, what will it do in a critical situation? Before my eyes I see young doctors and nurses who were just students, who are now going into the “red zone” to save people. Our soldiers, too, who face death in the fight against international terrorism in the North Caucasus and Syria, are very young people! Many of the fighters in the legendary, immortal Sixth Landing Company were 19 or 20 years old. But they all showed that they defended our motherland worthily in the war.
So I am sure that the character of the peoples of Russia is to do their duty when circumstances require, rather than feeling sorry for themselves. Selflessness, patriotism, love for one’s own homeland, one’s own family, the fatherland – these values are still of fundamental importance for Russian society. By and large, they are the guarantors of our country’s sovereignty.
Now new traditions have emerged that have come from the people, like the Immortal Regiment. This march of our grateful remembrance is the living link between the generations. Millions of people go to the events with photos of their relatives who defended the fatherland and defeated National Socialism. This means that their lives, their trials and sacrifices, the victory they gave us, will never be forgotten. (Note d. Translator: The Immortal Regiment is an impressive event where people take photos of their ancestors who took part in the war to walk through the cities. Here in Petersburg, where I live, it takes place on the central street. It is four lanes in both directions and the procession lasts for hours with the crowds rushing past the spectators shoulder to shoulder. The atmosphere is peaceful, but the pictures are more impressive than any documentary or book about the war. If you are shown in this way how many people from a city alone fought and suffered or died in the war, then you really go home with the thought “never again war!” )
It is our responsibility to the past and the future to do everything possible to prevent such a terrible tragedy from happening again. Therefore, I consider it my duty to speak about World War II and the Great Patriotic War in an article. I have discussed this idea repeatedly in conversations with leading politicians around the world and have come across their understanding. At the end of last year, at the summit of the heads of state and government of the CIS countries, we all agreed: It is important to convey to posterity the memory that the victory over National Socialism was primarily achieved by the entire Soviet people, that in this heroic struggle – at the front and at home – representatives of all Republics of the Soviet Union have stood shoulder to shoulder. In December I spoke to my colleagues about the difficult pre-war period.
This conversation met with great resonance in Europe and around the world. This means that it is really necessary and timely to turn to the teachings of the past. At the same time there were a lot of emotions, poorly hidden complexes and loud accusations. A number of politicians were quick to declare that Russia was trying to rewrite history. In doing so, however, they could not refute a single fact or argument. Of course, it is difficult and even impossible to contradict the original documents, which, by the way, are kept not only in Russian, but also in foreign archives.
It is therefore necessary to continue the analysis of the causes that led to the world war and to reflect further on its events, tragedies and victories, on its lessons – for our country and the world. And in doing so, I repeat, it is fundamentally important to rely only on material from archives and statements from contemporary witnesses in order to rule out any ideologization and politicization.
Let me remind you again of the obvious: the causes of World War II are largely due to the choices made after World War I. The Versailles Treaty has become a symbol of deep injustice for Germany. In fact, it was a matter of robbing the country that had to pay huge reparations to its Western allies, which has completely exhausted its economy. The Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces, the French Marshal Foche, prophetically characterized Versailles: “This is not peace, this is an armistice for twenty years.”
It was national humiliation that created the breeding ground for radical and revanchist feelings in Germany. The Nazis cleverly played with these feelings, based their propaganda on them and promised to free Germany from the “legacy of Versailles” and to restore its former power, thereby driving the German people into a new war. It is paradoxical, but western states, particularly the United Kingdom and the United States, have made this possible, directly or indirectly. Your financial and industrial circles have been very actively investing in German factories that manufactured military material. And among the aristocracy and the political establishment in the West there were many supporters of radical, right-wing extremist, nationalist movements,
The Versailles “peace order” created numerous hidden contradictions and obvious conflicts. Their reason was the borders of the new European states, which were arbitrarily drawn by the victors of the First World War. Almost immediately after their appearance on the map, territorial disputes and mutual claims began that became time bombs.
One of the most important results of the First World War was the creation of the League of Nations. This international organization raised high hopes for long-term peace and collective security. It was a progressive idea, the consistent implementation of which could, without exaggeration, have prevented a repetition of the horrors of a global war.
However, the League of Nations, dominated by the victorious powers Great Britain and France, demonstrated its inefficiency and simply drowned in meaningless conversation. In the League of Nations – and generally on the European continent – repeated demands of the Soviet Union for a system of collective security on an equal footing were ignored. In particular, the conclusion of Eastern European and Pacific pacts could have put a damper on the aggression. These suggestions were ignored.
