The Nazi-Soviet Pact as Second Munich

On the 70th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of non-aggression between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, signed on August 23, 1939 (also my birthday!), historians, ideologues and everyone in between inevitably fall into a game of recriminations, revisionism and relativism. The anti-Soviet side maintains that the Pact gave Germany a free hand in the west and contributed to the onset of war, as represented by OSCE’s recent recognition of Nazi-Soviet equivalence in their culpability for the Second World War. On the other hand, most Russian historians stress that the Pact was a) justifiable on the basis of the Western betrayal of Czechoslovakia at Munich in 1938, and b) gave the USSR valuable time to build up its military-industrial potential for the coming war with Germany.

The “Westerners” (and their liberast Russian allies) tend to impute sinister motives to the Russian leadership’s recent efforts aimed against the “falsification of history” – seeing in them a revival of totalitarian and expansionist thinking, whereas the Russians see this as Western-sponsored “revisionism” whose aim is to impose a sense of historical guilt on the nation. Considering that a glorified version of the Great Patriotic War is fast becoming Russia’s national myth, any acceptance of responsibility for its outbreak is ideologically unacceptable, an a priori anathema. This pits Russia directly against the Visegrad nations of the former Soviet bloc, whose occupation and repression under Soviet / Russian rule – yes, they view the two as interchangeable – is a staple of their national myths, and consequently also brings Russia into a new ideological conflict with the wider West.

Given the huge role of these underlying emotional, ideological and spiritual factors, there is little space left for objective history. But one can try by hi-lighting the kind of international environment the USSR faced during the period and the sense of insecurity that the Western nations instilled in its government through their actions… I’ll start by translating, summarizing and expounding on a timeline meticulously compiled by Sergei Fedosov [my additions] – please see link for his sources:

The Soviet Story: The Timeline

1933 – At the World Disarmament Conference, the British PM proposed to allow the doubling of the German Army and the reduction of the French army by a similar amount.

January 1934 – German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact [caused by Józef Piłsudski’s (Poland’s authoritarian ruler) concern that a) the French building of the Maginot line implied it would take a defensive pose in the next war and would not come to Poland’s aid, b) to reduce the likelihood Poland would become a victim of German aggression, perhaps as part of a Great Power deal (e.g. the Four Power Pact) and c) his perception that Hitler was not as stereotypically-Prussian anti-Polish as his predecessors, going back to Gustav Stresemann (!), and far less dangerous than the USSR – to the point where he opposed French and Czech attempts to include the Soviet Union in a common front against Nazi Germany.]

May, 1935 – Franco–Soviet Treaty of Mutual Assistance; yet the coming to power in France of Léon Blum in June 1936 torpedoed its effectiveness, as they prevented the formation of a military convention stipulating the way in which the two armies would coordinate their actions in the event of war with Germany [in addition to its other onerous conditions, one of which was that military assistance could be rendered by one signatory to the other only after an allegation of unprovoked aggression had been submitted to the League and only after prior approval of the other signatories of the Locarno pact (Great Britain, Italy and Belgium) had been attained].

June, 1935 – Anglo-German Naval Agreement [fixed a ratio where the total tonnage of the Kriegsmarine was to be 35% of the total tonnage of the Royal Navy on a permanent basis, well above the limits of the Treaty of Versailles and concluded without consulting France or Italy].

March, 1936 – Remilitarization of the Rhineland. Amongst other consequences, this was supported by Poland, causing France to dilute its commitments to it. Great Britain took a neutral position. Later Poland also supported the Anschluss with Austria.

19 November, 1937 – During his visit to Obersalzburg, Lord Halifax suggests making an agreement between the Four Powers (excluding the USSR): he says, “I and the other members of the British government are under the impression that the Fuhrer not only achieved a lot in Germany, but with his extirpation of Communism in his own country, he blocked its advance into the rest of Western Europe, and as such Germany can rightfully consider itself as a bastion of the West against Bolshevism”.

End-April, 1938 –  Halifax informed the German representative Kordt that Great Britain would not commit to additional military obligations to France, let alone Czechoslovakia.

18 May, 1938 – The president of Czechoslovakia, Edvard Beneš, told the English ambassador: “If Western Europe should lose interest in Russia, Czechoslovakia will lose it too “.

20 September, 1938 – In reply to his pleas, the Soviet government answered Beneš that it would assist Czechoslovakia, should France join in. However, Poland categorically refused the passage of Soviet armies through its territory, even at the request of France. [At around this Poles are saying: “With the Germans, we lose our land. With the Russians, we lose our soul].

21 September, 1938 – At 2am an Anglo-French ultimatum to the government of Czechoslovakia, demanding acceptance of the German demands, was issued. After the signing of the Munich Agreement, the US President sent congratulations to Chamberlain. Neither the USSR not Czechoslovakia was consulted about any of this.

[There was firm evidence of Soviet intentions to coordinate with the Western Allies to contain and if necessary fight Germany over Czechoslovakia (evidence lifted from commentator rkka here):

To start with, Soviet intentions to militarily aid Czechoslovakia are indicated by the delivery of Soviet-built combat aircraft in August and September 1938 through Romanian airspace, Soviet willingness to set aside the issue of Bessarabia in discussion of Soviet forces transiting Romania in the event of a German attack on Czechlslovakia, the mobilization of 10 Tank and 60 Rifle Divisions in the fall of 1938, and the diplomatic note to the Polish government warning that hostile Polish action against Czechoslovakia would void the Polish-Soviet Nonaggression Pact. The Czech leader Benes makes it clear that Soviet support was unstinting:

In September, 1938, therefore, we were left in military, as well as political, isolation with the Soviet Union to prepare our defense against a Nazi attack. We were also well aware not only of our own moral, political, and military prepardness, but also had a general picture of the condition of Western Europe; as well as of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, in regard to these matters. At that moment indeed Europe was in every respect ripe to accept without a fight the orders of the Berchtesgaden corporal. When Czechoslovakia vigorously resisted his dictation in the September negotiations with our German citizens, we first of all recieved a joint note from the British and French governments on September 19th, 1938, insisting that we should accept without amendment the draft of a capitulation based essentially on an agreement reached by Hitler and Chamberlain at Berchtesgaden on September 15th. When we refused, there arrived from France and Great Britain on September 21st an ultimatum accompanied by emphatic personal interventions in Prague during the night on the part of the Ministers of both countries and repeated later in writing. We were informed that if we did not accept their plan for the cession of the so-called Sudeten regions, they would leave us to our fate, which, they said, we had brought upon ourselves. They explained that they certainly would not go to war with Germany just ‘to keep the Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia’. I felt very keenly the fact that there were at that time so few in France and Great Britain who understood that something much more serious was at stake for Europe than the retention of the so-called Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia. The measure of this fearful European development was now full, precipitating Europe into ruin. Through three dreadful years I had watched the whole tragedy unfolding, knowing to the full what was at stake. We had resisted desperately with all our strength. And then, from Munich, during the night of September 30th our State and Nation recieved the stunning blow: Without our participation and in spite of the mobilization of our whole Army, the Munich Agreement – fatal for Europe and the whole world – was concluded and signed by the four Great Powers – and then was forced upon us.

Dr. Eduard Benes “Memoirs”, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1954, pgs 42 – 43.

I do not intend to examine here in detail the policy of the Soviet Union from Munich to the beginning of the Soviet-German war. I will mention only the necessary facts. Even today it is still a delicate question. The events preceeding Munich and between Munich and the Soviet Union’s entry into World War II have been used, and in a certain sense, misused, against Soviet policy both before and after Munich. I will only repeat that before Munich the Soviet Union was prepared to fulfill its treaty with France and with Czechoslovakia in the case of a German attack.

Benes, pg 131.]

[Following the Munich Agreement, Stalin concluded that the West was fully content to sell the countries of Eastern Europe down the river in the future, including the USSR, and as such decided to reorient his foreign policy away from the West towards reaching a rapprochement with Nazi Germany.]

1 October, 1938 – The Germans occupy the Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia.

2 October, 1938 – Polish armies move into the town of Těšín in Czechoslovakia and the adjoining territory. The implication is that Poland, in conjunction with Nazi Germany, freely participated in the occupation and partition of Czechoslovakia, and as such the Soviet invasion of Poland on 17 September, 1939, was neither a unique nor the first such action during this period.

November 1938 – The Hungarian armies occupy part of Slovakia, including its (now Ukrainian) Zakarpattia region. At the time, Slovakia was a semi-independent nation after the partition of Czechoslovakia in the previous month. Meanwhile, the American ambassador in Paris said, “It would best for the democratic nations if all these Eastern problems came to be solved by a war between Germany and Russia… There is a strong belief in the US, England and France that in the next few months there will begin a great settling of these problems in the East”.

9 March, 1939 – The British ambassador to Berlin, Nevile Henderson: “It appears clear to me that Germany wants to tear off this rich country, Ukraine, from the huge Russian state. We cannot blindly give Germany a carte blanche in the East. Yet it is not impossible to reach an agreement with Hitler, assuming it is limited to reasonable conditions, whose observance by Hitler we can expect”.

10 March, 1939 – Stalin declares the main warmongers to be England and France, not Germany.

14-16 March, 1939 – Bratislava declared full independence, Germans occupy all the remaining Czech regions and Hitler declares the Czech lands to be  a Reich Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.

18 March, 1939 – The USSR sends a protest note to Germany condemning the aggression against Czechoslovakia and announcing its non-recognition of its partition and occupation.

27 March, 1939 – The British Minister for Foreign Affairs, Halifax, tells the ambassador in Warsaw, Kennard: “It should be clear that all our attempts to consolidate our position will be invalidated, should the Soviet government openly take part in this plan”. (Concerning the Soviet offer to call a conference to discuss giving help to Romania).

