Putin has written down his own research on the Second World War in a long article, as I find in the discussion about Russia’s complicity (27 million dead Russians) a very nice contrast. Putin advocates learning from history and not rewriting it! It is for the respect of international law and demands that the big ones agree on rules to prevent a big war one day.
To understand the article you should know Russia, for Russia this war is a very big wound. Every seventh Soviet citizen has lost his life in this war, every family has lost a relative, accordingly this war has burned into the soul. It is a holiday in Russia. Millions take to the streets on this day, show photos of their relatives and let pain and grief run free.
The atmosphere is not aggressive, or even “anti-German”, everything is peaceful. People are not forced to participate here either, it is a matter of course for everyone.
75 years of great victory: shared responsibility for history and the future
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, crushing victory over national socialism and saved the whole world, no longer exists. And the events of this war, even for its participants, have moved into a distant past. But why in Russia the 9th of May is celebrated as the most important holiday, and why seems on 22. June to freeze life and you really have a lump in your throat?
We are told that the war has left a deep mark on the history of every family. Behind these words are the destinies of millions of people, their suffering and the pain of loss. And also pride, truth and memory.
For my parents, the war meant the terrible torment of besieged Leningrad, where my two-year-old brother Vitya died, where my mother miraculously survived. My father volunteered to defend his hometown, he did the same as millions of Soviet citizens. He was severely wounded at Nevsky bridge. And the further these years go, the greater the desire to talk to parents, to learn 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 topic in my heart, including their restrained emotions.
For me and my peers, it is important that our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren understand the trials and fears that their ancestors went through. How and why were we able to survive and win? Where did your truly iron strength come from, which surprised and fascinated the whole world? Yes, they defended their home, their children, their Loved ones, their families. But they were all united by love for the Fatherland. This deep, personal feeling is fully reflected in the nature of our people and has become something decisive in its heroic, sacrificial struggle against the Nazis.
I often wonder: 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 today go to the “red Zone” to save people. Our soldiers, who face death in the fight against international terrorism in the North Caucasus, in Syria, are also very young people! Many fighters of 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.
Therefore, I am sure that the character of the peoples of Russia consists in fulfilling their duty when circumstances require it, rather than feeling sorry for themselves. Selflessness, patriotism, love for one’s Homeland, one’s family, one’s country – these values are still of fundamental importance for Russian society. They are by and large the guarantors of the sovereignty of our country.
Now new traditions have emerged that have come from the people, such as the Immortal Regiment. This March of our grateful remembrance is the living link between 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 have given us, will never be forgotten.
It is our responsibility to the past and the future to do everything possible to prevent a repetition of such a terrible tragedy. Therefore, I consider it my duty to speak in an article about the Second World War and the Great Patriotic War. I have repeatedly discussed this idea in conversations with world leaders 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 remind posterity that the victory over national socialism was achieved primarily by the entire Soviet people, that in this heroic struggle - at the Front and at home-representatives of all the republics of the Soviet Union stood shoulder to shoulder. In December, I spoke to my colleagues about the difficult pre-war period.
This conversation has found great resonance in Europe and 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 many emotions, poorly hidden complexes and loud accusations. A number of politicians quickly declared that Russia was trying to rewrite history. However, they could not refute a single fact, a single 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.
Therefore, it is 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 teachings – for our country and the world. And here, I repeat, it is important in principle to rely only on material from archives and statements of contemporary witnesses in order to exclude any ideologization and politicization.
Let me remind you of the obvious: the causes of the Second World War are largely due to the decisions made after the first World War. The Treaty of Versailles has become a Symbol of deep injustice for Germany. The De facto aim was to rob the country, which had to pay enormous reparations to its Western allies, which has completely exhausted its economy. The commander-in-chief of the Allied forces, the French Marshal Foche, has prophetically characterized Versailles: “This is not peace, this is a truce 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, built their Propaganda on them and promised to liberate Germany from the “legacy of Versailles”, to restore its former power, thus driving the German people into a new war. It is paradoxical, but Western states, especially the United Kingdom and the United States, have made this possible, directly or indirectly. Their financial and industrial circles have very actively invested in German factories that have produced military Material. And among the aristocracy and the political Establishment in the West, there were many supporters of radical, far-right, nationalist movements that were gaining momentum in Germany and Europe at the time.
