Erzia International Art Foundation

Victory over Nazism. Are Europe and the World ready for a liberal interpretation of the Past?

On the eve of the 77th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany and its final capitulation, the possible problem of the events’ repetition and the occurence of misanthropic regimes like the Nazi one is becoming especially relevant.

One of the main factors contributing to the preservation of the memory of those terrible times is an unbiased attitude to the historical past. During the existence of the bipolar system of international relations, when parity existed between the United States and Western Europe on the one hand and the Soviet Union on the other, it was unacceptable to belittle or distort the contribution of the parties to the common victory over the “brown plague” that swept across Europe. However, after the end of the Cold War and the defeat of the USSR in it, some countries took responsibility for rewriting history, for erasing the leading role of the USSR in defeating the hordes of invaders. So what was the contribution of the Soviet Union in this war?

It took Nazi Germany from 1 day (to occupy Denmark) to 63 days (to occupy Norway) to occupy European countries. But the unsuccessful attempts of the Nazis to conquer the USSR continued from June, 1941 to December, 1943. From January,1944 to May,1945, the Red Army drove the enemy out of the USSR territory and set free most of the occupied countries of Europe at the cost of thousands of soldiers. The largest battles took place on the European part of the USSR, and they changed the course of the Second World War in 1943. The Soviet Union closed the road for Nazi Germany to the east of the continent. All 1418 days – from June 22, 1941 to May 9, 1945 – the Soviet-German front was really the defining front of the Second World War, both in terms of the number of armed forces, and in terms of the activity of hostilities and the results of the battles.

As a result of bloody battles, the Soviet Union destroyed the most part of German troops and military equipment (73%), fighting one-on-one with superior enemy forces for several years. Over 26 million people in the USSR died in the war, and that is why in Russia and the former republics of the Soviet Union this war is called the Great Patriotic War. A significant part of the victims is the civilian population who did not survive illnesses, hunger, torments in concentration camps, bombings and punitive actions of the invaders. Losses of the United States in the war with Germany amounted to 250 thousand soldiers and officers. At the same time, the civilian population of the United States practically did not suffer from the aggression of the Third Reich and its allies. And the Second Front against Germany was opened by the Anglo-Americans only on June 6, 1944, when the USSR began to confidently defeat the German army.

Unfortunately, it can be seen today that the contribution of the Soviet Union is belittled, and sometimes distorted to such an extent that an allied role with Nazi Germany is attributed to it. In many countries, the USSR is identified to the Third Reich, and even the events glorifying Nazis are held and supported by the governments. This whole spectrum of false propaganda leads to the really shocking consequences – the ideas of Nazism begin to capture young minds. And, in turn, the anti-human principles of racial superiority and exclusivity of any nation are being revived. Is it worth recalling what ideas Adolf Hitler led to power, which led to the almost destruction of all of Europe?

It may seem incredible, but such attitudes began to acquire the significance of national ideas and receive tremendous support in the countries that were once part of the Soviet Union and felt the full consequences of Nazism. We are talking about the Baltic countries and Ukraine. It is logical to ask the question, how could this happen? One of the main reasons was an attempt to erase the memory of the role of the Soviet people over the victory. In addition, the international community ignores the blasphemous attempts to reconcile with Nazi ideas in those countries that are used for geopolitical games as a counterbalance to Russia. But many people start to forget that such flirting was in the late 1930s. And everybody knows their result.

The precedent of rewriting history has opened a veritable Pandora’s box. It may be reflected not only in the ideological distortions of some countries, but also in military doctrines and subsequent aggressive concepts, though it has happened recently and ended almost 77 years ago. And the sooner the world stops remembering the victory over the “brown plague”, the sooner the ideas of Nazism will take revenge.

Mikhail Zhuravlev, President of Erzia International Art Foundation