14 April, 1939 – The British government proposed to the Soviet Union to give unilateral obligations to Germany’s neighboring countries – however, these obligations did not cover the USSR itself.

17 April, 1939 – The Soviet government answers that the conclusion of a tripartite agreement between England, France and the USSR is desirable.

3 May, 1939 – The moderately pro-Western Soviet FM Litvinov is replaced by Molotov.

8 May, 1939 – The government of England and France reject the Soviet offer of alliance, and repeat their memorandum from 14 April [which is a poisoned chalice].

28 May – 15 September, 1939 – Soviet-Japanese conflict around the Khalkhin-Gol river; at the same time, England concludes a [trade] agreement with the Japanese government.

7 June, 1939 – British Cabinet meets to discuss the Soviet offer of a military alliance. The FM Lord Halifax is opposed, citing the US ambassador in Warsaw, Bullitt, to “not give the impression that England is cooperating with the Soviets”.

[The signing of the German-Latvian Non-Aggression Pact between Germany and Estonia & Latvia].

12 June, 1939 – Halifax rejects a Soviet invitation to go to Moscow.

4 July, 1939 – In a foreign policy Cabinet meeting, Lord Halifax suggests the British avoid stalling negotiations and conclude a simple three-way agreement, saying: “There is no need to set Soviet Russia against us, because the main goal of our negotiations is to prevent a Russian agreement with Germany”.

18-21 July, 1939 – Secret meetings between Chamberlain’s close advisor Wilson and the British trade minister Hudson, and the high-ranking German bureaucrat G. Wohltat. The English were offered a rapprochment, including a pact of non-aggression and non-interference, arms reduction treaties, their return of former German colonies, economic cooperation and the recognition of a German sphere of influence over Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. The USSR and China were to become German markets in the new global division of trade. Information about these meetings fell into the hands of the German ambassador in London, von Dirksen, and were conveyed to Berlin, but they did not develop into formal negotiations because of the lack of any reaction from Berlin. News of these British feelers to Germany reached the Soviet Union. [See London and Berlin Plotted Second “Munich Agreement” by Yuri Nikiforov].

29 July, 1939 – The British Labour MP Buxton in conversations with the German diplomat Kordt again stressed the necessity of conductiong secret diplomacy, agreeing to spheres of influence and halting the current debates about concluding a pact with the Soviet Union.

3 August, 1939 – Wilson and von Dirksen had a discussion, about which the latter wrote (in addition to Wohltat’s reports) it could reasonably be concluded that Wilson viewed these talks as an official British feeler towards the Germans, requiring a German response.

7 August, 1939 – Confidential meeting between Goring and a British representative at Shleswig-Holstein, in which the following was mentioned: “Should Germany lose the war, it would result in the spread of Communism and gains for Moscow”.

11 August, 1939 – A minor English delegation arrives in Moscow, going there by slow steamship instead of plane, as was typical for the time. It is uncovered they have no official authority to carry out negotiations. The British and French military missions offered to discuss common principles, but without any consideration of real military plans.

There was a secret meeting between the High Commissioner of the League of Nations in the Free City of Danzig, the Swede Burkhardt, and Hitler, who invited him. At the end of the meeting, Hitler expressed his wish to meet with a high-ranking person from the British government. The sources say that Halifax wrote a letter to Hitler, but never came round to sending it.

At the end of the meeting, Hitler said, “Everything I undertake is aimed against Russia. If the West is so blind and stupid that it can’t understand this, I will be forced to make an agreement with the Russians. Then I will strike against the West and after its defeat, I will unleash my combined strength against the Soviet Union. I need Ukraine…” (this passage is not present in official British publications, the only reference to it lying in Burkhardt’s memoirs).

19 August, 1939 – The signing of a trade and credit agreement between Germany and the USSR in Berlin.

23 August, 1939 – The signing of the notorious German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact in Moscow. This was a typical non-aggression pact, except for the inclusion of additional secret protocols outlining a division of spheres of influence.

[Fedosov’s note – there’s a problem with these protocols, because copies of them cannot be found in either the Russian or German archives, but were published on the basis of photocopies present in Germany. One disturbing fact about them is that Molotov’s signature appears in the Latin alphabet, which is surprising since he never signed his name in this way. That said, the fact there were no mass clashes between German and Soviet armies in their invasion of Poland, and because of their apparent cooperation with each other in bombing operations and their halt at clear demarcation lines after meeting each other in the middle of Poland, etc, one can conclude that in all likelihood these protocols really did exist.]

Meanwhile, up till the day of the signing the Poles had continued to categorically resist any consideration of  Soviet troops crossing Poland in their diplomatic communications. [See Fedosov’s document for full details].

25 August, 1939 – Telegram of French ambassador in the USSR to the French ambassador in Poland: “If we could have gotten acquiescence from Poland at the start, this would have prevented the halt in military discussions [with the USSR]… It’s hard to imagine how we could have convinced the USSR to take on obligations against Germany, even despite our best efforts, if the Poles and Romanians we guaranteed did not want to hear anything about Russian help. Hitler unwaveringly made the decision which Józef Beck [the Polish Foreign Minister], having our guarantees, refused to do – he reached an accomodation with Stalin…”

31 August, 1939 – The Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov said in a speech to the Supreme Soviet, “On the one hand, England and France demanded military help from the USSR in the case of aggression against Poland… On the other hand, that same England and France released Poland onto the scene, which categorically rejected military help from the USSR. Now try reaching an agreement on mutual assistance in these conditions, when any Soviet help is from the start judged unneeded and constrained in its options… They blame us because the pact contains no clause providing for its renunciation in case one of the signatories is drawn into war under conditions which might give someone grounds to qualify that particular country as an aggressor. But they forget for some reason that such a clause and such a reservation is not to be found either in the Polish-German Non-Aggression Pact signed in 1934 and annulled by Germany in 1939 against the wishes of Poland, nor in the Anglo-German declaration on non-aggression signed only a few months ago…”

In the same speech Molotov expounded on the reasons for the agreement with Germany at length, “…The point of the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, in which the USSR is not obligated to come to the assistance of neither Germany, nor England or France, in the event of war between them… the USSR will undertake its own, independent foreign policy… if they have such a huge desire to fight, let them fight amongst themselves, without the Soviet Union”.

28 September, 1939 – The signing of a German-Soviet Agreement on Friendship and Borders, which was a formal agreement about their borders, while the only mention of friendship was in Article IV of the agreement: “The Soviet and German governments view the aforementioned changes to be a firm foundation for the future development of friendly relations between the two peoples”.

October 1939 – Britain’s military chiefs discuss the question of “positive and negative aspects of a British declaration of war on Russia” (Fedosov’s note – this is BEFORE the Winter War!).

30 November 1939 – 12 March 1940 – The Soviet-Finnish Winter War. Britain’s decision to disembark troops into Norway, if the war continued (despite both Norwergian and Swedish opposition!). The planning of such actions on the eve of war with Germany were called madness by Churchill.

12 January, 1940 – French ambassador’s memorandum about the outlines of a compilation of Anglo-Franco-Soviet negotiations, prepared by the English side: “On reading these documents there appears the firm impression that from the start to the end of these negotiations the Russian government strongly pushed for this agreement to have the most maximal and all-encompassing character. This Soviet policy of closing all possible doors to German aggression, irrespective of whether it was really genuine, was always rebuffed by Anglo-French reservations and desire to constrain the sphere of possible Soviet intervention… As a result, the publication of the documents will confirm the arguments of those who, genuinely or not, insist that the Soviet government only went over the German side because of England’s and France’s waverings and their refusal to  support Moscow without reservations… This English “Blue Book” threatens to unleash the most undesirable, in our current circumstances, polemics”.

18 January, 1940 – Discussion of the question of whether or not to publish the Blue Book. Halifax is against. As a result, the Cabinet decides that it would be a bad idea to publish this book about negotiations with the USSR from the summer of 1939.

January-April, 1940 – On 19 January, the French government, with the approval of the British government, suggested General Gamelin and Admiral Darlan prepare a plan for a direct invasion of the [Soviet] Caucasus. Plans made for a two-pronged attack on the USSR from the Middle East and Scandinavia / Finland. Anglo-French plans for bombardment of Baku, Grozny and Batumi. On 16 March, Gamelin presents a detailed plan for the invasion of the Caucasus and tentative ideas are floated for the construction of airfields in Syria to carry out air strikes on the USSR.

Even during the “phony war” between the German invasion of Poland and its attack on Norway, there is evidence the British continued to see the USSR as the greater threat. The British ambasaddor in Finland: “It is likely the winner in the next European war will not be Hitler, but Stalin, and as such he presents the greater danger… Since our main question now is how to inflict the greatest amount of damage on the USSR, I would suggest making maximum efforts to reach an agreement with Japan, whose natural antipathy towards Bolshevism will draw her towards making a sudden strike on the USSR”.

[Interestingly, during the period after Germany invaded the Soviet Union in July 1941, the Western Allies acknowledged Stalin chose the right strategy by delaying an armed confrontation with Nazi Germany. For instance, the British ambassador in Moscow, Cripps, to the FM Eden on September 27, 1941:

…There’s no doubt, that the direct cause of this Pact, as constantly cited by the Soviet leadership, was their wish to stay out of the war. They saw this as possible through an agreement with Germany, at least for a while… Not only did this policy give the USSR a chance to stay out of the war, but also allowed them to acquire those territories from its neighbors, which they saw as being valuable in the case of German aggression against the USSR…

The first step was to seize half of Poland, for the alternative was German occupation of its entire territory. The peace deal with Finland in March 1941 only resulted in the USSR acquiring territory it had originally demanded from them anyway. There’s no doubt in my mind that they seriously considered helping out France [in May 1940], but as it became clear the German advance was rapidly leading to France’s utter collapse, they were dissuaded from the idea and decided to keep to an entirely different tactic…

Conclusion: the Nazi-Soviet Pact as Second Munich Agreement

A typical counter-argument to the above narrative is Seventy Years of Shame by Craig Pirrong, encompassing all possible criticisms for the Pact and reiterating all the necessary ideological foundations for waging a New Cold War against Russia.