The” peace order " of Versailles has created numerous hidden contradictions and obvious conflicts. Their reason was the borders of the new European states, drawn arbitrarily by the victors of the first World War. Almost immediately after their appearance on the map, territorial disputes and mutual claims began, which became time bombs.
One of the most important results of the First world war was the founding of the League of Nations. This international organization raised high hopes for long-term peace and collective security. It was a progressive idea whose consistent implementation could have prevented a repetition of the horrors of a global war without exaggeration.
However, the league of nations, dominated by the victorious powers of Great Britain and France, demonstrated its inefficiency and simply drowned in contentless talks. In the league of nations – and more generally on the European continent – repeated demands of the Soviet Union for an equal system of collective security 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 Italy’s attack 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, along with Hitler and Mussolini, the leaders of Great Britain and France were involved, the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia was decided with the full consent of the Council of the league of nations. I note in this context that Stalin, unlike many of the leaders of Europe at the time, did not stain himself with a face-to-face meeting with Hitler, who was then known in Western circles as a respectable politician and was a welcome guest in the European capitals.
Poland cooperated with Germany in the partition of Czechoslovakia. They have decided in advance and together who will get which parts of Czechoslovakia. On 20. On September 11, 1938, Poland’s ambassador to Germany, Józef Lipski, informed Polish Foreign Minister Józef Beck of Hitler’s assurances: “… should a conflict arise between Poland and Czechoslovakia on the basis of Polish interests in Teschen, the Reich will be on our side (the Polish side).“The leader of the Nazis even gave advice and advised that the beginning of Polish actions “should be made only after the Germans have occupied the Sudeten mountains”.
In Poland, it was known that their aggressive plans would have been doomed to failure without Hitler’s support. Here I quote a recording of the conversation of the German ambassador in Warsaw, Moltke, with Józef Beck on Polish-Czech relations and the USSR’s position on this matter of October 1, 1938: “… Mr. Beck… thanked 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 public (of Poland) fully appreciate the position of the Führer and Reich Chancellor.”
The partition of Czechoslovakia was cruel and cynical. Munich itself brought down the fragile formal guarantees that had remained on the continent and showed that mutual agreements were worthless. It was the Munich conspiracy that pulled the trigger, after which the Great War in Europe became inevitable.
Today, European politicians, especially Polish politicians, want to “conceal"Munich. Why? Not only because their countries betrayed their obligations at that time by supporting the Munich conspiracy and some even participated in the division of the spoils, but also because it is somehow unpleasant to remember that in these dramatic days of 1938 only the USSR stood up for Czechoslovakia.
The Soviet Union tried to prevent the tragedy on the basis of its international obligations, including the 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. The Polish Foreign Minister, Józef Beck, wrote a letter to the prime minister on 19 December. On September 15, 1938, he addressed the aforementioned ambassador Józef Lipski directly before his meeting with Hitler: “… in the past year, the Polish government has four times rejected offers to join an international initiative for the defense of Czechoslovakia.”
Great Britain and also France, which at that time was the most important ally of the Czechs and Slovaks, have decided to give up their guarantees and leave the Eastern European country to its fate. Not only did they leave Czechoslovakia in the lurch, but they also steered the efforts of the Nazis to the East with the aim that Germany and the Soviet Union would inevitably clash and bleed each other to death.
That was the Western policy of “Appeasement”. 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 militaristic Japan. This culminated in the anglo-Japanese agreement of the summer of 1939 in the Far East, which gave Tokyo freedom of action in China. The leading European powers did not want to recognize the deadly danger to the whole world posed by Germany and her allies, and they expected the war to pass them by.
The Munich conspiracy showed the Soviet Union that Western countries would solve security issues without taking their interests into account and could form an anti-Soviet Front at an appropriate moment.