The League of Nations could not prevent new conflicts in different parts of the world, such as the attack by Italy on Ethiopia, the Spanish Civil War, Japan’s aggression against China and the annexation of Austria. And in the case of the Munich conspiracy, in which, alongside Hitler and Mussolini, the leaders of Great Britain and France were involved, it was decided, with the full approval of the Council of the League of Nations, to dismember Czechoslovakia. In this context I state that, unlike many of the leaders of Europe at the time, Stalin did not stain himself with a face-to-face meeting with Hitler, who at the time was known in Western circles as a respectable politician and a welcome guest in European capitals. (Note d. Translated: The Munich Agreement is called the “Munich Conspiracy” in Russia. And even if it is often forgotten in the West today, Hitler was actually very much respected in the West for many years. In 1938 Hitler was declared “Man of the Year” by Time Magazine )
Poland cooperated with Germany in the division of Czechoslovakia. They decided in advance and together who will get which parts of Czechoslovakia. On September 20, 1938, Poland’s ambassador to Germany, Józef Lipski, informed the Polish Foreign Minister Józef Beck about Hitler’s assurances: the Polish) side. ”The leader of the Nazis even gave advice and advised that the start of Polish actions“ should only take place after the Germans have occupied the Sudeten Mountains ”. (Note d. Translator: This is often kept secret in German history books, but Poland actually annexed parts of Czechoslovakia when Germany occupied the Sudeten areas. Anyone can easily check this by googling the history of the Teschen region – today Cieszyn )
In Poland it was known that without Hitler’s support their aggressive plans would have been doomed to failure. Here I quote a recording of the conversation of the German ambassador in Warsaw, Moltke, with Józef Beck about Polish-Czech relations and the position of the USSR on this matter on October 1, 1938: “… Mr. Beck… thanked you for the loyal interpretation of Polish interests at the Munich conference, as well as for the sincerity of relations during the Czech conflict. The government and the general public (Poland) fully appreciate the position of the Führer and Reich Chancellor. ”
The division of Czechoslovakia was cruel and cynical. Munich itself brought down the fragile formal guarantees that remained on the continent and showed that mutual agreements were worthless. It was the Munich conspiracy that pulled the trigger that made the great war in Europe inevitable.
Today European politicians, especially Polish politicians, want to “keep a secret” from Munich. Why? Not only because their countries betrayed their commitments at the time by supporting the Munich conspiracy and some even participated in sharing the booty, but also because it’s kind of awkward to remember that during those dramatic days of the In 1938 only the USSR entered for Czechoslovakia.
The Soviet Union tried to prevent the tragedy on the basis of its international commitments, including agreements with France and Czechoslovakia. In pursuing its interests, Poland has by all means prevented the creation of a system of collective security in Europe. On September 19, 1938, the Polish Foreign Minister Józef Beck wrote directly to the aforementioned Ambassador Józef Lipski before his meeting with Hitler: “… Last year the Polish government refused four times offers to join an international initiative to defend Czechoslovakia.” (Note d. Translator: In 1938 Czechoslovakia had alliances with the Soviet Union and France. By signing the Munich Agreement, France has broken its promise to protect Czechoslovakia. This is also often kept secret in history books today, but it is easy to check. Among other things, the Franco-Czech alliance stipulated that in the event of a war with Germany, French planes should bomb the industrial areas in Saxony, which were very important at the time, from Czechoslovakia )
Great Britain and France, which at the time was the most important ally of the Czechs and Slovaks, decided to give up their guarantees and leave the Eastern European country to its fate. You not only left Czechoslovakia in the stick, but also steered the Nazis’ efforts to the east with the aim that Germany and the Soviet Union would inevitably collide and bleed each other out.
That was the western policy of “appeasement”. And not only in relation to the Third Reich, but also to other members of the so-called Anti-Comintern Pact, i.e. fascist Italy and militarist Japan. This culminated in the Far East with the Anglo-Japanese Agreement of the summer of 1939, which gave Tokyo freedom of action in China. The leading European powers did not want to recognize the deadly threat posed by Germany and its allies to the whole world and they expected that the war would pass them by.
The Munich conspiracy showed the Soviet Union that Western countries would resolve security issues without considering their interests and, at a convenient moment, could form an anti-Soviet front.
At the same time, the Soviet Union tried to use every opportunity to create an anti-Hitler coalition, I repeat, despite the ambiguous position of the Western countries. In the summer of 1939 the Soviet leadership received detailed information about Anglo-German contacts behind the scenes from the secret services. Please note: They were conducted very intensively and almost simultaneously with the trilateral negotiations by representatives of France, Great Britain and the USSR, which the Western partners deliberately delayed. In this connection I mention a document from British archives – an instruction to the British military mission in Moscow that arrived in August 1939. It explicitly states that the delegation should “negotiate very slowly”; that “the UK government is not ready
Poland, unwilling to enter into commitments to the Soviet side, played its part in the breakdown of the negotiations. Even under pressure from Western allies, the Polish leadership refused to take joint action with the Red Army against the Wehrmacht. It was only when Ribbentrop’s flight to Moscow became known that Mr. Beck reluctantly and not directly, but via French diplomats, informed the Soviet side: “… In the event of German aggression, cooperation between Poland and the USSR is not ruled out under technical conditions yet to be determined. “At the same time he explained to his colleagues:” … I am not against this formulation, but only for tactical reasons; our fundamental view of the USSR is final and remains unchanged. ”
In the situation that arose, the Soviet Union signed the non-aggression treaty with Germany, making it the last of the European countries to sign something like this with Germany. It happened against the background of a real threat of war on two fronts, with Germany in the west and with Japan in the east, where there was already fierce fighting on the Halhin Gol River.
