Lipman on Russia’s Invasion of Poland’s History

Masha Lipman of the Carnegie Center, writing in the Washington Post:

The Russian government has intensified its attempts to perfect the nation’s past. The Defense Ministry posted an academic article on its Web site arguing that Hitler’s territorial claims on Poland were “moderate” and “can hardly be referred to as unsubstantiated.” After Poland rejected these claims, seeking “to gain a great power status,” the article went on, it was only natural that Germany would attack — starting World War II. When the article became the subject of news coverage, sparking discussion at home and abroad, it was removed from the site.

Even if the Defense Ministry, or the government at large, would balk at supporting the theory of Poland’s “guilt” in provoking World War II, the publication of this article — “Fabrications and falsifications in evaluating the role of the U.S.S.R. on the eve and at early stages of WW2” — on an official site cannot be ignored. The article’s title echoes the goal of a government commission established last month by President Dmitry Medvedev’s decree: to oppose attempts to falsify history that damage Russia’s interests. This mission shows the potential for interpretation — and abuse: It implies that genuine historical fact cannot be damaging to Russia’s world stature, but also that there’s nothing wrong with the distortion of facts if it embellishes the country’s image.

The commission, which is headed by Sergey Naryshkin, Medvedev’s chief of staff, includes high-ranking officials from various government agencies, as well as the directors of two leading historical research institutions. Some members have indicated that the panel will focus on Eastern European and Baltic interpretations of the war history. Naryshkin said the commission would deal with attempts by “a number of political movements and even governments to belittle the role of our country [in the war] and even . . . to lay certain claims. We can’t tolerate it. . . . We don’t have the right to keep silent while listening to whiffets’ peeping and yelping. We must respond.”

Sergey Markov, a Kremlin loyalist and member of the commission, was more specific: Estonia, Latvia and Ukraine, he said, “have fully committed their government powers to finance falsifications of history.” Markov, who is known for his grandiloquence, plans “to liberate historians in Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Georgia and Poland from the pressure of state dictatorship applied unto them.”

For most of the 20th century, the Communist Party’s historical falsifications and fabrications were of Orwellian proportions. In Stalin’s time, schoolchildren were routinely told to blacken portraits of “enemies of the people” in their books; unwanted images were removed from official photos, eliminating all traces of former members of the communist elite who were killed by the Soviet regime.

In contrast, today’s government does not seek to eliminate ideologically incorrect interpretations from every history book. Even Markov says academic research should not be constrained. (There’s evidence, however, that the government has asked professional historians to identify instances of “falsifications” by their foreign colleagues.) What the Kremlin has been after in recent years is boosting the sense of Russia’s greatness and the infallibility of its leaders — current leaders included — in the national mind-set. This is a substantial task given the communist dictatorship’s mass exterminations of innocents during the 20th century. Hence the government’s systematic effort to prevent broad public discussion of the crimes of totalitarianism or the fabrications used to cover up those crimes. The official outlook on recent history is focused on the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, which is a uniquely positive memory shared by the overwhelming majority of Russians.

To Russian officialdom, the fact that the Soviet Union defeated Hitler preempts critical analysis of all other pre- and postwar developments. But while no one would deny Russia’s victory over the Third Reich, the Soviet role as an occupier and oppressor cannot be erased from the national memory of Eastern European and Baltic countries. This perception of the Soviet Union is used (and sometimes abused) by those countries to strengthen their national identities and senses of statehood.

Regardless, it is impossible to force a Russian vision on other nations (just as foreign countries can’t impose their interpretations on Russia). What the Russian government can do, however, is impose politically motivated interpretations on its domestic audience, in schoolbooks and in the media.

There is another concern about the government assuming the authority to differentiate between genuine and false views of history. During Vladimir Putin’s tenure, access to historical archives has become increasingly restricted. The historical records kept in those archives contain too many genuine facts that seriously tarnish Russia’s image.

Arseny Roginsky, director of the Russian Memorial Society, a nonprofit organization that has done archival research and commemoration work related to the victims of Soviet totalitarianism, expects the commission to further obstruct such work. He is also concerned, as he told me recently, that “government attention will be inevitably focused even more on the expressions of alternative views on sensitive historical issues.”