At the same time, the Soviet Union has tried to use every opportunity to create an Anti-Hitler coalition, I repeat, despite the ambiguous Position of the Western countries. Thus, in the summer of 1939, the Soviet leadership received detailed information about anglo-German contacts behind the scenes through 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 deliberately delayed the Western partners. In this connection, I mention a document from British archives – an instruction to the British military mission in Moscow, which arrived in August 1939. It explicitly states that the Delegation should “negotiate very slowly” ; that " the UK Government is not prepared to make detailed commitments that may limit our freedom of action.“I would also like to note that the Soviet Delegation, unlike the British and French, was led by the highest leaders of the Red Army, who had all the necessary powers of signature to “sign a military agreement on the organization of the military defense of England, France and the USSR against Aggression in Europe.”
Poland, which did not want to make any commitments to the Soviet side, played its part in the failure of the negotiations. Even under pressure from Western allies, the Polish leadership refused to take joint action with the Red Army against the Wehrmacht. Only when Ribbentrop’s flight to Moscow became known did Mr. Beck reluctantly and not directly, but via French diplomats, inform the Soviet side: “… in the event of German Aggression, cooperation between Poland and the USSR under technical conditions to be determined is not excluded.“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 resulting Situation, the Soviet Union signed the non-aggression treaty with Germany, making it the last of the European countries to sign such a treaty with Germany. It happened against the background of a real threat of war on two fronts, with Germany in the West and Japan in the East, where there was already fierce fighting on the Halhin-Gol River.
Stalin and his environment can rightly be accused of many things. We remember both the crimes of the regime against its own people and the horrors of mass repression. I repeat, one can blame the Soviet leaders in many ways, but one cannot blame them 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 defenses.
There is a lot of talk today about the non-aggression treaty that was concluded at that time and many accusations are therefore made against modern Russia. Yes, Russia is the legal successor of the USSR and the Soviet era with all its triumphs and tragedies is an integral part of our thousand-year 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 24 June 1921 December 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”.
Today, other states prefer not to remember the agreements on which the signatures of the Nazis and Western politicians are written. Not to mention a legal or political evaluation of this cooperation, including the tacit agreement of some European personalities on the barbaric plans of the Nazis to the direct encouragement of the Nazis. Only the cynical phrase of the Polish ambassador to Germany, Józef Lipsky, which he uttered on 20 January 1917, was used. In a conversation with Hitler on September 20, 1938, bände said: “… for a solution of the Jewish question we (the Poles) put up … a beautiful monument in Warsaw.”
We also do not know whether there were “secret protocols” and annexes to the agreements of these countries with the Nazis. We must 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 their archives and to publish previously unknown documents from the pre - war and war period – as Russia has done in recent years. We are ready for a broad cooperation, for joint research projects of historians.
But let us return to the events that took place immediately before the Second world war. It was naive to think that Hitler, after he had finished Czechoslovakia, would not make any further territorial claims. This time against Poland, his accomplice in the partition of Czechoslovakia. By the way, the reason for this was also a legacy of Versailles – the fate of the so-called Gdansk corridor. The subsequent tragedy of Poland has killed the then Polish leadership, which prevented the conclusion of an anglo-French-Soviet military Union and hoped for the help of its Western partners. With this she delivered her people Hitler’s extermination machinery.
The German Offensive developed in full accordance with the doctrine of the blitzkrieg. Despite the fierce, heroic resistance of the Polish army, German troops stood on the outskirts of Warsaw a week after the start of the war, on 8 September 1939. And the Polish military and political Elite fled to Romania on September 17 and betrayed their people, who continued to fight against the invaders.
The Western allies have not fulfilled the Polish hopes. After the declaration of war against Germany, French troops advanced only a few dozen kilometres deep into German territory. It only made the appearance of a Demonstration of active actions. Moreover, the Anglo-French Supreme Military Council, which met for the first time in abville (France) on 12 September 1939, decided to stop the Offensive altogether because of the rapid development of events in Poland. The infamous “strange war” began. France and England have openly betrayed their obligations to Poland.
Later, during the Nuremberg trials, the German generals declared their rapid success in the East. The former chief of staff of the operational leadership of the commander-in-chief of the German Armed Forces, General Jodl, admitted: “… that we did not lose already in 1939 is only because about 110 French and British divisions, which during our war with Poland stood in the West against 23 German divisions, remained completely passive.”
