Saturday, July 11, 2009

OSCE condemns Molotov-Ribbentrop


Partners in crime
Jul 9th 2009

Despite Russia's protests, Stalin was no less villainous than Hitler
IT IS depressing that it even needed to be discussed. On July 3rd in Vilnius the parliamentary assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the continent’s main outfit, passed a resolution equating Stalin and Hitler. It called for August 23rd to become an official day of remembrance for the millions who were repressed, murdered, deported, robbed and raped as a result of the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. That deal, and the secret protocols that went with it, were a death sentence for the countries from the Baltic to the Black sea. The poisonous after-effects linger until today.

The resolution should have met with particularly thunderous applause from the Russian side. After all, Russians by most measures suffered particularly badly under Stalin. Following Lenin’s terrible legacy, he systematised the persecution of the country’s brightest and best. Anyone reading the classic memoirs of Stalinism, such as “Kolyma tales” by Varlam Shalamov, or Nadezhda Mandelstam’s “Hope against hope”, or a modern history such as Anne Applebaum’s “Gulag”, is suffused with the horror of those years. It is hard to imagine anyone quibbling over their condemnation.

Some do counter that Stalin was, despite his excessive toughness, a great figure in Russian and Soviet history. (Modern Russian history textbooks make the same case.) But that ignores Stalin’s disastrous record as a political and military leader. His paranoia decapitated the Red Army leadership: the best generals were murdered or jailed. Also, Stalin ignored the plentiful warnings of Hitler’s planned surprise attack in June 1941. That nearly proved disastrous.

By some counts Stalin should be seen as no less villainous than Hitler. He bears much of the blame for the war. It was the Soviet alliance with Hitler that gave the Nazi leader the confidence to attack Poland. Only Hitler’s blunders prevented the Nazis from winning the war in the East—and quite likely the whole show. It is also worth remembering that Stalinism was so repellent that it drove many Russians to fight on the Nazi side—including in the SS.

Plenty of other countries have much to be ashamed of in their wartime history. Britain’s bullying of Czechoslovakia to accept dismemberment at Nazi hands in 1938 is one good example; French collaboration with the occupation another. These are shameful, but they are not taboos.

By contrast, the OSCE resolution prompted outrage from Russia. Indeed, under the new law criminalising the “falsification of history”, anyone who voted for it, discussed it or publicised it in Russia would risk a jail sentence of up to five years. Communism’s economic failure and political repression have made it hard for anyone to claim that the Soviet Union was the epitome of a new civilisation. The victory over Nazi Germany provides some moral weight, but does not excuse Stalinism. The heroism of the Soviet soldiers who repelled the Nazi invaders has been used both to sanitise the past and to distract attention from the sleaze and incompetence of Russia’s current rulers.

The debate will not change the world: the parliamentary assembly is just a talking shop on the sidelines of the 56-member OSCE. Its resolutions are not legally binding. But the news is welcome nonetheless. Russian propagandists love using historical slogans but hate discussions of historical facts. The debate in Vilnius makes it a bit harder to maintain that stance.


Ludwik Kowalski said...

I agree with your comments; as elaborated in my recent OpEd article

Yes, Soviet people suffered enormously from two ideologically-motivated regimes. Stalin was motivated by the ideology of proletarian dictatorship; Hitler was motivated by the ideology of race purity.

Unfortunately, there is a strong asymmetry between what most young people know about Naziism and what they know about Stalinism. My little book was written to correct this situation. But it had very little effect. What it needs are reviews. Please help me to promote this book; 100% of royalties go to a scholarship fund at Montclair State University.

Thanks in advance,

Ludwik Kowalsk

Ludwik Kowalski said...

And you are right about about heroism of Red Army fighters; their contribution to the victory in WWII should never be forgotten. See my OpEd item about Red Army at:

Ludwik Kowalski

andrey71 said...

Nothing new. References to books simply ridiculous,use the statistics, they are fully open. Who are the best generals, Tukhachevsky & Co?

Val said...

Sunshine in the best disinfectant, and those who persist and assist in keeping the dirty secrets of the USSR in the dark are laying the groundwork for the most massive crimes against humanity to continue to happen again and again.

After 64 years of analysis, what started in Germany under Hitler's leadership and spread throughout Europe and the world is still not well understood. High time to explore the facts of history behind the Iron Curtain under the leadership of Stalin, his cohorts and enablers.

Who knows? We might even realize that Hitler and Stalin made each other possible.

Unknown said...

Learn your history. Poland signed a deal with Germany in 1934. In 1938, after the Munich pact, Poland - together with Germany occupied Czechoslovakia and gained part of its territory:

Mateusz Piskorski: " Poles, we should remember that a year before we also cooperated with Berlin, although on an obviously smaller scale. Poland had taken part in the partition of Czechoslovakia..."

"...In early November 1938, under the first Vienna Award, which was a result of the Munich agreement, Czechoslovakia (and later Slovakia) — after it had failed to reach a compromise with Hungary and Poland.... and Poland obtained small territorial cessions shortly after..."

"...Poland was conspiring with Nazis to destroy Soviet Union...":