Stalin and those around him can rightly be accused of many things. We remember both the crimes of the regime against its own people and the horrors of the massive repression. I repeat, the Soviet leaders can be blamed in many ways, but they cannot be blamed for a lack of understanding of external threats. They saw that attempts were being made to leave the Soviet Union alone against Germany and its allies, and the Soviet leadership acted on this real danger to buy valuable time to strengthen the country’s defense.
There is a lot of talk today about the non-aggression treaty that was concluded at the time, and modern Russia is therefore often reproached. Yes, Russia is the legal successor to the USSR and the Soviet era, with all its triumphs and tragedies, is an integral part of our millennial history. But I would also like to remind you that the Soviet Union has made a legal and moral assessment of the so-called Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The resolution of the Supreme Soviet of December 24, 1989 officially condemned the secret Additional Protocol as an “act of personal power” that did not “reflect the will of the Soviet people who are not responsible for this conspiracy”. ( Editor’s note: The Hitler-Stalin Pact is called the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in Russia)
Today, other states prefer not to remember the agreements that have the signatures of the Nazis and Western politicians. Not to mention any legal or political evaluation of this cooperation, including the tacit approval of some European figures to the barbaric plans of the Nazis to the point of direct encouragement from the Nazis. Alone the cynical sentence of the Polish ambassador to Germany, Józef Lipsky, which he said in a conversation with Hitler on September 20, 1938, speaks volumes: “… For a solution to the Jewish question, we (the Poles) put him … a beautiful memorial in Warsaw. ”
We also do not know whether there were “secret protocols” and appendices to the agreements between these countries and the Nazis. We have to believe their words. In particular, the documents relating to the secret Anglo-German negotiations have not yet been released. That is why we call on all states to speed up the process of opening up their archives and publishing previously unknown documents from the pre-war and wartime periods – as Russia has done in recent years. We are ready for a broad collaboration, for joint research projects by historians.
But let’s go back to the events that occurred immediately before World War II. It was naive to believe that after Hitler finished off Czechoslovakia, he would make no further territorial claims. This time against Poland, his accomplice in the partition of Czechoslovakia. Incidentally, the reason for this was also a legacy of Versailles – the fate of the so-called Danzig Corridor. The subsequent tragedy in Poland was on the conscience of the Polish leadership of the time, which prevented the conclusion of an Anglo-French-Soviet military union and hoped for the help of their Western partners. In doing so she surrendered her people to Hitler’s machinery of destruction.
The German offensive developed in full accordance with the doctrine of the Blitzkrieg. Despite the bitter, heroic resistance of the Polish army, a week after the start of the war, on September 8, 1939, German troops stood on the outskirts of Warsaw. And Poland’s military and political elite fled to Romania on September 17th and betrayed their people, who continued to fight the invaders.
The Western allies have not fulfilled Polish hopes. After the declaration of war against Germany, French troops only advanced a few dozen kilometers into German territory. It only made the appearance of a demonstration of active action. Moreover, the Anglo-French Supreme Military Council, which met for the first time in Abville (France) on September 12, 1939, decided to stop the offensive entirely because of the rapid development of events in Poland. The notorious “strange war” began. France and England have openly revealed their commitments to Poland. ( Note from the translator: In Germany, the period from the beginning of the war to the German offensive against France in May 1940 is called the “Sitzkrieg”, in France it is called the “strange war” )
Later, during the Nuremberg Trials, the German generals declared their quick success in the East. The former chief of staff of the operational command of the Commander-in-Chief of the German Armed Forces, General Jodl, admitted: “… The only reason we did not lose in 1939 is that around 110 French and British divisions, German divisions stood, remained completely passive. ”
I have requested from the archives the whole range of documents relating to contacts between the USSR and Germany during the dramatic days of August and September 1939. Section 2 of the secret additional protocol to the non-aggression pact between Germany and the USSR of 23 August 1939 shows that in the event of territorial and political restructuring of the regions that made up the Polish state, the boundary between the spheres of interest of the two countries “roughly along Borders of the rivers Narev, Vistula and Sana should run ”. In other words, it was not only about areas where a predominantly Ukrainian and Belarusian population lived, but also the historically Polish areas between the Bug and the Vistula fell under the Soviet sphere of influence. This fact is not known to everyone today. (Note d. Translator: That is important because after the conquest of Poland the border did not run where it should have been according to the additional protocol, but further east. )
This also applies to the fact that immediately after the attack on Poland in the first days of September 1939, Berlin repeatedly asked Moscow to take part in the military action. The Soviet leadership ignored such appeals, however, and avoided interfering in the dramatic events until the last moment.
Only when it finally became clear that Great Britain and France were not trying to help their allies and the Wehrmacht was able to quickly occupy all of Poland and even reach Minsk, it was decided on the morning of September 17th to divest the military units of the To deploy the Red Army in the areas that are now parts of Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania.