I have requested from the archives the whole range of documents related to contacts between the USSR and Germany during the dramatic days of August and September 1939. Paragraph 2 of the secret Additional Protocol to the non-aggression pact between Germany and the USSR of 23 August 1939 states that in the case of territorial and political reconstruction of the regions that constituted the Polish state, the border of the spheres of interest of the two countries “should run roughly along the borders of the rivers Narev, Vistula and Sana”. In other words, it was not only about areas where a predominantly Ukrainian and Belarusian population lived, but also the historically Polish areas between Bug and Vistula fell into the Soviet sphere of influence. This fact is not known to everyone today.
This also applies to the fact that immediately after the attack on Poland in the first days of September 1939, Berlin repeatedly called on Moscow to participate in the military action. However, the Soviet leadership ignored such appeals and avoided interference in the dramatic events until the last moment.
It was only when it finally became clear that Britain and France were not trying to help their ally, and the Wehrmacht was able to quickly occupy all of Poland and even reach Minsk, that it was decided on the morning of September 17 to allow the Red Army military units to enter the areas that are now parts of Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania.
It is obvious that there was no other option. Otherwise, the risks to 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 living in Brest and Hrodna, Peresim, Lviv and Vilnius, would have been left to the Nazis and their local henchmen, anti-Semites and radical nationalists, for extermination.
It is precisely this fact that the Soviet Union tried to avoid involvement in the escalating conflict until the last moment and did not want to play on the side of Germany that led to the actual contact between the Soviet and German troops far east of the borders laid down in the secret Additional Protocol. Not on the Vistula, but on the so-called Curzon line, which was recommended by the Entente as Poland’s eastern border in 1919.
It is known that the subjunctive is difficult to apply to events that have already occurred. I only say 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 proposed to establish the new Status quo. On September 28, 1939, Ribbentrop and Molotov signed in Moscow the Treaty of friendship and border between the USSR and Germany, as well as a secret protocol on the change of the state border by establishing a demarcation line on which the de facto two armies stood.
In the autumn of 1939, the Soviet Union began the Integration of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in the interests of its military needs. Their accession to the USSR was carried out on a contractual basis with the consent of the elected governments. At that time, this corresponded to international and state law. In addition, the city of Vilno and the surrounding Region, formerly part of Poland, was returned to Lithuania in October 1939. The Baltic republics, as part of the USSR, retained their governing bodies and their languages and had representatives in the higher state structures of the Soviet Union.
In 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 irreconcilable and cruel enemy and that the hidden war against National Socialism was already underway. There is no reason to regard the official statements 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 this time Hitler repeatedly tried to draw the USSR into a confrontation with Great 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 Stalin’s instructions closely and confined himself to general discussions on the idea of the Germans joining the alliance of Germany, Italy and Japan signed in September 1940, which was directed against Great Britain and the United States. It is no coincidence that Molotov died on June 17, 2017. On November 20, the Soviet representative maysky, who was in London, was instructed 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 have rejected such advice on this subject because we consider such advice from Germany inappropriate.“And on 25. On November 20, the Soviet leadership put a definitive end to this: officially, the Nazi conditions were rejected as unacceptable, including the demand for the withdrawal of German troops from Finland, the mutual aid treaty between the USSR and Bulgaria, and a number of other treaties, deliberately excluding any possibility of accession to the pact. This Position finally strengthened the leader in his intention to start a war against the USSR. And in December, casting aside all the warnings of 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 most important power he faced in Europe and that the upcoming battle in the East would decide the outcome of the World War. He was sure that the road to Moscow would be fast and successful.
What I would like to emphasize in particular is that the Western countries at that time agreed with the Soviet actions, they recognized the Soviet Union’s desire to guarantee its security. Thus the then head of the British Admiralty, Winston Churchill, said in a radio address on 1 October 1939: “Russia pursues a cold policy of its own interests … in order to protect Russia from the threat of the Nazis, it was clearly necessary for the Russian armies to stand on this line.“On 4. The British Foreign Secretary, Halifax, declared in the House of Lords on 10 October 1939: “… it should be remembered that the Soviet government has essentially shifted the border to the line recommended by Lord Curzon at the Versailles conference… I mention only historical facts and I believe that they are indisputable.“The well-known British politician and statesman Lloyd-George underlined:” the Russian army has occupied territories which are not polish and which were forcibly conquered by Poland after the first World War… it would be an act of criminal insanity, to put the Russian movements on the same level with the movements of the Germans.”