For instance, the allegation is made that the Soviet Union hedged its way out of any firm commitments to Germany’s East-Central European neighbors, and that Stalin wanted, and did everything he could, to embroil the “imperialist powers” in a war – according to his August 19, 1939 Politburo speech:

We must accept the proposals of Germany and diplomatically discard the British and French delegation.  The destruction of Poland and the annexation of Ukrainian Galicia will be our first gain. Nonetheless, we must foresee the consequences of both Germany’s defeat and Germany’s victory.  In the event of a defeat the formation of a Communist government in Germany will be essential . . . . Above all, our task is to ensure that Germany be engaged in war for as long as possible and that Britain and France be so exhausted that they could not suppress a German Communist government.


Both points make sense and are probably true. But the exact same applies to the Western Powers, which according to the evidence brought forth in the timeline above a) wanted to tie up Germany and the USSR in a war, regarding the latter as the greater threat to Western civilization, and b) did not treat Soviet proposals for joint inter-Allied obligations against German aggression seriously. The point is that both sides were engaged in a brutal game of Realpolitik – the West wanted the two totalitarian powers to duke it out, while the USSR would have much preferred the capitalist powers to destroy themselves in yet another World War One-like struggle of attrition. In other words, there was a fundamental symmetry between the West and Russia prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, which is now being adamantly denied by the former and asserted by the latter.

As such, the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact cannot be construed as a crime – everybody was in on the game, its just that the USSR played it more skilfully than most, at least until Operation Barbarossa. It was a cause of Second World War, but no more than Munich previously, and as such ascribing the USSR joint responsibility for starting the Second World War, as recently done by OSCE, is just one more example of hypocritical Russophobia and “double standards” – cliche though these terms might be, that does not mean they do not apply. And if it really were the case that the Soviet Union shares guilt with Germany for the outbreak of the Second World War, then so do Britain, France and Poland, each in equal measure. Where are the self-righteous condemnations of their antebellum conduct?

Was the Pact a mistake? This is a more complicated question. On the one hand, the Soviet Union provided Germant with valuable stocks of rare earth metals that would contribute to sustaining its war effort for longer than it otherwise could have without resorting to harsh, total-war mobilization and ersatz production (as increasingly happened from 1943). On the other hand, it delayed the war for the USSR by nearly two years, allowing it to a) build up its military-industrial potential (not without the help of German machinery imports!) and b) begin the war from borders 600km farther away from Moscow than they would have been otherwise. The Soviet victory was a close-run thing in 1941 and even 1942, and without the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact the USSR may well have been defeated, paving the way for total Nazi domination of the entire Eurasian continent.

The next point the “Westerners” bring up is that Soviet methods were just as brutal as Nazi ones in their occupied territories. However, there are two major weaknesses with this. First, this is not an argument against the rationality of Soviet motives in acquiring buffer space against the eventuality of German aggression in 1939-41, nor is this an argument proving the moral equivalence of Germany and the USSR in starting the war. The fact is that it was Germany that was the one and only driving force behind a general European war. The Western Allies and the USSR alike, through their mutual distrust of each other and long-term myopia, merely enabled German aggression.

Second, to those East Europeans and Western Russophobes who like to see Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia as two sides of the same coin: if the USSR had lost the Great Patriotic War, this would have resulted in the partial extermination, Siberian exile and helotization of the entire Slavic and Jewish populations of Eastern Europe, as envisaged under Generalplan Ost, Nazi Germany’s genocidal scheme for acquiring Lebensraum in the East, and indeed within the four short years of German domination of Europe some 20mn Slav civilians, 6mn Jews, 3-4mn Soviet POWs and up to a million Roma were killed (it should be noted that the Poles and Baltic peoples were highly complicit in the extermination of their Jews, something they remain loath to recognize – much easier to talk of their sufferings under Soviet repression). While the USSR undeniably repressed wide swathes of East European societies, neither its bloodthirstiness nor its levels of economic coercion ever came anywhere near equalling their experiences under Nazi occupation.

Finally, these New Cold Warriors argue that Russia’s defense of the past augurs its repeat in the future. SWP concludes:

To criticize the Pact is to deny Russia recognition of its legitimate right to dominate “its” space. Molotov-Ribbentrop divided eastern Europe in 1939. Russia wants to divide eastern Europe in 2009. To condemn the former is to delegitimize the latter. So, you can expect even more robust defenses of M-R, and more hysterical attacks against those who criticize it, on this anniversary and in the days to come. For to criticize Stalin and the revisionist USSR is, by extension, to criticize Putin and the revisionist Russia. Their means may differ, but their worldview, and their strategic objectives, are largely the same.

Perhaps. But in my view a far more likely interpretation is that Russia is tired of having a sense of historical guilt imposed upon it, especially since it is later used as a pretext to arrogantly dismiss all its concerns about NATO expansion and foreign policy views on everything from Kosovo to missile defense. Even though it did not lose the Cold War, it is getting the same sort of deal Germany got after the Treaty of Versailles – sole “war guilt” (Cold War) and sole responsibility for Soviet repressions (bypassing the contributions of Georgian spooks, Latvian Riflemen, etc), thus enabling Western justification for alternately bullying, undermining and ignoring Russia.

One thing I agree with SWP on, however, is that the past and present really is prolog to the future. Since it is a hostile organization – proved if anything, by its unbalanced rhetoric during the Georgian-instigated South Ossetian War in 2008 – Russia will try to undermine NATO in favor of more equitable (from its perspective) arrangements, such as European collective security agreements. It is laying the groundwork by courting states such as Finland, Turkey and most importantly, Germany, while trying to marginalize the East Europeans and their main champion, the US. This runs contrary to the constant American interest in preempting the emergence of a Eurasian hegemon, hence the low-key the US reversion to a Cold War policy of containment and strangulation of any resurgent Russian superpower – as demonstrated by Biden’s rhetoric during his July 2009 visits to Ukraine and Georgia, and his (questionable) assertions about Russia as a country in long-term economic and demographic decline.

One thing is clear. The ideological struggle will continue and intensify between Western universalist chauvinism and East European national nationalisms on the one side, and Russian imperial nationalism on the other. History goes in spirals, after all.


  1. There is no evidence that Balts and especially Poles collaborated with the Nazis in the extermination of Jews in any larger proportions than other nations occupied by Germany or allied with Germany. There were plenty of French, Dutch and Romainian participants in the Holocaust.

    Indeed a very large number of ethnic Russians collaborated with the Nazis. Out of some 1.2 million Soviet citizens to take up German arms and uniforms during the war, the overwhelming majority were Russians, Ukrainians and Cossacks (who one could argue are in fact Russians). Only 280,00 came from non-Slavic Soviet nationalities such as Central Asians, Azerbaijanis and Georgians. Some of the most brutal acts by collaborators in the USSR were committed by ethnic Russians and Cossacks. Why do you single out the numerically much smaller number of Baltic and Polish collaborators?

    Also I find it hard to buy that Soviet atrocities are morally more acceptable than Nazi attrocities. During and immediately after WWII the percentage of Crimean Tatars, Chechens and other deported peoples to die as a direct result of Stalin’s policies came pretty close to the proportion of the world’s Jews killed by Hitler. Of course in total numbers it was smaller, but still most estimates put the number of such deaths at between 500,000 and 600,000 people. When one adds in deaths in labor camps, labor colonies, massacres such as Lviv, deportations of Balts, Poles and Ukrainians the figure reaches into the millions. If you want to argue that Hitler’s killing of five million Jews during the war is infinitely more evil than Stalin’s murder of some two million civilians of other nationalities during the war that is fine. But, it is a very weak more argument.

    • According to the statistics compiled by Lucy Dawidowicz, some 90% of Jews in Poland and the Baltics were exterminated, which is about the same figure as in Germany itself. This compares unfavorably with 75% in the Netherlands, 50% in Romania and 26% in France. While there certainly were regional differences in the degree of anti-Jewish repressions, I think it’s reasonably to assume that different degrees of collaboration would have partially accounted for such stark disparities.

      Considering that a) the overwhelming majority of Soviet citizens were were Slavs (even in 1950, more than 80% of Soviet citizens were Russians, Ukrainians or Belarussians), b) the Germans occupied huge chunks of Slavic areas, but not the Caucasus or Central Asia, and c) he bulk of the Red Army was Great Russian, including POWs, for many of whom becoming a Hiwi was the best chance of survival, it is not surprising that Soviet Slavs also constituted the overwhelming majority of collaborators.

      If national security-related deportations and internments with associated high mortality rates are genocides, then one can claim that the first such during the 20th C was committed by Britain against the Boers (and later repeated in Kenya during the 1950s). This is particularly damning since neither constituted a mortal threat to the British state like the Nazis did to the Soviet Union. If you tread down this path, then eventually everything sinks into a common black hole of moral relativism.

      • For some, the dreaded “whataboutism,” which can otherwise put into better perspective a given claim. Never mind that some of those who seem to like utilizing the “whataboutism” term periodically engage in their own forms of it.

    • “1.2 million Soviet citizens to take up German arms and uniforms” is a myth. The number is inflated overall and erroneously counts HIWIs as collaborators. Why not count ostarbeiters as collaborators then?

      Soviet atrocities are certainly more acceptable than German atrocities simply because there was nothing unusual about them for that time. The times were atrocious. Any country at Soviet level of GDP per capita had extremely high mortality among prison population. And in Soviet case, over 70% of all prisoner mortality corresponded to increases in overall population mortality due to famine and war (32-33 and 42-45) and cannot even be ascribed to any gov’t policies or lack thereof. As for deportations, that’s just a silly accusation. Deportations were the norm everywhere.