It is obvious that there was no other option. Otherwise the risks for the USSR would have increased many times over, because, I repeat, the previous Soviet-Polish border was only a few dozen kilometers from Minsk and the inevitable war with the Nazis would have started for the country from an extremely unfavorable strategic position. And millions of people of different nationalities, including Jews who lived in Brest and Hrodna, Peresim, Lemberg and Vilna, would have been left for extermination by the Nazis and their local henchmen, anti-Semites and radical nationalists.
It was precisely this fact that the Soviet Union tried to the last to avoid participating in the escalating conflict and did not want to play on the side of Germany, led to the fact that actual contact between Soviet and German troops took place far east of the borders, which was in secret Additional protocol were specified. Not on the Vistula, but on the so-called Curzon Line, which was recommended by the Entente in 1919 as Poland’s eastern border.
It is well known that the subjunctive is difficult to apply to events that have already occurred. I’m just saying that in September 1939 the Soviet leadership had the opportunity to push the western borders of the USSR further west to Warsaw, but decided not to do so.
The Germans suggested establishing the new status quo. On September 28, 1939, in Moscow, Ribbentrop and Molotov signed the friendship and border treaty between the USSR and Germany, as well as a secret protocol on changing the state border by establishing a demarcation line on which the two armies were de facto.
In the autumn of 1939 the Soviet Union began to integrate Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in the interests of its military necessities. Their accession to the USSR was carried out on a contractual basis with the consent of the elected governments. That corresponded to international and constitutional law at the time. In addition, the city of Vilno and the surrounding region, which formerly belonged to Poland, was returned to Lithuania in October 1939. As part of the USSR, the Baltic republics retained their organs of government and their languages and had representatives in the higher state structures of the Soviet Union.
During all these months the diplomatic and military-political struggle and the work of the secret services continued. In Moscow they understood that they were dealing with an implacable and cruel enemy and that the hidden war against National Socialism was already underway. There is no reason to view the official declarations and formal minutes of those years as evidence of a “friendship” between the USSR and Germany. The USSR had active trade and technical contacts not only with Germany but also with other countries. During the period, Hitler repeatedly tried to drag the USSR into a confrontation with Britain, but the Soviet leadership did not allow itself to be drawn into it.
The last attempt to convince the Soviet Union to act together was made by Hitler during Molotov’s visit to Berlin in November 1940. But Molotov followed exactly Stalin’s instructions and limited himself to general discussions about the idea of the Germans, the alliance signed in September 1940 Join Germany, Italy and Japan, which was directed against Great Britain and the United States. It is no coincidence that on November 17th Molotov instructed the Soviet representative Maysky, who was in London, as follows: “For your guidance… No treaty was signed in Berlin, nor was it intended. In Berlin it was limited to … an exchange of views … The Germans and the Japanese seem to want to push us very much towards the Persian Gulf and India. We rejected such advice on this subject because we consider such advice from Germany to be inappropriate. ”And on November 25, the Soviet leadership put an end to it: the Nazis’ terms were officially rejected as unacceptable, including the demand for withdrawal German troops from Finland, the mutual aid treaty between the USSR and Bulgaria, and a number of other treaties, which deliberately excluded any possibility of joining the pact. This position ultimately confirmed the Führer in his intention to start a war against the USSR. And in December, throwing aside all warnings from his strategists about the catastrophic danger of war on two fronts, Hitler approved the “Barbarossa” plan. He did this because he realized that the Soviet Union was the main power he faced in Europe and that the impending battle in the east would determine the outcome of the world war. He was sure that the road to Moscow would be quick and successful.
What I would like to emphasize in particular: the western countries agreed with the Soviet actions at the time, they recognized the wish of the Soviet Union to guarantee their security. The then head of the British Admiralty, Winston Churchill, said in a radio address on October 1, 1939: “Russia is pursuing a cold policy of its own interests … To protect Russia from the Nazi threat, it was clearly necessary that the Russian Armies stand on this line. ”On October 4, 1939, the British Foreign Secretary of Halifax declared in the House of Lords:“… It should be recalled that the Soviet Government has essentially shifted the border to the line which Lord Curzon at the Conference of Recommended Versailles … I only mention historical facts and I believeNote d. Translator: That is not to be found in German history books either: After the First World War, there was civil war in Russia. Poland used Russia’s weakness in the Polish-Soviet War from 1919 to 1921 to annex Soviet areas in the Baltic States, Belarus and the Ukraine. )
In informal discussions with the Soviet Ambassador Maysky, high-ranking British politicians and diplomats spoke more openly. The British Deputy Foreign Minister Butler announced on October 17, 1939: “… In British government circles the return of western Ukraine and Belarus to Poland is beyond question. If it were possible to create an ethnic Poland of modest size with a guarantee not only from the USSR and Germany, but also from England and France, the British government would be quite satisfied. ”On October 27, 1939, Neville Chamberlain’s chief advisor, Wilson, said: “Poland must … be restored as an independent state on its ethnographic basis, but without Western Ukraine and Belarus.”