In informal talks with Soviet ambassador Maysky, senior British politicians and diplomats spoke more openly. On 17 October 1939, British Deputy Foreign Minister Butler announced: “… there is no question in British government circles of the return of western Ukraine and Belarus to Poland. If it were possible to create an ethnic Poland of modest size with a guarantee not only of the USSR and Germany, but also of England and France, the British government would be quite satisfied.“On 27. On October 15, 1939, Neville Chamberlain’s chief adviser, Wilson, said: “Poland must … be restored as an independent state on its ethnographic Basis, but without western Ukraine and Belarus.”
It must be mentioned that during these talks an improvement of 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 well-known antipathy towards the USSR, advocated cooperation with it. As early as May 1939, he declared in the House of Commons: “We shall find ourselves in mortal danger if we cannot create a great alliance against Aggression. It would be the greatest foolishness if we rejected natural cooperation with Soviet Russia.“And after the beginning of hostilities in Europe – at a meeting with Maysky on May 1, 1939 – Churchill confided to him:” … there are no serious contradictions between Britain and the USSR, and therefore there is no reason for strained and unsatisfactory relations. The British government wants to develop trade relations further. It would also be willing to discuss any other measures that might improve relations.”
World War II did not start overnight, it did not start unexpectedly or suddenly. And Germany’s Aggression against Poland did not happen suddenly. It is the result of many tendencies and factors of world politics of that time. All the events of the pre-war period have lined up in a fateful chain. But, of course, the most important reason that has determined the greatest tragedy in human history is state egoism, the cowardice of resisting a growing Aggressor and the unwillingness of the political elites to find a compromise.
It is therefore unfair to claim that the two-day visit of Nazi Foreign Minister Ribbentrop to Moscow is the main reason for the Second World War. All leading countries bear their share in its beginning to varying degrees. Everyone made irreparable mistakes because they believed they could outsmart others, gain unilateral advantages, or stay away from the impending global evil. And for this myopia of not creating a system of collective security, millions of people had to pay with their lives.
I write about it without the slightest intention of taking on the role of judge, accusing or justifying anyone, and certainly not to initiate a new round of international verbal confrontations in historical territory that can set States and peoples against each other. I believe that the search for a balanced assessment of past events by academic science should be made with the involvement of key scientists from different countries. We all need truth and objectivity. For my part, I have always called my colleagues to a calm, open, trusting dialogue, to a self-critical, unbiased view of their shared past. Such an approach will enable us not to repeat the mistakes made at that time and to ensure a peaceful and successful development for the future.
However, many of our partners are not yet ready to cooperate. On the contrary, by pursuing their goals, they increase the number and scale of media attacks against our country to force us to apologize. To make us feel guilty, they spread hypocritical and politicized statements. For example, the resolution adopted by the European Parliament “on the importance of preserving historical memory for the future of Europe” of 19 September 2019 directly accused the USSR – together with Nazi Germany-of unleashing the Second World War. Of course, there is no word about Munich.
I think that such “papers”, I can’t describe this resolution as a document, with all the obvious expectation of a scandal, a dangerous real-world threats. Finally, it was adopted by a highly respected body. And what did that show? As sad as it is, this is the deliberate policy of destroying the post-war world order, the creation of which was a matter of honour and responsibility for the countries whose representatives today voted in favour of this mendacious declaration. In this way they have 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 recall that the process of European Integration, in which the corresponding structures, including the European Parliament, were created, was made possible only by the lessons of the past, by their clear legal and political assessments. And those who deliberately challenge this consensus are destroying the foundations of post-war Europe as a whole.
In addition to the threat to the basic principles of the world order, there is also a moral side. The taunting and mocking of remembrance are abominable. The abomination is deliberate, hypocritical and deliberate when statements on 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 honour of the combatants against National Socialism are demolished, when shameful actions are justified with false slogans against an undesirable ideology and an alleged occupation. The abomination can be bloody when those who are against neo-Nazis and the heirs of Bandera are killed and burned. I repeat: the abomination manifests in different ways, but it still remains disgusting.