The anti-falsification commission may not directly interfere with academic research, but its potential effects are disquieting. Its work will probably result in professional historians being pushed even further from the broad public sphere, and it will marginalize even more organizations such as the Memorial Society. Meanwhile, its very existence will likely encourage more absurd and counterfactual theories, such as the one blaming Poland for starting World War II.


59 responses to “Lipman on Russia’s Invasion of Poland’s History

  1. ‘Poland….started WWII!’..??????
    Wow, now that is a whopper of a tall tail, blaming the victim, for the crimes of the perpetrators!
    I wonder how that notion goes over, in Poland?
    No wonder that most Poles HATE Russia! with a burning seething hatred.
    Let the Poles have American nuclear-tipped missils, and see how long it takes them, to fire them at the Russians!….their ‘liberators from the Nazis’.

  2. psalomschik

    Oh yeah, can’t agree more there. Let them $$$-loving Polacks burn first in Russian fire. All mighty God bless the waters of the Atlantic and save the Frankenstain mestizo nation of America!

    • “rts”, you really are quite a lunatic. What, are you- one of those, ‘of pure Russian blood’? Ha! ha!
      No Russian, has pure-blood of any sort! What a moron you are, comrade. But, your wise words sure convince me!

  3. New joke book to be published?

    Russians, Germans Ready to Prepare Common Textbook on 20th Century

    June 22, 2009

    On the 68th anniversary of the German attack on the Soviet Union, a senior Moscow academician said that Russian historians are close to an agreement with their German colleagues to write a common textbook on 20th history, something possible he said because of their lack of disagreements concerning the key events of that period.

    In an interview in today’s “Rossiiskaya gazeta,” Academician Aleksandr Chubaryan, director of the Institute of General History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that after more than ten years of consultations, Russian and German historians have concluded that they did not have any disagreements about the events of the 20th century, including World War II.

  4. And why should not the germans and the
    moscovites collaborate on a history book ?
    They already collaborated on a very worth-
    while document called the Molotov -Ribbentrop
    pact , which for some reason is hardly ever
    mentioned by either of the former allies .
    What a crock ! The moscovites are runmning
    around and hysterically accuse Ukraine and
    the Baltic States of ” distorting history ” ,
    accusing Poland of starting WWll while keeping
    mum about how the Nazis screwed them and
    broke their little love match .
    By the way Poland is not the only country that
    hates moscovy with a deep and seething ( I like
    that ) hatred . The list is quite extensive . You
    may consider every neighboring country a
    candidate .

  5. Oleksander

    You say they hate the Russians in Ukraine. Might I have your kind comment on why in Kyev they speak 99% the Russian language?
    You can hear the original Ukranian mova exclusevely on TV and radio networks. That whole proccess is being closely watched and directed from the windows of the US embassy.
    Those smart idiots from the the US embassy in Kyev are seemingly wasting taxpayers’ money instead of covering English basic training to the hordes of incoming Mexicans in LA area and all across the state of Texas.

    • rts,
      You are an utter fool. I am an American who lived and worked in Kiev for 2.5 years. Never once was I asked by the embassy or anyone else to say anything in support of anyone (this was during the “Orange Revolution” mind you. The only message that I received from the embassy was to avoid the protests.

      Somehow, you believe that it was orchestrated by the West. It was completely the will of the people you idiot!

      • Hi shane,

        rts is a liar who lives in his la-la land and reads the soviet encyclopedia daily. When I was in Kiev, I only had three incidents with only rooshan speech. One time I went to a fancy bar and the rooshan owner did not allow the employees to speak Ukrainian! When I looked at the hurtful expressions on the employees’ faces, I knew that they spoke Ukrainian also. Needless to say, I never went back there, took my business elsewhere, and told all my friends to do the same.

        BTW, the Orange Revolution was started by the citizens of Kiev, and not by the Ukrainian people of Western Ukraine that the kremlin propaganda claims.

        • Trainloads of people came to Kiev from the Western regions of the country during the orange revolution.