It should be noted that during these talks an improvement in Soviet-British relations was explored. These contacts largely laid the foundation for the future alliance and the anti-Hitler coalition. Churchill stood out among the responsible, visionary politicians who, despite his known antipathy towards the USSR, advocated cooperation with it. In May 1939 he declared in the House of Commons: “We will find ourselves in mortal danger if we cannot create a large alliance against aggression. It would be the greatest foolishness if we refused natural cooperation with Soviet Russia. ”And after the start of hostilities in Europe – at a meeting with Maysky on May 1, 1939 – Churchill confided to him: “… There are no serious contradictions between Great Britain and the USSR, and therefore there is no reason for strained and unsatisfactory relations. The UK Government … wants to develop trade relations. She would also be ready to discuss any other measures that could improve relations. ”
World War II didn’t start overnight, it didn’t start unexpectedly or suddenly. And Germany’s aggression against Poland did not happen suddenly. It is the result of many trends and factors in world politics at that time. All pre-war events have been lined up in a fateful chain. But of course the most important reason that predetermined the greatest tragedy in human history is state egoism, cowardice to resist a growing aggressor and the unwillingness of the political elite to find a compromise.
It is therefore unfair to claim that Nazi Foreign Minister Ribbentrop’s two-day visit to Moscow was the main reason behind World War II. All leading countries, to varying degrees, contribute their share to its beginning. Everyone made irreparable mistakes believing they could outsmart others, secure one-sided advantage, or stay away from the impending global evil. And for this short-sightedness of not creating a system of collective security, millions of people had to pay with their lives.
I am writing about it without the slightest intention to take on the role of judge, to accuse or justify anyone, and certainly not to initiate a new round of international, verbal confrontations in historical areas that can turn states and peoples against one another. I believe that the search for a balanced assessment of past events by academic science should be done with the involvement of authoritative scholars from different countries. We all need truth and objectivity. For my part, I have always called on my colleagues to engage in a calm, open, trusting dialogue and to take a self-critical, impartial look at their shared past. Such an approach will allow us to
However, many of our partners are not yet ready to work together. On the contrary, by pursuing their goals, they increase the number and scale of media attacks against our country in order to force us to apologize. They spread hypocritical and politicized statements to make us feel guilty. The resolution adopted by the European Parliament “On the Importance of Preserving Historical Memory for the Future of Europe” of September 19, 2019 accused the USSR – together with Nazi Germany – of unleashing the Second World War. Of course there is not a word there about Munich.
I think that such “papers”, I cannot call this resolution a document, with all the obvious expectation of a scandal, represent a dangerous real threat. Eventually it was approved by a highly respected body. And what did that show? Sad as it is, this is the deliberate policy of destroying the post-war world order, the creation of which was a matter of the honor and responsibility of the countries whose representatives today voted in favor of this mendacious declaration. In this way they raised their hands against the results of the Nuremberg Tribunal, against the efforts of the international community, which after the victorious year 1945 created universal, international institutions. In this context I would like to remind you that the process of European integration, in which the relevant structures, including the European Parliament, were created, was only made possible by the lessons of the past, by its clear legal and political evaluations. And those who deliberately question this consensus are destroying the very foundations of all of post-war Europe.
Besides the threat to the basic principles of the world order, there is also a moral side. The mockery and derision of commemoration are abhorrent. The abomination is deliberate, hypocritical and knowledgeable when declarations marking the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II list all members of the anti-Hitler coalition, with the exception of the USSR. The abomination can be cowardly when monuments erected in honor of the fighters against National Socialism are torn down, when such shameful actions are justified with false slogans against an undesirable ideology and an alleged occupation. The abomination can be bloody when those who oppose neo-Nazis and the heirs of Bandera are killed and burned. I repeat it:
Forgetting the lessons of history will inevitably cost us dearly. We will vigorously defend the truth based on documented historical facts, and we will continue to speak honestly and impartially about the events of World War II. That is the aim of the major project to create the largest collection of archival documents, film and photo material on the history of World War II and the pre-war period in Russia. ( Editor’s note: As a person who is interested in history and also speaks Russian and German, I am really looking forward to this new center opening its doors and making the documents accessible to the public in one place )
Work on this is already underway. Many new, newly found, declassified materials were also used in the preparation of this article. In this context, I can state with all responsibility that there are no archival documents that would confirm the intention of the Soviet Union to start a preventive war against Germany. Yes, the Soviet military leadership adhered to the doctrine that in case of aggression, the Red Army will quickly repel the enemy, go on the offensive and wage war on enemy territory. Such strategic plans, however, did not imply the intention to attack Germany first.
Of course, documents of military planning, instructions from the Soviet and German high command are available to historians today. Finally, we know how events developed in reality. From the height of this knowledge, many people talk about mistakes and misjudgments by the military and political leadership of the countries. In this context I will say only one thing: along with a huge stream of all sorts of misinformation, the Soviet leaders received true information about the impending Nazi aggression. And steps were taken in the pre-war months to improve the country’s combat readiness, including covertly drafting conscripts and military personnel to rally points,
The war did not come suddenly, it was expected, people were preparing for it. But the blow of the Nazis came with destructive power truly unprecedented in history. On June 22, 1941, the Soviet Union faced the strongest, mobilized and best trained army in the world, for which the industrial, economic and military potential of almost all of Europe worked. Not only the Wehrmacht took part in this deadly invasion, but also the satellites of Germany, the troops of many other countries on the European continent.