      What differentiates German atrocities is that they constituted an attempt at deliberate extermination, which was not the case with most other atrocities of the period (Soviet included).

  2. Excerpt:

    “There is no evidence that Balts and especially Poles collaborated with the Nazis in the extermination of Jews in any larger proportions than other nations occupied by Germany or allied with Germany. There were plenty of French, Dutch and Romainian participants in the Holocaust.”


    “Some of the most brutal acts by collaborators in the USSR were committed by ethnic Russians and Cossacks. Why do you single out the numerically much smaller number of Baltic and Polish collaborators?”


    How about the Galician Ukrainians, either with the SS, or OUN/UPA?

    As for Russians/Cossacks, Andrei Vlasov’s Army wasn’t implicated in gruesome acts against civilians. The Cossack leader Peter Krasnov viewed Vlasov as a “Red.” (Krasnov was a leading Russian Civil War era figure) Of the two, Vlasov was the more popular in a way which saw many who were with Krasnov go over to Vlasov (not vice versa).

    There was also the Kaminski Brigade, which committed atrocities during the Warsaw Uprising. Their numbers were smaller than those associated with Vlasov.



    “Indeed a very large number of ethnic Russians collaborated with the Nazis. Out of some 1.2 million Soviet citizens to take up German arms and uniforms during the war, the overwhelming majority were Russians, Ukrainians and Cossacks (who one could argue are in fact Russians). Only 280,00 came from non-Slavic Soviet nationalities such as Central Asians, Azerbaijanis and Georgians.”


    “Collaboration” varied. Some like the Galician SS and Croat Ustasha behaved differently than others like Vlasov’s army.

    Just as the Allies varied in manner, the Axis and those nominally allied with them were by no means monolithic in behavior.

    As for the non-Russian Soviet collaboration, it would be interesting to see the figures broken down in per capita terms; concerning the smaller number of each of the non-Russian Soviet ethnic groups vis-a-vis the larger Russian population.



    “If you want to argue that Hitler’s killing of five million Jews during the war is infinitely more evil than Stalin’s murder of some two million civilians of other nationalities during the war that is fine. But, it is a very weak more argument.”


    Stalin’s victims included many Russians as well.

    Some might find this note a bit jumpy. On the other hand, consider the kind of anti-Russian bigotry out there, like the Captive Nations Committee, which succeeded in getting approved an American holiday known as Captive Nations Week. This holiday recognized every Communist country as being “captive” except Russia. Over the years, the Captive Nations Committee has portrayed Russia and Russians in a bigoted way, along the lines of the USSR benefitted Russia and Russians at the expense of others. On the other hand, if “Jews” is substituted for “Russians,” such a view is more prone to getting dismissed as bigoted extremism. In reality, both instances are bigoted.

    Opposing an ideology on its beliefs isn’t the same as wrongly caricaturing a given ethnic group.


    The late Polish born and anti-Soviet Menachem Begin is among many acknowledging a point made in AK’s piece about how:
    – the USSR greatly contributed to the defeat of Nazi Germany
    – and that a Nazi victory would’ve likely led to the extermination of the Jews.

  3. Pity the System: The Nazi-Soviet Pact by Peter Lavelle

    Seventy years ago, the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact surprised the world. In theory, two political systems – diametrically opposed – had joined forces against the Western powers, but it also was the final days before the outbreak of the Second War World in Europe. In retrospect, what is also called the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, with all its secret protocols, actually made perfect geopolitical sense at the time.

    To this day, there is the notion that the evil Soviet Union sold out to the equally evil Nazi Germany at the expense of Europe’s small eastern and noble democracies. This is a nice and even quaint narrative, but the fact is that fascism was in vogue and many – if not most in Europe – were more than willing to follow the lead of Spain, Germany, and Italy.

    The Soviets watched the West betray its own treaty, commitments, and values. Hitler’s re-occupation of the Ruhr against the strictures of Versailles went unanswered. Hitler’s Anschluss with Austria in 1938 went unanswered. Hitler’s destruction of the Czechoslovakian state was even facilitated by Western quiescence in 1938, with some of those “small and noble Eastern European democracies” lending a hand.

    Indeed, Moscow was watching while being vilified or ignored…

    Cold War rhetoric continues in the West’s mainstream media about the origins of the Second World War in Europe, without much knowledge or reflection, let alone intellectual honesty. Stalin’s Soviet Union and, by extension, today’s Russia, is accused of collaborating with Hitler’s Germany. Well, the fact of the matter is almost every state in Europe, prior to the war and during it, collaborated with Hitler. Europeans today who wish to claim clean hands are nothing more than hypocrites. The Soviets were not the first or the last to “come to agreement with Hitler.” Stalin did so out of self-interest, just like every other leader at the time. Like every other European state, Stalin deemed (rightly) that the Soviet Union had legitimate security interests. Said differently – if the system is broken and you are not a welcomed partner, and then why not take advantage of it?

    The Versailles settlement talked a lot about the importance and virtues of democracy, but the geopolitical system it created was not democratic. The West’s great powers wanted literally the power to shape and control the global order, but not the responsibility that went with it. This echo is found in today’s world order. Some countries can ignore the international community and law with impunity. Other countries can commit naked aggression, like Georgia, and actually be rewarded by the world’s most powerful.

  4. Recommend this article by Isaev on the topic:

  5. The mass deportations of the Crimean Tatars and Chechens were not security measures. They were undertaken specifically as collective punishment of groups defined by a racialized system of ethnic classification. In this sense and the fact that they were deliberately sent to areas known to have insufficient food, housing, medicine make it very similar to the Nazi genocide. Just what security concerns were being addressed by deporting all Crimean Tatars including Communist Party members, Red Army veterans, women, children and the elderly? By the way only 10,000 Crimean Tatars ever served in German units versus more than 20,000 that fought in the Red Army against the Nazis. Not to mention the fact that more Crimean Tatars fought with Soviet partisan units in Crimea against the Nazis than did Ukrainians.

    Also why is Soviet state security more important than the security of the lives and independence of the Baltic states? Justifying the mass deportations of 14 June 1941 because a handful of Balts later helped the occupation regime murder Jews is really weak. And the percentage of Jews killed in Poland and the Baltic states does nothing to indicate relative levels of collaboration. All it says is that the German occupation authorities, there were no puppet Polish or Baltic governments unlike Vichy France for instance, killed a greater percentage of Ostjuden than Westjuden. Given the much greater difficulties in identifying Westjuden this is not surprising.

    You excuse Russian and Cossack collaboration with the Nazis, tar all Balts and Poles as Nazi collaborators, and justify the lethal deportation of entire nations. I would say this is pretty much the definition of Great Russian chauvanism.

    • As opposed to anti-Russian hypocrisy.

      Without hesitation, I steadfastly opppose the bigoted anti-Russian legacy of the Captive Nations Committee, which embraced Nazi created states, while shunning Russia and Russians with bigotry.

      Still no mention of the Galician SS and OUN/UPA, as well as the Croat Ustasha. There was a puppet Croat government.

      Vlasov’s army didn’t carry on like them. Seeking clarity on the issues you raise while tarring others isn’t a consistent advocacy.

      Your point on Vichy France relative to no Nazi recognized Polish and Baltic governments applies to Russia as well. Himmler and Rosenberg saw Vlasov as a threat and kept him at bay. Out of desperation, this policy was changed at the very end of the war. By then, Vlasov’s forces were somewhat disgusted with being jerked around, in addition to realizing how the war would end.

      Nazi recognition or not as a state didn’t automatically determine the level of brutality to be found. The Nazis recognized Bulgaria, whose WW II history is mixed. I understand that Jews in Bulgaria fared relatively well (I should check up on this particular.) On the other hand, Bulgarian forces were inovlved in the rounding up of Jews outside Bulgaria’s borders.

      On the Crimean Tatars, note the basis for the internment of Japanese North-Americans during the same time period. This was done as Japanese North-Americans heroically fought on the Allied side in Europe. Yes, the Japanese North-Americans were treated much better than the Crimean Tatars. This had to do with the better economic and humanitarian conditions in North America at the time. The USSR was under siege in a way that North America wasn’t. Soviet citizens at large didn’t have the kind of economic and humanitarian conditions evident in North America.

      • To Follow-up on some thoughts in my last set of comments:

        The overall Jewish historiography I’ve seen seems to give Nazi recognized Bulgaria better marks for the treatment of Jews than Poland and Lithuania. This isn’t to say that there weren’t earnest Poles and Lithuanians (they existed).

        On the other hand, the Nazi recognized state of Croatia didn’t behave better than the non-Nazi recognized/Nazi occupied Serbia.

    • Dear Otto,

      You seem to be awfully loose with numbers.

      Let’s check your claims against Igor Pykhalov’s research:

      1. “only 10,000 Crimean Tatars ever served in German units” — Pykhalov quoting Bugai gives 20,000.

      2. “more than 20,000 [Tatars] that fought in the Red Army against the Nazis” — turns out 20,000 Tatars deserted from the Red Army in 1941. So the real number of Tatars that fought against the Nazis would be “close to 0”.

      3. “more Crimean Tatars fought with Soviet partisan units in Crimea against the Nazis than did Ukrainians” — this point is misleading (deliberately?) considering that the Tatar population of Crimea significantly exceeded the Ukrainian population. And on 1 Jun 1943 there was a whopping total of 262 partisans in Crimea, of which there were 67 Ukrainians and 6 (six) Tatars. Yes, in January of 1944 there were more Tatars than Ukrainians among partisans in Crimea, but what were they doing before then?

      If you throw this together with your previous prevarication about 1.2 million Soviet collaborators, it becomes an even more depressing picture. Does every single one of your numbers need to be verified? Can’t you be a more trustworthy source?