          • hi eugene,

            They gave you the wrong info in the kremlin, again. :)

            A brave Ukrainian translator for the deaf, on national television, using sign language, said, “Do not believe them. They are lying. What really is happening is…………” [The kremlin lost control of the news broadcasts] Then hundreds of other journalists and news reporters refused to promote the lies and the news came out. After the news revealed what was happening on the “Maydan Nezalezgnosty, and Chryzgsczcatyk”, then busloads of Ukrainian citizens came to Kiev, from throughout Ukraine, in a few days. The railroad system was controlled by the yanykowich people. After the rank-and-file police officers refused the orders, from up above, to use their guns to break up the peaceful demonstration, then yanukovich had to amend his plans. yanykovich had people picked up off of the streets of Donesk and Luhansk; they were given bottles of vodka and $20.00, and trainloads of “counter-demonstrators” were brought to Kiev. When their $20.00 and vodka ran out, they were stuck.

            Meanwhile, the Ukrainian citizens, who came of their own volition, slept in the streets, in tents, for about two months, in winter. There were about 500,000 – 1,000,000 every day. It was a marvelous sight to behold.

            When the Ukrainians from Eastern Ukraine realized that they were duped and cold and hungry, [many did not have a coat] the Ukrainian citizens of Kiev and Western Ukraine gave them food, blankets, etc. Some of the Ukrainians from Eastern Ukraine, that yanykovich paid to come by railroad, stayed and joined the Orange Revolution, some returned back home, and a handful of morons stayed as counter demonstrators.

            • Pity that Kuchma and Yanukovich were such nincompoops and did not react to the problem the way Teng Xiaoping did in 1989. He crushed the “revolutionary students” in Tiananmen Square with tanks, and China is a superpower now.

              • Another brilliant tangent from eugene.

              • Thanks goodness Kuchma didn’t find the resolve to crush Ukrainians democratic aspirations. His main redeeming quality.

                Unfortunately, in Iran the leaders have the resolve and democracy will be snuffed – at least temporarily.

                I hope that the Russians will stay away from the next Ukrainian elections, though it seems that this time they may have both candidates (Timoshenko and Yanukovitch) under their control.

                Hopefully, both would pursue at least the appearance of stradling the line between East and West.

  6. shane – don’t you know? everybody who opposes Unkneeling Russia is by definition American whore.

    The latest one is apparently Lukashenko. And as American whore he obviously doesn’t deserve access to Great Russian Dairy Market!

    • Never mind. The radiant elves from the EU will welcome the former “Europe’s Last Dictator” to Europe with open arms, slay a fattened calf for him and buy up all the Byelorussian dairy products, MAZ trucks, Belarus tractors and Milavitsa women’s panties :-)

      • Do you have a fetish with panties?

        • No, I prefer bras. ;-)

          • Well, I prefer women! :-)

            Frankly, Eugene, if you’re so sad at the prospect of losing Belarus that you have to resort to such tirades, why don’t you go to Minsk and try to convince Lukashenka that it’s all a misunderstanding and that Mother Russia loves him dearly? You’ll see him weep like a child and run to Putin to say sorry, and they’ll happily share a Brezhnev kiss and finally consummate their Slavic union! :-)

            Hm, it’s fun to speak without having any arguments at all. I begin to see why you do it.

  7. I think rts knows very little about Kyiv. I’ve been there a number of times — and notice, my wife and her parents belong to the Russian minority, so I always heard Russian at her home. Yet, I can’t count the number of times I was addressed in public in Ukrainian. Even my wife’s parents, who are fervently on the Russian side of the equation, speak Ukrainian fluently — без ощибки, as both were proud to say.

    Russians in Ukraine have a lot more than Ukrainians in Russia, and still they are angry. What can I say? The French were also oh so angry at the Algerians for wanting independence… and ended up having to fight and lose a war in which the ‘pied-noirs’ were eventually sent back to France.

    It seems the spirit of imperalism is hard to fight. But the French got cured, the British got cured… the Russians eventually will. They’re human too, after all, you know. Nothing goes on forever, not even Russian feelings of overentitlement.

    • True, there are some very good Russians making the same point.

      It is amazing how Russia constantly throws away chances to have allies and friendly nations through its overiding urge to imperialism.

      • In the early 1990s Russia tried very hard to overcome her “imperialst past” and befriend her neibors but all it got were “commissions for the calculation of damage inflicted by Soviet occupation” and making Russians “aliens” in Latvia and Estonia.”