Worst military defeats brought the country to the brink of disaster in 1941. The restoration of combat capability and control required extraordinary methods, general mobilization, the involvement of all the forces of the state and the people. As early as the summer of 1941, the evacuation of millions of citizens, hundreds of factories and production facilities to the east of the country began under enemy fire. In a very short time the production of weapons and ammunition was established in the rear area, which reached the front in the first military winter and in 1943 exceeded the military production figures of Germany and its allies. In a year and a half, the Soviet people achieved what seemed impossible, both at the front and in the rear. And it’s still hard to understand
Against the powerful, cold-blooded invasion machinery of the Nazis, armed to the teeth, rose the gigantic force of Soviet society, united by the desire to protect the homeland, to take revenge on the enemy who trampled the peaceful life, plans and hopes of the people would have.
Of course, during this terrible, bloody war, some people were obsessed with fear, confusion, and despair. There was betrayal and desertion. The violent turmoil caused in the Soviet Union by the revolution and the civil war, the nihilism, the harassment of national history, traditions, beliefs, which the Bolsheviks tried to force, especially in the first years after they came to power, made noticeable. But the general attitude of the Soviet citizens and our compatriots, who found themselves abroad after the collapse of the Soviet Union, was different: to protect and save the motherland. It was a real, unstoppable impulse. People sought support in truly patriotic values.
The Nazi “strategists” were convinced that a huge, multinational state would easily collapse. It was expected that the sudden war, its ruthlessness and unbearable hardship would inevitably aggravate inter-ethnic relations and the country could be fragmented. Hitler said directly: “Our policy towards the peoples who inhabit the vast expanses of Russia should be to promote all forms of disagreement and division.”
But from the first days it became clear that this Nazi plan was failing. The Brest fortress was defended to the last drop of blood by soldiers of more than thirty ethnicities. During the war – in great, decisive battles and in the defense of every beachhead, every meter of home – we see examples of this unity.
For millions of evacuees, the Volga region and the Urals, Siberia and the Far East, the Central Asian republics and the Caucasus became their home. Their residents shared their last, supported everyone they could support. Friendship between peoples and mutual aid became a truly indestructible fortress for the enemy.
In the defeat of National Socialism – whatever is being tried to prove today – the Soviet Union, the Red Army, made the decisive contribution. It was the heroes who fought to the end in Bialystok and Mogilov, Umanya and Kiev, Vyazma and Kharkov. Those who went on the attack before Moscow and Stalingrad, Sevastopol and Odessa, Kursk and Smolensk. Warsaw, Belgrade, Vienna and Prague were liberated. Königsberg and Berlin were stormed.
We stand for the true, unexplained or whitewashed truth about war. This popular, human truth – harsh, bitter and merciless – has been given to us largely by writers and poets who have gone through the fire and hell of the front. For mine, as for other generations, their honest, profound stories and novels, the penetrating “lieutenant prose” and the poems have forever left their mark on the soul. They became a will to honor the veterans who did everything in their power for victory and to commemorate those who remained on the battlefields.
Even today the simple and great lines of Alexander Twardovsky’s poem “I was killed before Rzhev …”, which are dedicated to the participants in the bloody, brutal battle of the Great Patriotic War in the central part of the Soviet-German front, are shocking. From October 1941 to March 1943, the Red Army alone, including the wounded and missing, lost 1,342,888 people during the fighting for the city of Rzhev. This is the first time I have named this terrible, tragic and far from complete figure, collected from archival sources, to honor the memory of the famous and nameless heroes, about whom for various reasons little or no talk was wrongly said in the post-war years.
I mention another document. It is the report of the International Reparations Commission headed by Maysky, which was drawn up in February 1945. The task of the commission was to determine the formula according to which defeated Germany should compensate the victorious powers. The commission came to the conclusion: “The number of soldiers that Germany deployed on the Soviet front exceeds the number of German soldiers on all other allied fronts by at least ten times. The Soviet front also tied four-fifths of German tanks and about two-thirds of German aircraft. ”Overall, the USSR carried about 75 percent of all military efforts of the anti-Hitler coalition. During the war, the Red Army “ground up” 626 divisions of the “Axis” countries, 508 of them were German.