      Now, according to wartime laws, the penalty for desertion and for collaboration is execution. Would it have been more humane to execute up to 40,000 Crimean Tatars outright? That would not have been genocide?

      Also, your statement that “the fact that they were deliberately sent to areas known to have insufficient food, housing, medicine make it very similar to the Nazi genocide” is wrong on a couple of counts. First of all, as the GKO order on the deportation of Tatars amply demonstrates, especially its provisions on the aid that was supposed to be provided to the deportees at the destination, there was nothing deliberate about the resulting mortality. Have you actually read the documents on the topic, or are you making this stuff up? And secondly, in light of the above, your claims about similarity to Nazi genocide are utterly spurious.

  6. The Bugai figure of 20,000 Crimean Tatars in German units comes from a report from Beria. But, Soviet intelligence had no real idea how many Crimean Tatars were self defense battalions at the time. It is a guess. The German figures for the actualy recrutiment are reproduced by Kazakh historians T.S. Kulbaev and A. Iu. Khegai, _Deportatsiia_ (Almaty: Deneker, 2000), pp. 206-207 at exactly 9,255.

    Your number for desertions is undoubtedly wrong. The idea that all the Crimean Tatars in the Red Army deserted is silly. It comes from one of Beria’s reports trying to get support for the deportations. But, according to the official reports from the NKVD section to Combat Banditism the total number of desertions and avoidance of military service in the Crimean ASSR from 1941 to 1944 was 479 people (N.F. Bugai, Iosif Stalin – Lavrentiiu Berii: Ikh nado deportirovat’: Dokumenty, fakty, kommentarii (Moscow: Druzhba narodov, 1992, p. 286). The total for the USSR is 1,666,891. So my guess is since the Beria report is from April 1944 it is just an internal argument for deportation and the nice round figure of 20,000 is not correct. The fact that other sectors of the NKVD reported that the figure from 41-44 at 479 for all Crimeans casts a lot of doubt on the claim.

    The Soviet government knew that there was a malaria epidemic in Uzbekistan. It also knew that neither it nor the local authorities in Uzbekistan had any stockpiles of anti-malarial drugs. Food and housing were also in very short supply. For examples of the central authorities being informed of the situation and providing inadequate relief see the documents reproduced by Gulnara Bekyrova.

    Despite what GKO Order 5859ss says about supplies of food and shelter the Soviet government did not provide them to the deported Crimean Tatars in sufficient amount to prevent massive mortality. The deportation documents for the Armenians issued by the Ottoman government in WWI also have provisions for providing adequate food and other supplies. Yet magically they never appeared. Was there no Armenian genocide too?

    The result of a lack of housing, medicine, and food led to a a recorded 26,775 Crimean Tatar deaths (17.8% of the total population) from May 1944 to 1 Jan. 1946. (Ayder Ibragimov, ed., _Krimskii studii, nos. 5-6, September-November 2000, doc. 26, p. 68). Out of 13,183 Crimean Tatars to die during 1945 in exile, over half, 6,096 were children (Ibid). Were these children Nazi collaboraters too? This situation only existed due to the deportation of the Crimean Tatars.

    But, your defense of collective punishment is sickening. The Soviet government deported under the most brutal conditions all Crimean Tatars not just deserters and collaborators. Most of the deported Crimean Tatars were women and children. Thousands were loyal communists. The Soviet government officially lifted the charge of treason against the Crimean Tatars on 5 September 1967. You should consider following suit. Only Stalinists still defend this crime.

    • You are confusing Tatars recruited as German 11th Army auxilaries and Tatars joining their own self-defense formations, which were in effect also collaborator formations. 9,255 is the number for Tatar auxilaries recruited into the 11th Army as of February 1942 (per German documents). Tatar local self-defense companies additionally numbered approx. 9000. Since there is no doubt that recruitment continued after Feb 1942, it is clear that the figure of 20000 Tatar collaborators is based in fact. I.e. Beria’s report is correct.

      Your argument against mass desertion of Tatars based on the actual number of reported desertions versus Beria’s estimate is erroneous. The document from which your source quotes actually lists the number of deserters detained, not the number of desertions. You need to understand that army casualty reports do not count deserters. Actual deserters would be reported as missing in army records, especially if you consider the collapse of the 51st Army. Desertion as a crime exists only if criminal proceedings are opened by the organs of state security. The number you quote means that exactly 479 cases of desertion were investigated by NKVD in Crimea after the suspects had been detained. It tells nothing of the actual number of deserters because, as you can imagine, as the 51st Army was collapsing, there was no time to investigate every case individually. Hence, there is simply no way it can represent the real situation with desertions in Crimea.

      Does this mean that the number of deserters quoted by Beria is true? Not necessarily. At the same time, we need to understand that these are classified reports, so it is unlikely that they contain propagandistic falsifications. It would be nice to know how the number was arrived at, though. Indirectly, it is supported by the fact that when Germans recruited Tatars into the army, over 7000 of those were from POW camps. That’s out of 20000 who were drafted into the Red Army in 1941. So it appears the crime was not really desertion, but more like “voluntary surrender” or “defection”. Due to these considerations, Beria’s number is more likely true than not. It is probably an exaggeration to claim that all Tatars deserted. But certainly more than half did.

      Thank you for an interesting link on the condition of the Tatars after deportation. However, I must note that the link does not contain any information your purport it does. You claimed that the Soviet government knew about the malaria epidemic in UzSSR. However, the earliest document mentioning this epidemic is dated July 1944. The GKO deportation order is from May. Thus, your claim does not correspond to reality. Same documents also show that the gov’t reaction to reports of malaria was relatively swift, and antimalarial supplies were in fact dispatched. The aid was inadequate, but in 1944 USSR was still engaged in total war and the civilian economy was still in ruins.

      I don’t know enough about Armenian genocide to make any judgments on this topic, but I would suggest that you avoid using the term lightly. Propagandists of various stripes have thrown so many accusations of genocide over the past several decades that the term has been cheapened. This does not serve well the memory of the victims of real genocides that have occurred. Instead, I would like to direct your attention to the fact that the crime of genocide requires not only the fact of mass mortality, but also the intent to cause such mortality. Please use a simple formula to make a determination for yourself: mortality + ethnic/cultural targeting + intent = genocide. No intent = no genocide. Granted, you’ve attempted to prove intent by referring to Bekyrova’s article. Unfortunately, the article in question does contain any evidence substantiating your claims.

      Additionally, please don’t disregard the basics of demographic analysis, as you do when you imply that all 26,775 Tatar deaths resulted from deportation. The number you should be quoting is excess mortality, i.e. mortality above natural level. Here’s a sample calculation: in 1940, natural mortality rate in the USSR was 1.8%. In 1944 it was almost certainly two or three times higher, but let’s use 2% as an example. Therefore, natural mortality of 190,000 deported Tatars in 1.5 years should’ve been 3% of that number, or 5700, and excess mortality was therefore closer to 21,000 given the above assumptions.

      Finally, thanks for saving your fake outrage and moral indignation, as well as various name calling, for the last part of your missive. I’ve argued with people who used these devices every other sentence, so I’m quite inocculated. Please save your effort. Instead, concentrate on using facts, not twisting numbers, not misrepresenting sources, and being objective in general. Thank you!

  7. A few more updates from various sources…

    1. Moscow to declassify “Poland’s 1939 war plans”. Has quite a heated discussion too.

    2. A few select posts from the discussion @ Untimely Thoughts:


    1 – You give only positive views of SU military preparation in 1938, yet its neighbours were understandably as frightened and distrustful of the USSR as of Germany.

    2 – Britain long ago came to terms with its mistake at Munich, isn’t Russia big enough to accept that there was something wrong with the alliance with Hitler?

    3 – If you were a Polish Soldier on 17 September 1939, it sure looked like a coordinated attack.

    Surely Russians can be proud (rightly very proud) of their achievements in defeating the Nazis without glossing over the start of the war.


    Interestingly enough, most Ukrainian ultra-patriots I know are unanimous in their condemnation. If I ask them “should Lviv be returned to Poland then?” they mumble and look away.


    “1 – You give only positive views of SU military preparation in 1938, yet its neighbours were understandably as frightened and distrustful of the USSR as of Germany.”

    The Romanians were disposed to cooperate, allowing Czech aircrew to fly Soviet-built combat aircraft through Romanian airspace in August/September 1939.

    And since Romania was an ally of Czechoslovakia (the Little Entente), Romanian military planning explicitly provided for facilitating the transit of Soviet ground forces in the event Czechoslovakia was attacked.

    See Hugh Ragsdale’s “The Soviets, the Munich Crisis, and the Coming of World War II”, Cambrige University Press, 2004.

    It was really only the Poles who had a problem with the Soviets assisting Czechoslovakia, maybe because there was a chunk of it they wanted themselves.


    These days only the most lazy person does not comment on the anniversary of the document which continues to stir a great deal of controversy. Some call it a historic necessity, others a cynical agreement which sparkled WWII.

    While there are grains of truth in both of these positions, the real place of the 1939 Soviet German Non Agression Pact in history will crystallise only when political historians (or history politicians, whichever one prefers) will stop using the Pact for their current political purposes. I am not trying to offer any “definitive” interpretation of the importance of the Pact, but am asking to look at it without the benefit of a hindsight and in the contest of the pre war knowledge and understanding of intentions and aspirations of other states which the major politicians had at the time of signing of the pact.

    Firstly one has to consider what other states were doing at the time and what was known to Stalin of their actions and intentions. Here I would like to list the following facts: the Munich Accords of 1938, 1939 Non Agression Pacts with the Baltic States (7/06/39 if I am not mistaken) and Finland, Poland’s refusal to allow transit of Soviet troops to help Czechoslovakia repel German annexation, high level British and French negotiations with Germany in the spring- summer of 1939 simultaneously with combined Anglo-French talks in Moscow.