Forgetting the lessons of history will inevitably cost us dearly. We will resolutely defend the truth on the basis of documented historical facts, and we will continue to speak honestly and impartially about the events of the Second World War. This is the aim of the large - scale project to create the largest collection of archival documents, Film and photographic material on the history of the Second World War and the pre-war period in Russia.
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 in all responsibility that there are no archival documents that would confirm the intention of the Soviet Union to launch a preventive war against Germany. Yes, the Soviet military leadership adhered to the doctrine that in the event of Aggression, the Red Army will quickly repel the enemy, go on the Offensive and wage war on enemy territory. However, such strategic plans did not mean the intention to attack Germany first.
Of course, today historians have documents of the military planning, instructions of the Soviet and German high command available. And finally, we know how events have evolved in reality. From the height of this knowledge, many people talk about mistakes, misjudgments of the military and political leadership of the countries. I say only one thing in this context: along with a huge stream of all kinds of false information, the Soviet leaders received true information about the impending Nazi Aggression. And in the pre-war months, steps were taken to improve the country’s combat readiness, including the covert conscription of conscripts and military personnel to staging points, the transfer of reserves from military districts inland to western borders.
The war did not come suddenly, it was expected, people were preparing for it. But the blow of the Nazis came with truly unprecedented destructive power in history. On June 22, 1941, the Soviet Union faced the strongest, most 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 states of the European continent.
Worst military defeats brought the country to the brink of disaster in 1941. The restoration of fighting ability and control required extraordinary methods, a general mobilization, the containment of all forces of the state and the people. Already in the summer of 1941, under enemy fire, the evacuation of millions of citizens, hundreds of factories and production facilities to the east of the country began. 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 figures of the military production of Germany and its allies. In a year and a half, the Soviet people managed what seemed impossible, both at the Front and in the Hinterland. And it is still hard to understand, hard to imagine, what incredible efforts, courage and dedication these greatest achievements have required.
Against the powerful cold-blooded invasion machinery of the Nazis, armed to the teeth, rose the gigantic power of Soviet society, united by the desire to protect the homeland, to avenge the enemy who had trampled the peaceful life, plans and hopes of the people.
Of course, during this terrible, bloody war, some people were obsessed with fear, confusion and despair. There was betrayal and Desertion. The violent upheavals caused in the Soviet Union by the Revolution and the Civil War, nihilism, the harassment of national history, traditions, faith, which the Bolsheviks tried to force, especially in the first years after they came to power, made themselves felt. But the general attitude of the Soviet citizens and our compatriots, who found themselves abroad after the collapse of the Soviet Union, was another: 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 into itself. It was expected that the sudden war, its ruthlessness and unbearable hardships would inevitably exacerbate inter-ethnic relations and dismember the country. Hitler said directly: “our policy towards the peoples who inhabit the vast expanses of Russia should be to promote every form of disagreement and division.”
But from the first days it became clear that this Nazi Plan failed. The fortress of Brest was defended by soldiers of more than thirty ethnicities until the last drop of blood. During the war – in great, decisive battles and in the defence of every bridgehead, every metre of the homeland – 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 to their homes. Their residents shared their last, supported everyone they could support. Friendship between nations and mutual aid became a truly indestructible fortress for the enemy.
The Soviet Union, the Red Army, made the decisive contribution to the defeat of national socialism – whatever is tried to prove today. It was the heroes who fought to the end in Bialystok and Mogilov, Umanya and Kiev, Vyazma and Kharkiv. Which went over to the attack before Moscow and Stalingrad, Sevastopol and Odessa, Kursk and Smolensk. Warsaw, Belgrade, Vienna and Prague were liberated. Königsberg and Berlin were taken.
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 me, as for other generations, their honest, profound stories and novels, the penetrating “lieutenant prose” and the poems have left their mark on the soul forever. They became a Testament to honor the veterans who did everything in their power to win and to remember those who remained on the battlefields.
Even today, the simple and Grand lines of Alexander Twardovsky’s poem “I was killed before Rzhev…” dedicated to the participants of the bloody, brutal battle of the Great Patriotic War in the central part of the Soviet-German Front are shocking. The Red Army alone lost 1,342,888 people from October 1941 to March 1943, including the wounded and missing, during the fighting around the city of Rzhev. For the first time, I mention this terrible, tragic and far from complete figure, collected from archival sources, in order to pay tribute to the memory of the famous and nameless heroes, about whom, for various reasons, little or no mention was wrongly made in the post-war years.