On April 28, 1942, Roosevelt stated in his address to the American nation: “Russian troops have destroyed and continue to destroy more soldiers, planes, tanks and cannons of our common enemy than all other nations combined.” Churchill wrote in a letter to Stalin on September 27, 1944 that “it was the Russian army that took the courage of the German war machine …”
This assessment has met with resonance all over the world. Because in these words lies the great truth that nobody questioned at the time. Almost 27 million Soviet citizens died on the front lines, in German captivity, from starvation and bombing, in ghettos and ovens of Nazi death camps. The USSR lost one in seven citizens, the UK lost one in 127, and the United States lost one in 320. Unfortunately, that number of severe, irreparable losses to the Soviet Union is still not final. The arduous work of determining every name and fate of every dead person is still going on: Red Army soldiers, partisans, underground fighters, prisoners of war and prisoners in concentration camps, civilians who were exterminated by the punitive battalions. Determining the fate of each individual is our duty. Here the participants in the movement for the search for them, the military-patriotic and voluntary associations, as well as the electronic database “Remembrance of the People” based on archive documents play a special role. And of course, close international cooperation is required to solve such a humanitarian challenge. (Note d. Translator: Many civil society organizations in Russia are still searching intensively on the battlefields of war for the victims and trying to identify them in order to inform their families of the fate of their ancestors. The fate of the German victims is also researched and published. Here, too, it is not about “anti-German” tendencies, it is about coming to terms with the past of all victims. )
The efforts of all countries and peoples who fought against the common enemy have resulted in victory. The British Army defended their homeland from invasion, fought against the Nazis and their satellites in the Mediterranean and North Africa. American and British troops liberated Italy and opened the Second Front. The United States dealt the aggressor in the Pacific powerful, devastating blows. We remember the enormous sacrifices made by the Chinese people and their enormous role in defeating the Japanese militarists. We do not forget the fighters of “Fighting France” who did not recognize the shameful surrender and continued to fight against the Nazis.
We will also always be grateful for the support of the Allies in providing ammunition, raw materials, food and equipment for the Red Army. And it was considerable, comprising about seven percent of the total military production of the Soviet Union.
The core of the anti-Hitler coalition took shape immediately after the attack on the Soviet Union, when the United States and Britain unconditionally supported them in the fight against Hitler’s Germany. During the Tehran Conference of 1943, Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill formed an alliance of great powers, agreed to develop coalition diplomacy, a common strategy in the fight against the common deadly threat. The leaders of the Big Three knew that the union of the industrial and military capabilities of the USSR, the United States, and Great Britain would create an undeniable superiority over the enemy.
The Soviet Union has fulfilled its obligations to the Allies in full and has always given a helping hand. The Red Army supported the landing of Anglo-American troops in Normandy through the large-scale operation “Bagration” in Belarus. In January 1945 our soldiers ended the last powerful offensive of the Wehrmacht on the western front in the Ardennes when they reached the Oder. And three months after defeating Germany, under the Yalta Agreement, the USSR declared war on Japan and defeated the multi-million-strong Kwantung Army.
As early as July 1941, the Soviet leadership declared that “the aim of the war against the fascist oppressors is not only to remove the threat that looms over our country, but also to help all the peoples of Europe who are under the yoke of German fascism groan. ”In mid-1944, the enemy was pushed out of almost all of Soviet territory. But he had to be defeated in his hiding place. And the Red Army began a liberation mission in Europe, saving hundreds of thousands of lives of other nations from the annihilation and enslavement of the Holocaust at the expense of Soviet soldiers.
It is also important not to forget the tremendous material aid that the USSR provided to the liberated countries in eradicating hunger and in recovering their economies and infrastructure. It did so at a time when thousands of places from Brest to Moscow to the Volga were in ruins. For example, in May 1945 the Austrian government asked the USSR for help with food because it “did not know how to feed the population for the next seven weeks until the new harvest”. He described the agreement with the Soviet leadership and the State Chancellor of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Austria, Renner, to send food to Austria as an “act of rescue” that “the Austrians will never forget”.
The Allies jointly established the International Military Tribunal to punish political and war criminals of the Nazis. His judgments set clear legal requirements for the prosecution of crimes against humanity, such as genocide, ethnic and religious cleansing, anti-Semitism and xenophobia. The Nuremberg Tribunal also condemned the accomplices of the Nazis and collaborators of various stripes.
This shameful phenomenon existed in all European countries. Such “politicians” as Petain, Quisling, Wlassov, Bandera, their henchmen and supporters, were traitors and murderers, although they called themselves fighters for national independence or freedom from communism. In their inhumanity they often surpassed their masters. As part of special criminal regiments, they willingly carried out the most inhuman orders. They carry the blood of the executions of Babi Yar, the massacre of Volyn, the burned Khatyn, actions for the extermination of Jews in Lithuania and Latvia on their hands. ( Translator’s note: In 1943, Ukrainian units that worked with the SS slaughtered over 150 civilians in a massacre in Khatyn. The unfortunate place was the scene of cruel massacres twice during the war )
To this day, our position remains unchanged: The criminal acts of Nazi accomplices cannot be justified, they have no limitation period. It is puzzling, therefore, when in a number of countries those who tainted themselves with collaboration with the Nazis are suddenly equated with WWII veterans. I think it is unacceptable to equate the liberators with the occupiers. And I can only view the adoration of Nazi accomplices as a betrayal of the memory of our fathers and grandfathers. This is a betrayal of the ideals that united the peoples in the fight against National Socialism.