    Secondly one has to consider what Stalin knew from his intelligence briefings. He knew that the Anglo-French mission has no powers even to agree a text of the mutual assistance treaty with the USSR from the intercepts of the correspondence of the British military attache in Moscow. He also knew from the same source (corraborated by reports from Swedish and US sources, GRU Paris resident’s reports were ignored as he got himself into Ezhov’s gunsights by that time) that the Brits were very close to sign a mutual assistance treaty with Hitler.

    There also is a reference to these negotiations in Volume 1 of Churchill’s “History of the Second Wortd War” (London, 1947, p.167), when Churchill thought it necessary to remind Atllee of Labour’s pre war blunders (it disappeared from the later editions though). Stalin also knew of Hitler’s instruction to commence planning for the invasion of the USSR given on the 28 June 1939 (Ian Kershaw in his “Hitler” makes a reference to that fact. Several books on Canaris also make the point that Canaris leaked this information to the Soviets via Switzerland). Whitehall was, of course, perfectly in tune with what OKV was up to and knew details of the attack on Poland atr least in May 1939 (again, according to Churchill). The Poles, having been a close ally of Germany since 1934 and having participated (rather ruthlessly by all accounts) in the division of Czechoslovakia a year previously started to re-align themselves with France and Britain only when their intelligence established the existence of a German plan to attack Poland sometime in the spring of 1939. Stalin knew that from diplomatic intercepts and also he was aware of the German plan to attack Poland. Judging by his copy of Mein Kampf (which is still stored in the Politbureau archives together with other books from his library) Stalin was acutely aware that expansion of liebensraum to the East was one of the main purposes of Hitler’s politics. Stalin also knew that Hitler always wanted an
    alliance with Britain. Such an alliance would have posed a great danger to the USSR at least in his mind.

    A somewhat rhetoric question thus is what were the real choices of the USSR in the summer of 1939? It would seem that these boiled down to either ignoring German proposals and waiting to see what would happen or attempt to beat France and Britain to the pole by signing the Pact and thus at least attempting to exclude a possibility of the wide Anglo-French-German anti Soviet coalition. The truth of the matter (as it looks to a de-ideologised observer) is that a number of principal Soviet competitors were trying to secure various deals with Germany, the, at least, side effect of which would have been a united pan European anti-Soviet political (and possibly military) coalition with Hitler as its spearhead. This may not have been how the picture looked like from Whitehall or from Champs Elysee, but the totality of circumstances of 1938 and first half of 1939 certainly allowed Stalin to come to this conclusion (particularly as we have to consider his various paranoyas and ideological spectacles which gave a certain colour to his worldview).

    Thus, at least to me the Pact is nothing other than a tool to achieve a certain tactical goal without changing the general vector of European politics of the period. If accessed from the point of view of the realpolitik of the period it seems to be a clever tactical move which prevented (from at least Stalin’s point of view as we might be able to ascertain it) Britain and France from reaching their accords with Germany. Given the fact that Hitler gave the order to attack on 22 August (irrespective of the results of Ribentrop’s mission to Moscow) the role of the Pact as the final encouragement for war is questionable at least.

    The main point of this rather brief posting that both the whitewashing of the Pact and its demoniusation are wrong approaches and the place of the Pact in the pre war history should not be judged either with the benefit of the hindsight or from the point of view of a higher moral grounds as every state which was actively involved in the pre-war European politics was sucking up to Hitler. By a twist of fate Stalin managed to outmanouver others at a crucial junction, which may or may not have given him some extra few months of peace. (Given what we know now about the time line of preparation of Barbarossa I doubt that the Pact influenced the timing of attack in any meaningful way – even the delay from the 15 May to 22 June was caused by the need to move troops from Crete and Yugoslavia). And that seems to be the real nature of the 60 year old grudge against the Kremlin which managed to beat the Brits at their own game, albeit to its own detriment.

  8. Relative to one of the mentioned points, Vilnius is now part of Lithuania on account of M-R.

    I recall an observation that the Red Army’s assualt into Poland didn’t include as much opposition to what the Nazis faced. As was stated, the reason for this having to do with the Soviet attack taking land where Poles were less numerous in numbers. Many of the non-Poles in Poland weren’t happy with that country’s government. This isn’t to said to overlook that many of them were either already apprehensive about the USSR or became so.

    Over the past week, has run a series of articles on M-R. Some of them are one-sided, with others taking a more complete view.

  9. Since Fedia is being more civil than his last post I will respond. The claim by Beria of 20,000 deserters is obviously an estimate and the document gives no explaination for its calculation. (Bugai, 1992, doc. 2, p. 131). The document is dated 22 April 1944 and is quite short. But, it does say that the 20,000 deserters were all from the 51st army so I think it is counting POWs, MIAs and other people that are not “deserters,” or “voluntary defectors.” Do you believe that all POWs were defectors who deserved execution? If that is the case your position is much more extreme than Stalin’s or Beria’s.

    Most of the self-defense battalions were formed to protect Crimean Tatar settlements from partisan attack. Did Crimean Tatars not have the right to protect their lives and property? I have seen no evidence that Crimean Tatar units participated in the Holocaust unlike some of the Russian Cossack units fighting with the Germans. The punishment for all Crimean Tatars including Communist Party members, Red Army heros, the disabled, and children was “eternal exile” as per the 26 November 1948 Presidium of the Supreme Soviet decree. Real collaboraters in the ROA got only 7 years as special settlers. How is this discrimination justified? Why were not all Russians deported to special settlements for all eternity?

    But, even assuming that it is true that 20,000 Crimean Tatars did desert that does not justify the deportation to special settlement restrictions of the entire population. The number of Crimean Tatars deported was by one count 180,014 people with an additional 11,000 mobilized for labor in construction battalions (6,000) and the labor army (5,000). (Bugai, doc. 13, pp. 138-139). Most of the deportees were women and children, not collaboraters. Indeed if we accept your high figure of 20,000 collaboraters that means 160,000 innocent people were sent to punitive exile in Uzbekistan and the Urals. How is this justified under any circumstances? Collective punishment is a crime under international law.

    As far as demographics the death rates I referred to do not cover all deported Crimean Tatars. But, only the ones sent to Uzbekistan, about 150,000. So the excess mortality rate is considerably higher than you imply. The fact that half of all deaths were children under 16 shows this. Very few of those children would have died had they not been deported. Available death statistics for Crimean Tatars sent to the Urals and Tula are very patchy. But, the Soviet government does have a record of the number of the combined number of Crimean Tatars, Crimean Greeks, Crimean Bulgarians and Crimean Armenians they recorded dying in special settlements. It is 44,887 people or 19.6% of the total population deported. (Bugai 1992, doc. 48, pp. 264-265). This figure is for the years 1944 to 1948 a period of four years for which recorded deaths outnumbered recorded births among the contingent. Note that three of these years are after the war ends. Zemskov gives a break down of these deaths (V.N. Zemskov, Spetsposelentsy v SSSR, 1930-1960 (Moscow: Nauk, 2003, table 36, pp. 194-196).

    1945- 15,997 deaths vs. 1,099 births
    1946- 4,997 deaths vs. 961 births
    1947- 2,937 deaths vs. 1,753 births
    1948 – 3,918 deaths vs. 1,753 births

    This is much higher as a percentage than the losses for the USSR as a whole during the war. According to recent demographic studies the total number of people to die in the USSR during the war (this includes those killed by Stalin) was 26,439,000 that is a total loss of between 11-13% of the total population, much lower than the 19.7% for Crimean deportees from 1944-1948. (See footnote 48, p. 160, Viktor Krieger, Rein, Volga, Irtysh: Iz istorii nemtsev tsentralnoi Azii (Almaty: Daik, 2006).

    It is also considerably lower than the recorded deaths of other nationalities deported in their entirety.
    For instance 17.4% of Kalmyks died in exile during 1944 to 1945 and 23.7% of deported North Caucasians perished. (Bugai, doc. 48, pp. 264-265). Again the mortality rates are much greater than for the USSR as a whole during the actual war.

    • Excerpt:

      “I have seen no evidence that Crimean Tatar units participated in the Holocaust unlike some of the Russian Cossack units fighting with the Germans.”


      FYI, The Nazis propagated the ieda of a “Cossackia” as something different from Russia. The Cold War era Captive Nations Committee recognized “Cossackia” as a “captive nation” unlike Russia.

      As previously noted, many of the folks affiliated with Krasnov’s WW II era Cosack movement went over to Vlasov’s army, which didn’t commit atrocities against civilians unlike the Galican SS, OUN/UPA and Ustasha.

  10. On the issue of genocide the case of total deportation of nationalities do fit article IIC of the 1948 Genocide Treaty. This is not just my opinion, but of other scholars such as Michael Rywkin, Eric Weitz and others. The Soviet government did know that the deportations would result in mass deaths. The Crimean Tatars were not the first mass deportations within the USSR. Mass deportations had began much earlier with the “Kulaks” in 1930-1931, the Koreans in 1937, the Karachais and Kalmyks in late 1943 and the Chechens, Ingush and Balkars in February and March 1944 had all led to massive deaths. The mass losses of the Crimean Tatars was an easily forseeable humanitarian disaster. I am not sure how one can argue that they should not have known that the deportations would result in massive mortality. There were no previous cases in the USSR where the deported groups did not die in droves from malnutrition and diseases related to poor material conditions.

    Just as in the Armenian genocide where the deportation documents have provisions for food, water and protection, the intent is in the deliberate deportations themselves. It is not necessary from a legal stand point to argue that they intended to kill the Crimean Tatars once they arrived in Uzbekistan and the Urals. It is only necessary to prove that based upon previous deportations that they should have known that large numbers of people would die and carried out the forced removals anyways. The fact that they knew about the mass mortality of previous deportations and deported the Crimean Tatars under the same conditions fulfils the legal definition of intent.