I mention another document. It is the report of the international Reparation Commission under the direction of Maysky, which was prepared 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 concluded: “the number of soldiers deployed by Germany on the Soviet Front exceeds at least ten times the number of German soldiers on all other allied fronts. The Soviet Front also tied four-fifths of German tanks and about two-thirds of German aircraft.“Overall, the USSR contributed about 75 percent of all the military efforts of the Anti-Hitler coalition. During the war, the Red Army “ground” 626 divisions of the “Axis” countries, 508 of which were Germans.
On April 28, 1942, in his address to the American Nation, Roosevelt declared: “Russian troops have destroyed and continue to destroy more soldiers, aircraft, 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 resonated throughout the world. For in these words lies the great truth, which no one questioned at that time. Nearly 27 million Soviet citizens have died on the fronts, in German captivity, from Hunger and bomb attacks, in Ghettos and ovens of the Nazi death camps. The USSR lost one in seven citizens, the United Kingdom lost one in 127, and the United States lost one in 320. unfortunately, this number of heavy, irreparable losses of the Soviet Union is still not final. The painstaking work of identifying every name and fate of every dead person still continues: Red Army soldiers, partisans, underground fighters, prisoners of war and prisoners in concentration camps, civilians who have been exterminated by the Penal battalions. It is our duty to determine the fate of each individual. Here the participants of the movement for the search for them, the military-patriotic and voluntary associations, as well as the electronic database “memory of the people” on the basis of archival documents have a special role to play. And, of course, close international cooperation is needed to solve such a humanitarian challenge.
The efforts of all countries and peoples who fought against the common enemy led to victory. The British Army defended its 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 US dealt the aggressor in the Pacific powerful, devastating blows. We remember the enormous sacrifices of the Chinese people and its enormous role in the defeat of the Japanese militarists. We do not forget the fighters of the “fighting France” who did not recognize the shameful capitulation and continued to fight against the Nazis.
We will also always be grateful for the support of the allies by providing ammunition, raw materials, food and equipment to the Red Army. And it was considerable, it comprised 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 Great Britain unconditionally supported it in the fight against Hitler’s Germany. During the Tehran Conference of 1943, Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill formed an alliance of the great powers, agreed on the development of coalition diplomacy, a common strategy in the fight against the common deadly threat. The leaders of the Big Three knew that the unification 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 fully fulfilled its obligations towards the allies and has always offered a helping hand. Thus, 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 Wehrmacht’s last powerful Offensive on the Western Front in the Ardennes. And three months after the victory over Germany, the USSR declared war on Japan under the Yalta Agreement and defeated the multi-million Kwantun 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 hovers over our country, but also to help all the peoples of Europe who groan under the yoke of German fascism.“In mid-1944, the enemy was pushed out of almost all 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 Holocaust’s destruction and enslavement at the expense of Soviet soldiers.
It is also important not to forget the enormous material aid which the USSR provided to the liberated countries in the elimination of hunger and in the recovery of the economy 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 food aid because it “did not know how to feed the population in 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 salvation” that “the Austrians will never forget”.
The allies have jointly established the International Military Tribunal to punish political and war criminals of the Nazis. His sentences set clear legal conditions for the prosecution of crimes against humanity, such as genocide, ethnic and religious cleansing, anti-Semitism and xenophobia. The Nuremberg Tribunal also condemned Nazi accomplices and collaborators of various kinds.
This shameful phenomenon existed in all European countries. Such “politicians” as Petain, Quisling, Vlassov, Bandera, their henchmen and supporters, although they described themselves as fighters for national independence or freedom from communism, were traitors and murderers. In their inhumanity, they often surpassed their masters. As part of Special Criminal regiments, they willingly carried out most inhuman orders. They carry on their hands the blood of the executions of Babi Jar, the massacre of Volyn, the burnt Khatyn, actions to exterminate Jews in Lithuania and Latvia.