        “We tell them: “For your and our freedom!” and they answer us: “Russian pigs, you owe us that, that, that and that. So much for a dialog of cultures, so much for the right of nations to mutual determination.

        Therefore, enough of singing canzonas about eternal values in Sanskrit. No one understands it here any more.”

        • Then it was very naive of them to think they would be welcomed with open arms and no talk about the past. Its called having to own up to the consequences of one’s actions; be they individual or national. Germany has been paying reparations up to and through the 1990’s for its role in WWII. Here you are talking about a nation, Russian, who since at least the Bolshevik Revolution (to pick a date) has never had to answer to what it did. What it did to its former ruling class, what it did to its general populace, what it did to its religious and ethnic minorities, what it did to its neighbors-no reparations, no apologies, no lessons learned. Had Yeltsin or Gorbeshev at least initiated this process, then the world probably would not have been as cynical to Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Government as you claim they were. What I saw was the Russian government wanting all the ‘riches’ of capitalism, but were unable or unwilling to sort through the mess that the Soviet collapse had created. And a bit hunk of that mess was its own bloody past.

        • Eugene, Russians are aliens in Latvia and Estonia (and in Lithuania too, by the way), just as Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians are aliens in Russia. And look: Russia did not show a friendly face to any of these countries at any time that I can remember–the last time was when President Yeltsin supported Baltic independence. After that, when did Russia ever support them?

          Also, don’t forget — all those countries suffered under Russia’s imperialism. It takes some time to get over that. I remember a French colleague who once told me that, just because of WWII stories from his father, he in his youth had a lot of trouble thinking about Germany as a “normal” country; there always was something “inherently” evil about Germany. And that after 10, 20 years of Germany and France together in the European Community, and after Germany had already acknowledged all her historical crimes.

          Less time has passed from the end of the Russian empire, and Russia still hasn’t come out and acknowledged the crimes committed by the Soviet government against other nations. Russia still has to come to terms with its past. Just that would go such a long way towards making Russia look less like a frightening angry neighbor and more like a possible future friend!… Again, look at how good it was for Germany to come to terms with her past.

          • > Eugene, Russians are aliens in Latvia and Estonia

            Even those whose grandfathers were born there?! At independence referendums, they sincerely voted for independence… and were denied the right to vote for anything else, although before the referendum there were promises of a “zero option” (citizenship for everyone actually residing in the country in question). But after the independence was granted, the non-Lettish or non-Estonian poplulation whose forefathers did not reside in the country before 1940 was proclaimed “aliens” – the analog of Jews in the 1930s Germany. And the “purely Lettish/Estonian” Latvia and Estonia quickly became de facto fascist countries, proclaiming the veterans of the SS legions their “national heroes” :-(

            • Well, considering that the baltic states were the victims of Russification, I can understand their attitude.

              However Eugene is wrong as usual, all Russian citizens of Latvia are able to receive citizenship in Latvia as long as they can 1. Speak Latvian to a reasonable degree 2. Swear loyalty to the Latvian state, and 3. Renounce their Russian citizenship.

              Quite reasonable requests in exchange for citizenship. Unfortunately, being Russian, most refused to do this as they were still having their perverted fantasies of “greater Russia”

              As for being “fascist” well, Russia is a much more fascistic state than any other in Europe.
              Just look at the police sheilding of neo-nazis

              • > Just look at the police sheilding of neo-nazis

                Do you mean the Baltic “states” where police shields the marches of SS veterans? Never mind, those “states” are bankrupt already (Latvia even had to suspend the activities of the “commission for the calculation of damage inflicted by Soviet occupation” for economy reasons). I hope very soon they will be a part of Russia again – after all, Peter the Great bought them from Sweden for 2 million silver rubles under the terms of the 1721 Nystad peace treaty. :-)

                • Kremlin told eugene # one rule = use the word Nazi in any possible chat!

                  • So you don’t object that “Latvia”, “Estonia” and “Lithuania” are in fact lawful property of Russia? I always thought you’re a smart guy. :-)

              • I remember visiting Riga in 2000 after 10 years in US. Most of the people I met were Russian-speaking and about 2/3 didn’t qualify for automatic Latvian citizenship. By that time the naturalization issue was essentially dead – those who wanted to get naturalized, did; some people did business with Russia, and it was easier to travel to and within Russia if you had Russian, rather than Latvian citizenship. So, they retained Russian passports.

