Skip to comments.Russian victory festivities open old wounds in Europe
Posted on 04/29/2005 9:21:53 AM PDT by lizol
Russian victory festivities open old wounds in Europe
60th anniversary of Nazis' defeat is hit by boycotts and bitterness
Ian Traynor in Warsaw Friday April 29, 2005 The Guardian
As President Vladimir Putin gears up for the biggest spectacular of his five-year rule, Moscow and its former satellites in eastern Europe are mired in rancour and recrimination about the chapter of history they are about to commemorate. Most central and east European leaders are due to join President George Bush, Tony Blair, the German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, and more than 50 heads of state and government in Moscow next month when Mr Putin will preside over lavish ceremonies to mark Russia's finest hour - the defeat of Nazi Germany 60 years ago.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The east Europeans, however, are heading to Moscow in anxiety and even antipathy. After all, Stalin's "liberation" of the space between Russia and Germany was a conquest that brutalised as well, entrenching the 45-year cold war division of Europe.
Poland, which was invaded and partitioned by both the Third Reich and the Russian army, and which saw its military and intellectual elite murdered by Stalin's henchmen, is deeply ambivalent about taking part in the Red Square parades. The Baltic republics, invaded first by Stalin, then by Hitler, and annexed by the Soviet Union at the war's end, are also divided, with two of the three presidents boycotting the ceremonies.
President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine is in two minds about going to Moscow.
The Kremlin, seizing on the events of 60 years ago as the brightest spot in Russia's dark 20th century, is unapologetic about the ravages its imperial rule inflicted on central Europe for two generations.
"There is Russia with its pride and its sense of history and then there is central Europe which is being more or less isolated, left alone with a very different history," said Janusz Reiter, a former Polish ambassador to Germany and director of Warsaw's Centre for International relations. "The problem is that this history is not only selective, it eliminates the most sensitive parts of Russian history."
Lithuania, according to the country's former president, Vytautis Landsbergis, is being asked to go to Moscow to "celebrate its own captivity".
"Unlike Germany, Russia has never recognised its responsibility for the war and the mass graves of the innocent," he wrote last month.
Such remarks are viewed as outrages in Moscow, given the 27 million dead the Soviet Union suffered in defeating Hitler.
The Baltic countries were trying to equate Stalin's Soviet Union with Hitler's Germany, a Putin aide told Russian television. "Of course, we cannot accept these blasphemous attempts to rewrite history," said Sergei Yastrzhembsky.
The mood of bitter recrimination has worsened in recent weeks with a string of pronouncements from Moscow that Mr Reiter characterises as calculated provocations.
Mr Putin directly attacked Poland's President Alexander Kwasniewski by name. The Russian foreign ministry issued a statement on the allies' Yalta conference of February 1945, declaring that Poland should be "grateful" for the pact which divided Europe and erected the iron curtain.
Yalta is broadly seen in Poland as the burial site of postwar Polish sovereignty and independence. For the Poles "to complain about Yalta is a sin _ unconscionable", the Russian government stated.
More grievously, the Russian authorities have closed down a 14-year investi gation into the Katyn massacre of 1940, when Stalin's secret police murdered 21,768 Polish military officers, intellectual leaders and clergy.
Throughout the cold war, the Kremlin had blamed the massacre on the Nazis.
The Poles have launched their own investigation into what they term a war crime and an act of genocide. They demand that Russia hand over the historical dossier. The Russians refuse, saying that most of the papers are classified. Katyn, they add, cannot be classified as a war crime, since the Soviet Union was not at war with Poland.
The Polish parliament said last month: "Only the disclosure of the whole truth about the crime and the condemnation of the perpetrators can heal the wounds and lead to good relations between Poland and the Russian Federation."
The Katyn murders occurred in the wake of the non-aggression pact between Hitler and Stalin, reached in August 1939, a month before the Nazis began the war by invading Poland. The secret appendixes to the pact carved up central Europe between Berlin and Moscow. When Hitler invaded, Stalin seized eastern Poland and nine months later took the Baltic republics.