To this day, our Position remains unchanged: the criminal acts of Nazi accomplices cannot be justified, they have no statute of limitations. It is therefore puzzling when, in a number of countries, those who have been tainted by cooperation with the Nazis are suddenly equated with veterans of the Second World War. I consider it unacceptable to equate the liberators with the occupiers. And I can only regard the worship 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 struggle against National Socialism.
At that time, the leaders of the USSR, the United States, and Great Britain faced 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 opposites, putting the true interests of the world first. Therefore, they were able to come to an agreement and find a solution that benefited all of humanity.
The victorious powers left us with a System that became the quintessence of intellectual and political aspirations of several centuries. A series of conferences – Tehran, Yalta, San Francisco, Potsdam – laid the foundation for the world to live without global war for 75 years, despite the sharpest contrasts.
The historical revisionism that we are now witnessing in the West, especially with regard to the theme of the Second World War and its consequences, is dangerous because it grossly distorts the understanding of the principles of Peaceful Development established at the Yalta and San Francisco conferences in 1945. The most important historical achievement of Yalta and other decisions of that time was to agree on the creation of a mechanism that allowed the great powers to remain in the framework of diplomacy in resolving their differences.
The 20th century brought total and comprehensive world-wide conflicts and in 1945 nuclear weapons entered the Arena, which were and are able to destroy the Earth. In other words, the violent settlement of disputes became unacceptably dangerous. And the victors of the Second World War understood that. They understood this and recognized their responsibility to humanity.
The sad experience of the league of Nations was taken into account in 1945. The UN Security Council was drawn up in such a way that it was as capable as possible of acting as a guarantor of peace. This is how the permanent members of the UN Security Council came into being, their veto power, their privileges and their responsibilities.
What is the right of veto in the UN Security Council? To put it bluntly: This is the only reasonable Alternative to a direct conflict between the big countries. It is the statement of one of the five powers that a solution is unacceptable to them, contrary to their interests. And the other countries accept this, even if they disagree, and do not carry out unilateral actions. This means that you definitely need to look for compromises.
The new global confrontation began almost immediately after the end of World War II and was sometimes very violent. And the fact that the Cold War did not develop into the Third World War convincingly confirms the effectiveness of the agreements concluded by the Big Three. The rules of conduct agreed upon at the founding of the UN allowed risks to be minimised and the confrontations of the future to be kept 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 fulfilling its main task. The principles of the UN Security Council are a unique mechanism for preventing a major war or global conflict.
The demands that have been heard in recent years to abolish the right of Veto and to curtail the special rights of the permanent members of the Security Council are therefore irresponsible. For when this happens, the United Nations will in principle become the league of nations, a meeting for empty talks, without any influence on the global processes; how this has ended is well known. This is precisely why the victorious powers approached the formation of a new system of the 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 the Second world war. Even the most irreconcilable contradictions – geopolitical, ideological, economic – do not prevent finding forms of peaceful coexistence and interaction if there is the will to do so. Today the world does not go through its calmest times. Everything changes: 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 occurred without major military conflicts, without a power struggle to build the new global hierarchy. Thanks to the wisdom and foresight of the political personalities of the Allied powers, it was possible to create a System that prevents extreme developments in historically inherent rivalries of global development.
It is our duty, especially the duty of the representatives of the victorious powers of the Second World War, to ensure that all those 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. 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 you for this and expect the meeting to take place as soon as possible.
What are the topics of the upcoming summit in our view? First of all, we believe it would be appropriate to discuss steps to develop collective approaches in world politics, to talk openly about issues of peacekeeping, strengthening global and regional security, control of strategic weapons, joint efforts to combat terrorism, extremism and other pressing challenges and threats.
A separate topic on the agenda of the meeting is the situation in the global economy, in particular the overcoming of 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 openly and co-ordinated as real partners. 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 topics.
The Agenda proposed by Russia for the upcoming summit of five is extremely important, not only for our countries, but for the whole world. And we have concrete ideas and initiatives on all topics.
There is no doubt that the summit of Russia, China, France, the United States and the United Kingdom will play an important role in finding common answers to current challenges and threats and will demonstrate a common commitment in the spirit of the alliance and its high humanist ideals and values for which fathers and grandfathers fought shoulder to shoulder.
Starting on the common historical remembrance we can and should trust each other. 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.