                However, nobody was even considering emigrating to Russia. In fact, even while complaining about many stupid things that were going on, the most common comment was the following. “If I get too frustrated with how things are going in Latvia, I cross the border with Russia (to Pskov oblast) and that makes me a Latvian patriot in one minute”.

                Russian government and GONGOs “defend” the rights of Russian nationals in Latvia, Estonia, and South Ossetia – while Russians in Perm, Chita, and Vladivostok live without heat and running water. Not to mention Russian citizens of Chechen, Ingush and Dagestan origin who are tortured in Russian prisons and dream of Guantanamo bay.

                • Russia (including the Pskov oblast) improved a lot since 2000. As to the Latvian “aliens”, their behavior reminds me of the German Jews in the 1930s who would rather suffer humiliation and discrimination than emigrate from “civilized Germany” to “wild Palestine”.

                  • Exhibit A: Eugene
                    Believes that Latvian non-citizens suffer humiliation and discrimination. No facts required.

                    Knowledge of Russian history: poor.
                    Knowledge of world history: absent.
                    Source of information: press-service of Russian government (aka TV1).
                    Impact of crisis: “it’s all pindos (American) fault”

                    • > Impact of crisis: “it’s all pindos (American) fault”

                      Was it Russia who issued substandard mortgage loans?

                  • Still, not enough. In fact, remember when the Russian media shouted accusations at Estonia for attracting people from the Pskov oblast who wanted to work there, or worse yet, to serve in the Estonian army? Remember the screams about “expansionist Estonia” giving them passports, all that while Russia was doing the same with Abkhazians and South Ossetians?…

                    Even in Latvia, where the crisis is arguably worse than in Russia and where the government is taking desperate (and, in my opinion, crazy) measures, Russian-speaking Latvians are not going to Russia. That says something about which country they think is the better one to live in…`

                    I remember an article about Russian Estonians who went to Russia to try to convince people in Nashi camps that, though they didn’t agree with the Estonian government policy, Estonia was not a fascist government, as they kept insisting without any logical arguments. I remember another article about Russian Estonians who went to Russia and suffered discrimination there –they were “our discriminated Russian brothers” while they stayed in Estonia, but when in Russia they became “Estonians” and were discriminated against by their Russian “brothers”…

                    Indeed, which country would you pick to live in?…

            • No, but those got automatic citizenship. Go have a look at Estonian law: everybody who was a citizen when the Russians invaded, or any of their descendents, is automatically a citizen of Estonia. Only those who were brought in by Stalin aren’t, which, as far as I can tell, is not different from Gastarbeiter in Germany not being citizens even after decades of residence in Germany.

              The last I counted, the percentage of stateless people in Estonia was 7,5%, and going down. It’s a problem that will soon be solved, as you see. I hope the Russians in Russia will notice that.

      • Their foreign policy cannot be understood, because it is actually detrimental to themselves. Most countries seek a foreign policy that is in their own self interest. In Russia, it is the opposite.

    • Russia is a continental empire, so there is no distinct border between the “metropoly” and the “colonies”. Besides, shen Russians see how Britain and France who “overcame their imperialism” are being infested by immigrants from their former colonies (like those Arab youths who rebelled in the Parisian suburbs last year) they don’t want to follow such an example.

      • How could you refer to human being using the verb “infest.” Is racism widespread in Russia or is it just you? Come to think of it, it’s not just you. I now recall a number of racist and anti-Semitic slurs hurled by other Russians on this board.

        Is it really acceptable in Russia to openly espouse racist and anti-Semitic views and to publicly insult non-white persons?

        • I can only say that there Russia does not have any hypocritic “political correctness” that is akin to Orwell’s “thought crime”.

          • So, it’s OK to call a live breathing human person vermin (that’s what usually infests)? Just because that person is not white. Very nice. And with your country’s record of killing journalists, don’t tell me about thought crimes.

