Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Putin's versions of history are myths

Joachim von Ribbentrop, Foreign Minister of Germany; Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Union supreme leader; and Vyacheslav Molotov, the Soviet Foreign Minister, at the signing of the 10-year non-aggression pact between Germany and the Soviet Union, in reality, the pact of demarcation of Eastern Europe. Moscow, 23 August 1939

The Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact had a secret protocol that left Hitler free to attack Poland without risking war with the Soviet Union and it divided eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence.

Since the invasion of Ukraine, Putin, the Russian dictator, has claimed that Ukraine is “an inalienable part of our own history, culture, and spiritual space.” Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, all trace their roots back to the ancient principality of Kyivan Rus’. According to Encyclopedia Britannica "both the origin of the Kievan state and that of the name Rus, which came to be applied to it, remain matters of debate among historians. According to the traditional account presented in The Russian Primary Chronicle, it was founded by the Viking Oleg, ruler of Novgorod from about 879. In 882 he seized Smolensk and Kyiv, and the latter city, owing to its strategic location on the Dnieper River, became the capital of Kievan Rus. Extending his rule, Oleg united local Slavic and Finnish tribes, defeated the Khazars, and, in 911, arranged trade agreements with Constantinople.

Vladimir Svyatoslavich the Great (c. 958 – 1015), also known as Saint Vladimir, was the grand prince of Kyiv. In 2016 a statute of Saint Vladimir was unveiled near the Kremlin in Moscow. He was dead when Moscow was supposedly founded in 1147 and he lived in Kyiv, but that did not concern Putin the mythmaker.

Serhii Plokhy author of the book 'Lost Kingdom: The Quest for Empire and the Making of the Russian Nation' noted in 2017 "When Putin pushes the idea that Russians and Ukrainians are the same people, he doesn't mean that Russians are Ukrainians. The underlying argument is that Ukrainians are really Russians."

Putin blames western allies and Poland for the Second World War in Europe!

Just before the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian dictator got the rubber-stamp State Duma parliament to push true a bill applying fines and prison sentences to a 2021 law banning “any public attempt to equate the aims and actions of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany during World War II, as well as to deny the decisive role of the Soviet people in the victory over fascism.”

Putin is trying to rewrite the history of the Second World War as he is doing currently with Ukraine.

The Economist reported in January 2020:

[... on December 20th, at a summit of leaders of former Soviet republics, Mr Putin delivered an hour-long presentation blaming Poland and its western allies for the outbreak of the war. He noted Poland had previously formed an anti-Soviet alliance with Germany and took part in the division of Czechoslovakia in 1938, implying it had no right to pose as a victim. The Soviets, he told the stunned leaders, had no choice but to make a deal with Hitler, as Western powers would not ally with them against the Nazis. “The Soviet Union never took anything from Poland,” he added. (He did not mention that Soviet troops massacred 20,000 Poles in Katyn Forest in 1940 and, after the war, imposed a communist dictatorship on the country for decades.)

A few days later, speaking to Russian generals and mps, Mr Putin cited a dispatch by Poland’s ambassador to Nazi Germany in 1938 applauding Hitler’s plan to deport Jews to Africa. “A bastard, an anti-Semitic pig,” Mr Putin commented. Polish Jewish leaders pointed out that the ambassador, Jozef Lipski, had helped Jews flee from Germany to Poland before the war. They warned that distorting the war’s history threatens “the foundation of modern European identity”.

This may be Mr Putin’s goal. He sees it as self-defence. Russia’s regime exploits celebrations of the Soviet victory over the Nazis, hoping that Russians will associate the current Kremlin with historical triumphs. In September the European Parliament passed a resolution blaming Stalin’s pact with Hitler for the war. It denounced “fascist, Stalinist, and other totalitarian and authoritarian regimes” and called for “resilience against modern threats to democracy”—a veiled jab at the Kremlin.]

Officially called the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact but also known as the Hitler-Stalin Pact, the nonaggression agreement gave Stalin an opportunity to control Poland east of the line formed by the Narew, Vistula, and San rivers; the Baltic republics of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland. In addition, Stalin got the Bessarabia region in Romania.

In 2010 the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published this summary on Finland in a report:

"Finland is a relatively young country, having only established its independence from the Soviet Union in 1917. Finland had to fight long and hard to preserve that independence through the Second World War.

For a nation with a population of less than 4 million, the cost of the war was devastating: 90,000 dead; 60,000 permanently injured and 50,000 children orphaned. Additionally, as part of the 1944 peace treaty with the Soviet Union, Finland was forced to cede 12% of its land, requiring the relocation of 450,000 Finnish citizens."

The Russian empire acquired control of Finland from Sweden in 1809 and Finland declared its independence in early 1917 following the collapse of the empire.

In a bitter civil war that followed between Red Finland supported by the Russian Bolsheviks and White Finland (conservates) aided by the German empire, there were almost 39,000 deaths, including many executions.

Finland declared itself neutral at the start of the Second World War but Stalin demanded territory and naval basing rights in exchange for land in neighbouring Soviet Karelia. When Finland refused, the Soviet Union used a false flag artillery shelling incident as a pretext to invade on 30 November 1939.


A Finnish ski patrol, lying in the snow on the outskirts of a wood in Northern Finland, on alert for Russian troops, on January 12, 1940. Imperial War Museum London

The Winter War of 1939-1940, also known as the Russo-Finnish War, was initially a disaster for the Red Army, which suffered more than 300,000 casualties in the three-month conflict.

“Soviet Russia’s plan for a lightning war with the obvious aim of causing a subsequent collapse of the Finnish government must be considered hopelessly stranded,” The New York Times reported on December 7, 1939.

Russia did regroup and the 3.7m population country saw more than half a million troops, 4,000 tanks and 3,000 aircraft.

On March 13, 1940, 106 days after the Soviet invasion, Finland was forced to agree to cede 8% of its territory and 13% of its economic capacity.

The Baltic states were invaded and occupied in June 1940 by the Soviet Union. They have been independent since 1991.

Moscow continued to make demands on Finland including mining licences.

In June 1941, Germany launched an invasion of the Soviet Union and three days later, Soviet aircraft bombed Finnish cities. This resulted in Finland declaring war and allowing German troops stationed in Finland to begin offensive warfare.

In what is called the Continuation War 1941-1944 Finland reoccupied the territories lost in the Winter War. The Finns again had to agree to bitter terms. However, Stalin did not annex the country as he knew that the Finns were formidable fighters.

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Vladimir Putin’s Rewriting of History Draws on a Long Tradition of Soviet Myth-Making