    Finally, the Crimean Tatars were not the only deported nation. The argument that collaboration justifies the deportation of the Crimean Tatars really falls apart with regards to the North Caucasians and Meskhetian Turks. In the case of the Karachais most of the adult male population were fighting in the Red Army against the Nazis at the time of the deportation on 2 November 1943. (Aleksandr Nekrich, The Punished Peoples, NY: Norton, 1978, p. 42). The number of Karachai, Chechen, Ingush and Balkars to collaborate with the Nazis was very small. The Germans never even reached the Chechen part of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR. Beria never even bothered to charge the Meskhetian Turks in Georgia with collaborating with the Nazis. So why was it necessary to deport these peoples? Why were the families of Karachais fighting in the Red Army deported to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan where many died of typhus? The unmarked mass graves are still visible in the cemetary of Sadovaya and other places. I fail to see any excuse for such crimes. The Stalin regime targeted whole nationalities on the basis of racialized criteria and subjected them to severe punishment. A punishment that they knew or should have known would result in massive deaths from material deprivation. I do not see how this differs in any substantial way from the Armenian Genocide. Could you please explain the differences to me.

  11. Oops the death rates for Kalmyks (17.4%) and North Caucasians (23.7%0 are for 1944 to 1948 not 1944 to 1945. That was an typographical error.

  12. Regarding the Bekyrova documents you are right that the first report on malaria is from July 1944. But, I find it difficult to believe that the Soviet government did not know before than that the potential problems of such epidemics. Malaria is common to Central Asia it was not in Crimea.

    The first shipments of medicine, however, are only reported on 26 September 1944. So there is a substantial delay between when the Soviet government knew about the epidemic and when it finally provided some medicine. I should have written that the central Soviet government knew about the epidemic in July, but did nothing about it until September despite contined reports from Uzbekistan. But, the basic point is the same despite knowing about the humanitarian disaster and it was not unexpected given the previous deportations, they did not respond promptly or sufficiently. Knowingly putting populations in material conditions that will result in their partial destruction is clearly genocide under article IIC of the 1948 Genocide Treaty.

  13. All right it looks like the Central government claims that anti-malarial medicines were actually sent in August, but as of late September they still had not arrived in Uzbekistan. Between 17 July and even 1 August, the minimum time given these reports, that medicine was ordered by the Central government seems like an awful long delay. It may not show an intent to kill, but it certainly shows a callous indifference to the lives of teh Crimean Tatars. It certainly contributed to the very high death rates among the Crimean Tatar special settlers.

    • I don’t know any detailed history about the deportations, but would like to make one point here – this period was not only in the midst of a total war, but of Operation Bagration that drove the Germans out of most of the western USSR. This would no doubt have been a higher immediate priority at the time.

      • Agree.



        On the Crimean Tatars, note the basis for the internment of Japanese North-Americans during the same time period. This was done as Japanese North-Americans heroically fought on the Allied side in Europe. Yes, the Japanese North-Americans were treated much better than the Crimean Tatars. This had to do with the better economic and humanitarian conditions in North America at the time. The USSR was under siege in a way that North America wasn’t. Soviet citizens at large didn’t have the kind of economic and humanitarian conditions evident in North America.


        Per capita wise: over the course of the past century and a half or so to the present, how have the mentioned non-Russian ethnic groups fared over the American Indian tribes?

        • The last question pertains to a per capita ratio increase/decrease ratio comparison.

          Re: “Real collaboraters in the ROA got only 7 years as special settlers. How is this discrimination justified? Why were not all Russians deported to special settlements for all eternity?”


          Appreciate a cite noting this, as well as the degree of how this stated act was carried out. The captured ROA leadership were executed.

          In the present, the OUN/UPA (which was involved in the kiling of civilians) gets better treatment in Ukraine when compared to the ROA in Russia.

          Recently, an extremist group in Ukraine petitioned to have the legacy of the Galician SS positively taught in public schools. The Crimean authorities quickly expressed stern disapproval to that idea.

  14. Nobody in the US syill defends the deportation of the Five Civilized Tribes under Andrew Jackson or the 1863 forced march of the Navajos. Also nobody defends the removal and internment of the Japanese Americans during WWII. Everybody thinks it was morally wrong. Many of us also think that the Native American deportations constituted genocide on the same basis as the Armenian Genocide and Stalin’s national deportations. In contrast lots of Russians defend the deportation of the Crimean Tatars to Uzbekistan and the Urals.

    • The question related to the American Indians has to do with what constitutes the greater “genocide?”

      This was followed up with clarity in the second link related to the first one listed below:

      As for the broad statement made of “many Russians,” why use terms like “nation” to refer to a 20th century Tatar state in Crimea?

      Why has the Western mass media coverage of Crimea suggested (as I’ve seen in a few instances) that thr Tatars are more indigenuous to that land than Slavs? Crimean territory was part of the Rus state before the Tatar Khanate established itself there, in a way that included a brutal slave trade against Slavs? BTW, in post-Soviet times, Tatars in Crimea aren’t completely guiltless in instigating provocative acts. Yet, there’s often a different spin.

      Yes, this thread is below a commentary on M-R. Seeing how the Tatars are being brought up with the Russians negatively portaryed, I add these comments.

      • As a follow-up to the idea of Russians not fessing up, here’s what was earlier posted at this thread:

        “The Soviet government officially lifted the charge of treason against the Crimean Tatars on 5 September 1967. You should consider following suit. Only Stalinists still defend this crime.”


        Has the post-Soviet Russian government issued a changed stance on this matter?

        As for the suggestion that there has been a complete break among American non-Indians with the treatment of the American Indians, I’ve run into folks suggesting that the latter had it coming to them. Some others going against that view say that holidays like Columbus Day and Thanksgiving contradict contradict the idea of acknowledging what happened to the American Indians.

  15. Big OOps, I read the Kriger footnote wrong. Obviously 26,439,000 is more than 11-13% of the 1941 Soviet population. What it should read is that the recent estimates, or at least those cited by Krieger,of actual losses range from a low of 11-13% to a high of 26,429,000 people. His alternate use of percentages and numbers confused me. But, even the higher figure is less than the estimated minimum 20% loss of the Crimean Tatars during 1944-1948, much of it during peace time. The Crimean Tatar activist figure is over 40%. The real number is probably somewhere in the 20%-25% range, but it could be slightly higher since it is difficult to measure these things. It should also be noted that much of the 26 million deaths consisted of Jews and Gypsies targeted for murder by the Nazis. The Nazi genocide skews the distribution of the deaths somewhat on an ethnic basis in addition to the geographic concentration in Ukraine and Belorus.

    This is going to be my last post here due to other time committments. I originally had no intention of having to go look up a bunch of numbers and documents. But, I suppose if I should start writing about Crimean Tatars again I know where to find the sources again. Ultimately it does not matter to me if there were 10,000 or 20,000 Crimean Tatars in German units. The deportation targeted all 190,000 Crimean Tatars. In my second book I used the 20,000 figure from Beria, because I could find nothing else quantifying the level of cooperation.

    As far as cite for the ROA sentences check out V.N. Zemskov. The sentence was actually six years, but many served seven.

    And yes I condemn the atrocities by the Galizen SS and UPA as well as those by the Ustasha.

    My basic point and I had no intention of getting bogged down in numbers and citations on a blog thread is that I believe collective punishment is wrong. I also believe that internal deportations that lead to mass death are indeed genocide, especially if the state in charge of the movement and subsequent care of the deportees neglects to provide sufficient housing, food, medical care and other goods in a timely manner. This is what happened with the Native Americans, the Armenians in WWI and the Crimean Tatars. I realize others disagree with this definition, but if mass deaths are a likely possibility of such relocations and they are undertaken anyways I believe it fits article IIC of the 1948 Genocide Treaty.

    Finally, looking over my posts I feel I should apologize for my imtemperate language in some of my comments. So I will leave the last comments up to other people.

    • The same can be said on my part as well.

      I do want to answer a comparative point on the “real collaborator” matter, regarding the ROA and its leader. They had ideals opposing Nazism as shown by how Himmler and Rosenberg weren’t keen on that army and for much of its existence kept it at bay. Vlasov made clear that he wanted a strong Russia, as opposed to a living space occupied territory. Like I said Vlasov army personnel weren’t involved in atrocities against civilians, while having fought the Nazis for the earlier mentioned reasons. This compares favorably to a number of others during WW II. BTW, some of the disbanded Kaminski brigade personnel who went over to Vlasov’s army were carefully screened before entering into the latter.

      The primary source wartime related historiography on Vlasov’s army is there and I’ll gladly reference it.

      The stated 6-7 year sentences of ROA personnel should note the executions of its leadership. I suspect that others in that army might’ve served longer terms, with others besides leadershp getting executed.

      One issue relating to “genocide” concerns the accuracy of what’s being claimed. Several hundred Muslim males at Srebrenica getting executed in a war involving earlier executions of Serbs in that area is different from the questionable claim of 7,000 or more Muslim males being summarily executed, without mention of Bosnian Muslim nationalist transgressions. There’re some cowardly goons (a fair characterization IMO) out there who duck earnest discussion on such matter, while lobbing cheap shots from a safe distance.

      • Re: Last Set of Comments

        “Several hundred Muslim males at Srebrenica getting executed in a war…”

        To read instead as: “Up to hundreds…”

        As a related aside, it was brought to my attention that the otherwise Euro establishment Carl Bildt recently made comments second guessing the pro-Bosnian Muslim nationalist casualty claim ranging from 7,000-10,000 summarily executed Muslim males at Srebrenica.

        I note that a couple of punks didn’t choose to call Bildt a “genocide denier” in their posted criticism of him.

        Much remains unclar about what did and didn’t happen at Srebrenica. Getting the specifics properly detailed isn’t helped by goons who seek to monopolize the discussion with sleazy diatribes which discourage an earnest approach at discussion.

