Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is working to make belittling the Soviet Union’s contribution to the Allied victory in World War II a crime. He also called the Soviet Union “our country,” a reference sure to raise eyebrows in the West.
David Nowak reports for AP:
Following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Vladimir Putin, Medvedev warned against questioning the sacrifices and achievements of the Soviet Union during the war, which killed at least 27 million people in this nation.
“We will never forget that our country, the Soviet Union, made the decisive contribution to the outcome of the second world war, that it was precisely our people who destroyed Nazism, determined the fate of the whole world — and paid an incredible price for it,” Medvedev said in a Kremlin speech on the eve of Russia’s Victory Day holiday marking the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945. “We will always protect and uphold this sole truth, and nobody should have any doubt about this,” he said in tough language reminiscent of Putin.
The anniversary of the Allied victory is a major holiday across the former Soviet Union.
Medvedev’s reference to the Soviet Union as “our country” reflected the Russian leadership’s pride in the nation’s Soviet-era history — viewed in a far more negative light in many other countries — and appealed to a similar pride among many Russians and war veterans in other former Soviet republics. In recent years, Russia’s leaders have repeatedly invoked the memory of that sacrifice in criticizing former Soviet and Eastern bloc states that have removed Soviet war monuments. Many of those countries regarded Moscow as an occupier rather than a liberator.
The dominant political party led by Putin, now Russia’s prime minister, is working on legislation that would make it a crime to belittle the Soviet contribution to victory in what Russians call the Great Patriotic War.
The Russians/Soviets can certainly take pride in the courage of their soldiers of that era and in the enormity of the losses they absorbed waiting for the West, the United States in particular, to gear up for the war. Still, the “Great Patriotic War” myth is predicated on forgetting that Stalin was an ally of Hitler, pursuant to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, for two years until Hitler double-crossed Stalin and launched Operation Barbaroosa. That treaty not only hampered efforts by France and Britain to forestal a larger war but assured Hitler’s annexation of Poland. For its part, the Soviet Union then began to invade Eastern Europe and the expansion of its empire that would last half a century.
That’s not a history to crow about.
James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council.