The Kremlin has never abrogated or denounced what is known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, named after the Soviet and Nazi foreign ministers. In the run-up to the Moscow parades on May 9, the Russians continue to insist that they were not at war with Poland, nor did they invade or occupy the Baltic countries, but "liberated" them.
Amid such entrenched differences over the past, the presidents of Lithuania and Estonia are refusing to travel to Moscow.
Mr Landsbergis warned that the world leaders in Moscow next month could end up "validating Soviet war crimes".
Mr Kwasniewski, the Polish leader, is going to Moscow despite the deep reservations and the attacks from Russia that Polish analysts say may be aimed at forcing a Polish boycott and discrediting the biggest of the new EU members.
Jerzy Osiatynski, a prominent Polish analyst, says Mr Kwasniewski should go, but only "if he is given a chance to speak out, to talk clearly in Moscow about both attackers".
The "Victory-60" parade is as much about the future as about the past. Mr Putin, after a string of foreign policy blunders, is looking to enhance his prestige, while emphasising Russia's great-power status as the saviour of Europe.
The east Europeans fear that Brussels, Berlin and Paris may acquiesce in Mr Putin's aims, ignoring their historical grievances and their fears and suspicions of Mr Putin's Russia.
"This is all about how to make use of history, the politicisation of historical events," Mr Reiter said. "Putin is trying to modernise Soviet mythology for Russia's present needs. That causes a clash with us and the Baltics. And it shows the gap in the EU between western Europe and central Europe, between realpolitik and the moral dimension. The priorities for Berlin and Paris are not to upset Putin."
Stalin's epic triumph on the eastern front 60 years ago turned the Soviet Union into a superpower. But it spelt disaster for the countries of central and eastern Europe, which spent the next 45 years behind an iron curtain ruled by Kremlin commissars.
The Victory-60 parades planned for Moscow next month are complicating rather than helping reconciliation between the rulers and ruled of the old Soviet bloc.
"This should not be about shaming and blaming the Russians," Mr Osiatynski, the Polish analyst, said. "But we need an honest appraisal of history."
A general question ... I somehow do not remember any thing like this 10 years ago, at the far more significant 50 year point. Hmmmm ... perhaps, just perhaps, the geopolitical climate of today, where the Bear now bares its teeth a whole lot more than in 1995, may have something to do with it? Hmmmmm....
Stalin was brutal and evil and has his place in Hell right along side Hitler, but the millions of aging Soviet veterans deserve their day in the sun just as much as our American "greatest generation." If the Germans do not like that they should refrain from starting wars they cannot win.
Sons of b*tches! Nothing has changed with the Russians.
There is nothing to be "Hmmmmm....-ing" about it. It's for sure!!!
==The Russian foreign ministry issued a statement on the allies' Yalta conference of February 1945, declaring that Poland should be "grateful" for the pact which divided Europe and erected the iron curtain.
What do you expect from a bunch of unreformed Communists?
Did you even read the article? It's about the totally innocent Poles, not the Germans.
If the Russians want to celebrate eradicating the Nazis from their borders that's one thing. But they did not liberate anybody outside of the Soviet Union, they merely exchanged one set of chains for the other.
Memorandum on NKVD letterhead from L. Beria to "Comrade Stalin" proposing to execute captured Polish officers, soldiers, and other prisoners by shooting. Stalin's handwritten signature appears on top, followed by signatures of Politburo members K. Voroshilov, V. Molotov, and A. Mikoyan. Signatures in left margin are M. Kalinin and L. Kaganovich, both favoring execution.
And "be grateful for Yalta"--?! One might as well tell Putin to be "grateful for Beslan"!
Before being so "proud" of such a great victory, acknowledge the millions in Lend-Lease hardware without which the victory would have been impossible.
Too busy selling shoulder-fired missiles to Syria and providing nuclear and missile assistance to Iran.
W saw a soul in the eyes of a Katyn apologist?
Is this referring to the secret pact that Stalin made with Hitler, that Hitler soon broke and Stalin had to beg America and England to come save his butt? Or is this referring to the commie victory when Comrade Roosevelt handed all of Eastern Europe to his commie friends?
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