At that time, the leaders of the USSR, the United States and Great Britain were faced with a historic task, without exaggeration. Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill represented countries with different ideologies, goals, interests and cultures, but they showed great political will and rose above the opposites and put the world’s real interests first. Therefore, they were able to come to an agreement and find a solution that would benefit all of humanity.
The victorious powers left us with a system that became the quintessential intellectual and political endeavors of several centuries. A series of conferences – Tehran, Yalta, San Francisco, Potsdam – laid the foundation stone for the world to have lived without global war for 75 years despite the sharpest contrasts.
The historical revisionism that we are now witnessing in the West, particularly with regard to the issue of World War II and its aftermath, is dangerous because it undermines the understanding of the principles of peaceful development established at the Yalta and San Francisco Conferences in 1945, grossly distorted. The main historical achievement of Yalta and other decisions of the period was to agree on the creation of a mechanism that would allow the great powers to stick to diplomacy in resolving their differences.
The 20th century brought total and widespread global conflict, and in 1945 nuclear weapons entered the arena that were and are capable of destroying the earth. In other words, resolving disputes by force became unacceptably dangerous. And the winners of World War II understood that. They understood that and recognized their responsibility to humanity.
The sad experience of the League of Nations in 1945 was taken into account. The UN Security Council was drawn up in such a way that it had the maximum capacity to act as a guarantor of peace. This is how the permanent members of the UN Security Council, their right of veto, their privileges and their responsibilities came into being.
What is the right of veto in the UN Security Council? To put it bluntly: this is the only sensible alternative to a direct conflict between the big countries. It is the statement by one of the five powers that a solution is unacceptable to them, contrary to their interests. And the rest of the countries accept this, even if they disagree, and do not take any unilateral action. That means you definitely have to look for compromises.
The new global confrontation began almost immediately after the end of World War II and was at times very violent. And the fact that the Cold War did not develop into World War III convincingly confirms the effectiveness of the agreements made by the Big Three. The rules of conduct agreed upon when the UN was founded made it possible to minimize risks and keep future confrontations under control.
Of course, we see that the UN system is now operating under tension and is not as effective as it could be. But the UN is still doing its main job. The UN Security Council principles are a unique mechanism for preventing a major war or global conflict.
The calls that have been heard in recent years to abolish the right of veto and curtail the privileges of permanent members of the Security Council are therefore irresponsible. For if this happens, the United Nations will in principle become the League of Nations, a meeting for empty talk, without any influence on the world processes; How that ended is known. It is precisely for this reason that the victorious powers approached the creation of a new system of world order with great seriousness so as not to repeat the mistakes of their predecessors.
The creation of a modern system of international relations is one of the most important results of World War II. Even the most irreconcilable contradictions – geopolitical, ideological, economic – do not prevent forms of peaceful coexistence and interaction from being found if the will is there. Today the world is not going through its quietest times. Everything is changing: from the global balance of power and influence to the social, economic and technological foundations of societies, states and entire continents. In earlier epochs, shifts of this magnitude almost never happened without major military conflicts, without a power struggle to build the new global hierarchy. Thanks to the wisdom and foresight of the political figures of the Allied Powers, it was possible
It is our duty, and especially the duty of the representatives of the victorious powers of World War II, to ensure that all who bear political responsibility ensure that this system is maintained and improved. Today, as in 1945, it is important to show political will and to discuss the future together. The colleagues – Xi Jinping, Macron, Trump, Johnson – have supported the Russian initiative to hold a meeting of the heads of state and government of the five nuclear powers – the permanent members of the Security Council. We thank them for this and we hope that the meeting can take place as soon as possible.
In our opinion, what are the topics of the upcoming summit? First of all, in our opinion, it would be appropriate to discuss steps to develop collective approaches in world politics, openly on questions of peacekeeping, strengthening global and regional security, the control of strategic weapons, joint efforts to combat terrorism, the Speaking of extremism and other pressing challenges and threats.
A separate topic on the agenda of the meeting is the situation in the world economy, in particular overcoming the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Our countries are taking unprecedented measures to protect people’s health and lives, to support citizens in difficult life situations. But how bad the consequences of the pandemic will be, how quickly the global economy will recover from the recession, depends on our ability to work together as real partners in an open and coordinated manner. It is all the more unacceptable to turn the economy into an instrument of pressure and confrontation. Environmental protection and climate change as well as the security of the global information space are among the important issues.
The agenda proposed by Russia for the upcoming five-party summit is extremely important, not just for our countries but for the whole world. And we have specific ideas and initiatives on all topics.
There is no doubt that the summit of Russia, China, France, the United States and Great Britain will play an important role in finding common responses to current challenges and threats and a common commitment in the spirit of the Alliance and its high humanistic ideals and values will show for which fathers and grandfathers fought shoulder to shoulder.
Based on shared historical commemoration, we can and should trust one another. This will provide a solid foundation for successful negotiations and concerted action to improve stability and security in the world, for the prosperity and well-being of all nations. Without exaggeration, this is our common duty and responsibility to the world, to present and future generations.