            Believe me, I know a little bit more about free speech than you do. And so, I am not saying you are a criminal because you said this. You have a right to say it, at least in the United States. And, of course, I have a right to despise you for being a hate monger that you are

            • The “live breathing human persons” in question have their own countries that were “liberated from colonial oppression” and European population that was either exterminated or forced to flee. But instead of contributing to the prosperity of their countries, they prefer to come illegally to their former “metropolies” in order to live on welfare or to work for subminimum wages, reducing the chances of the native population to get a job. Moreover, as the events in Paris (that were, in a manner of speaking, only the tip of an iceberg the situation in France is) showed to everyone that those immigrants engage in all kinds of antisocial activities, harrassing the native population at whose expense they live. See, e.g., late Oriana Fallachi’s book “The Rage and the Pride”

              • Again, Eugene, you forget how much European countries have benefitted from low-wage workers that were available to do the jobs that Europeans didn’t want to do. Germany has problems admitting that her economy wouldn’t work without the Gastarbeiter, but in fact it wouldn’t. As for living your country instead of helping it develop, I’m sure you’d do the same if your family were starving and there were no jobs around — you do like your family, don’t you? As for European populations “forced to leave”… hmm, the European countries they came from fought wars in these countries (ever heard about the French in Algeria, and the “pied-noirs”? ever heard about the Dutch in Indonesia?), and in many cases the populations left in the wake of such wars. Since you like Wikipedia, have a look at the articles on colonial wars; you’ll see it was not only the US who expelled people from the metropolis after independence…

                • Its Ok guys, Eugene is just an example of Russian vermin who live on the fringe of civilisation, and go green with envy at the luck of their superiors.

                  • I may be wrong, but I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt and actually show them rational arguments. There’s always hope that name calling will stop and that he’ll present some arguments of his own. Who knows? He might even be right about some topic…

  8. Don’t tell me, as an American, about immigrants and their work ethics. That is, however, not a question. If a person who comes to another country ceases to be a human being to you, I have nothing further to discuss with you, Sir. Perhaps, you have to find recipes from the Nazis and start learning how to exterminate those undersirables.

    • I sincerely hope there is some golden mean between exterminating the immigrants and letting them exterminate you. :-( E.g., deporting them back to their home countries and/or making them live according to the laws and customs of the country and city they come to, not of their native village.

  9. Eugene, you leave out all the countries that got economic advantages from their immigrants — the (happily few) misguided Europeans who protest against immigrants live in countries whose economy got tremendous boosts from immigrant labor. German attempts at denying that the Gastarbeiter were a necessity have only produced more problems.

    Russia is going through the same path. With a dwindling and ageing population, it will soon depend on imigrants for continued economical development.

    Your two options are too simplistic — they remind me of the old Nazi “either us or them!” mentality which doesn’t allow for the possibility of mutual prosperity. America was based on imigrants; and as you see, it didn’t do very badly economically.

    Besides, don’t forget everybody is an imigrant — the only difference is when they (or their ancestors) imigrated, now or in the 12th century…

    Don’t be so cross on foreigners, Eugene. Remember, so much in Russia came from abroad… starting with the very name “Russian”, which is of Scandinavian origin. “Moscow” is of Finno-Ugric origin… Russians owe so much of what they consider “theirs” to others. Just like every other people on Earth. It’s only one world, it’s only one human species.

    • > It’s only one world, it’s only one human species.

      Dogs are also one species; nevertheless, no one goes hunting with a chihuahua. Very well, let’s see where Obama’s rule will get the USA…

      • Well, luckily for the rest of the world, the Russians are dissapearing, that should clean up the gene pool a little.

      • Yes, but that doesn’t mean chihuahuas are worth less than hunting dogs — especially in today’s world, in which hunting no longer makes economical sense (it’s only a hobby). Chihuahas and German shepherds are both good dogs.

        Also, the difference between chihuahuas and German shepherds is bigger than between any two given human groups. As many biologists have said, if there were no living (and linearly interbreeding) intermediate subspecies (breeds), taxonomists would certainly classify chihuahuas and German shepherds as different species. (I happen to be interested in biological theory, taxonomy, and cladistics, though I’m not a specialist.)

  10. 2Andrew

    > But don’t forget Russia is the lawful property of Mongolia, by the same reasoning.

    The Mongols conquered Rus, they did not buy it from a third party like an old sofa with bedbugs (“population”). :-)

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