        Many of those questioning the mentioned pro-Bosnian Muslim nationalist casualty figure were shown to be right in second guessing the earlier stated Bosnian Civil War figures of rapes in the tens of thousands and the war’s total fatality figure in the range of 200,000-350,000.

        At least 13 years ago, if not before, there was a good basis to put the Bosnian Civil War dead in a range of 75,000-125,000. In the last few years, this averaged range has been pretty much acknowledged all around. Yet, those who got it right from the get go, get slurred by some of those who got it wrong.

        • Up to hundreds…

          Mike, you wrote earlier, and I quote, “Overall, there’s no conclusive proof of 7000-8000 Muslim males being summarily executed at Srebrenica. Based on what’s known, it’s reasonable to put that figure in a 2000-4000 range” (bold mine).

          So which is it, “up to hundreds” or “in a 2000-4000 range”?

        • What has this got to do with the M-R?

          • Thanks AK.

            I brought it up in relation to the initiation of “genocide” at this thread.

            As for Srebrenica, the claim of 7,000-10,000 summarily executed Muslim males seems (IMO and that of others) dubious based on what’s known and not known.

            Rather than nit pick at me, a kudos should be given with a shot towards those who trumped up earlier figures now generally aceepted as off; while clinging to the mentioned 7,000-10,000.

            I was among those who got those other figures right

            • As for Srebrenica, the claim of 7,000-10,000 summarily executed Muslim males seems (IMO and that of others) dubious based on what’s known and not known.

              No need to repeat yourself, Mike, everybody knows you are a long-time Srebrenica denier. I’ve only asked you to clarify the degree of your denial: are you stll “in a 2000-4000 range” (soft denial), or already down to “up to hundreds” (hard-core denial)?

            • As for the troll’s comments that are placed directly below this post, he has once again failed in proving my contentions to be wrong.

            • Soory.

              My last set of comments should read as above.

              For whatever reason, a “Reply” feature wasn’t listed to the troll’s latest at this thread (perhaps for good reason).

            • … failed in proving my contentions to be wrong.

              Nobody is going to take your contentions seriously if you can’t even keep them straight. So again, which is it — “up to hundreds” or “in a 2000-4000 range”?

  16. For the record, I’m always civil. If I don’t seem civil, that’s just paranoia. 🙂

    For the issue of deserters, no one says it is an exact calculation. Most likely it is a ballpark estimate, as in “1) we drafted 20,000 Tatars; 2) practically all Tatars evaporated during the defeat of the 51st Army; => conclusion: practically all Tatars deserted”. Yes, there were POWs. But 7000 of them joined collaborator formations, indicating that they ended up POWs due to defection. Does it mean that all Tatars were defectors? No, but it means most of them were. It’s a simple estimate. 20,000 drafted into the Red Army cover practically all Tatar males of military age out of the total population of 200,000 (?). 20,000 joined various collaborator formations, of which 7000 were former POWs. Therefore, the other collaborators, assuming they were males of military age, were also likely former Red Army servicemen who did not become POWs. So Beria’s 20,000 estimate of deserters is only partially correct — of these 7000 were defectors, and the rest deserters. 20,000 should be treated as the upper limit, of course, possibly the real number of defectors+deserters was lower. But still one would reasonably expect it to be higher than 10,000.

    As for the number of collaborators, Otto has advanced quite a novel argument that Tatars were entitled to self-defense from the partisans. First of all, Soviet partisans were the legitimate authority in Soviet territory. If they attacked civilians, they targeted collaborators. Were Tatars entitled to self-defense against them? They did not need it if they were loyal citizens of their country. They needed to defend if they were collaborating with the occupier, in which case, no, they were not entitled to self-defense. But these are theoretical considerations which are not actually applicable to the real situation. The reality was such that these “self-defense” units were not actually defending their settlements, but instead were actively hunting for partisans as well as committing various grave crimes against non-Tatar population.

    In short, Otto’s point that 20,000 Tatars served in the Red Army while only 10,000 collaborated should be considered decisively refuted. In reality, up to 20,000 collaborated while few really served in the Red Army.

    Returning to demographics, even if the death toll for all deported Tatars was higher, it still does not remove the responsibility to calculate excess rather than total mortality. Note that the number I gave as an example assumed lower natural mortality that was likely in reality, so the calculation is incomplete. But citing percentages of total deaths to total deportees is simply erroneous. Compounding that error by comparing total Tatar and other deportee mortality with excess Soviet mortality during the war (and the well-known 26.6 million figure is excess mortality, total mortality was 38.5 million) is simply unacceptable. This is not to dispute that Tatar mortality was higher than the national average, but to help Otto achieve a higher professional level, since he, as it turns out, actually writes books on the topic (*gasp*).

    Now, Otto’s second line of defense is that regardless of the actual level of collaboration with the enemy, it is a crime, allegedly under international law, to make an entire nation (Soviet term) pay. One has to wonder why any numbers needed to be quoted, twisted, and manipulated if this was supposed to be the claim all along. Be it as it may, the obvious response is that no, in 1944 this was not a crime under international law. Especially considering that collaboration was more of a justification, and the real reason for all post-war deportations was moving ethnicities who had proven their disloyalty from sensitive border areas. Various degrees of security related ethnic cleansings were quite common not only in USSR, but throughout the world, and many European imperialist states have engaged in them. These were qualitatively different from some real genocides that have been perpetrated e.g. by Nazi Germany and the US (against certain Indian tribes). International laws on this topic came into force due to the horror caused by the German genocides, and now it is obviously a crime. In 1944 it was not a crime under any kind of international law, even if it was morally dubious. Generating shrill, even if faked, moral indignation on the topic can only leave one puzzled simply because much of human history can be condemned in the same vein, starting with some hypothetical Tribe of the Leaping Kangaroo using their stone axes to drive out a competing Tribe of the Defecating Rabbit in order to get their women and caves.

    The support for the interpretation of these deportations as “genocide” through the opinions of two American scholars (one of whom is not even a Soviet or Russian history expert) is simply laughable. In a normal debate, facts matter, not opinions. Opinions of a third-party researcher matter only when a) it is his area of expertise; and b) the opinion goes against his self-interest. For example, if a Soviet historian wrote that it was genocide, or an American historian wrote that it was not, these opinions could be taken under consideration. If an American historian writes something to demonize a Cold War adversary, the opinion can be safely disregarded as standard propaganda. In such cases, once must fall back on facts. And the fact of the matter is, as we have already discussed, no intent — no genocide. And I’m very sorry, but I cannot join the debate on the Armenian genocide simply because I don’t know enough facts on the topic. But anyone who does have a good grasp of facts can apply the simple formula of “mass mortality + ethnic/cultural targeting + intent = genocide” and notify me as to whether it was or was not a genocide. I would tend to consider any accusations without listing the requirements and demonstrating facts that fit the requirements an exercise in cheap propaganda.

    Another important point is that Tatars, to continue using them as an example, are a group of real people, and not amorphous humanoids represented it by a number in a computer strategy game. One simply cannot claim that if 20,000 were collaborators, the other 160,000 were completely innocent. They are not units, they are members of their society. And 20,000 is not a representative and random sample, but only able-bodied adult males. What about their social support network, their families, relatives, and friends? They did not provide moral and other types of support when these 20,000 were actively collaborating with the enemy? The scale of direct collaboration makes it apparent that the vast majority of Tatars were sympathetic to the enemy cause, even if most did not directly assist. This distinction makes the attempted comparison with Vlasovites and ROA utterly spurious, because Vlasovites were renegades to their own nation, while Tatar collaborators were the mainstream. Plus, the comparison is incomplete without providing comparable figures on the mortality among Vlasovite deportees.

    The obvious objection to the above point is that even if Tatars as a whole were mostly sympathetic to the enemy cause, the punishment obviously did not fit the crime. And it is true. But here Otto commits a common logical fallacy in assuming that observed outcome was the intended outcome. In the USSR, it was certainly not the case. As Chernomyrdin put it, “хотели как лучше, а получилось как всегда.” The intention was to move Tatars and other nationalities with as little loss of life as possible, and resettle them in areas where they wouldn’t be as dangerous with as few problems as possible. This is evident from the planning documents for the deportations, which provided for adequate comfort and medical care at least during transportation, adequate housing and food supplies at the destination. If things really worked out that way, then the punishment would not have been nearly as severe, even if it’s still unacceptable by modern standards. But, as usual, execution was screwed up. This makes it extremely unfortunate, but has not qualitative effect on the nature of the act of deportation itself. It was not meant to be a genocide, and it did not become a genocide. The argument that historical experience should’ve taught the Soviet gov’t to expect high mortality is invalid simply because, once again, as documents show, adequate provisions were planned, and once can only assume that planning took previous experience into account as well.

    Using the malaria epidemic in Uzbekistan as a counterargument is invalid without proving that the central gov’t knew of it. It is very easy to sit in 2009 in a comfy chair with all the knowledge of what really transpired and argue that of course, people from Crimea would catch malaria in Uzbekistan. I, for one, am very doubtful that it could’ve been foreseen so easily. Especially since there was no epidemic of malaria, only its potential existence. There are no reports of people from other parts of the country going to UzSSR and immediately catching malaria. Why would one lacking 20/20 hindsight would be able to see it in 1944 remains a mystery. Considering that the first report of malaria was on July 17, dispatching anti-malarial supplies in August demonstrates a rather quick reaction. One must remember that in 1944 USSR was still engaged in a total war, part of its territory was still under enemy occupation, and the civilian economy was still in ruins. It’s not only that there is no evidence of the “intent to kill”, but the accusation of “callous indifference” is equally unfounded, at least when it comes to the malaria epidemic and efforts to combat it.

    Finally, the claim that nobody in the US defends the genocide of Indians is simply false. The US government certainly disapproves of it. The Russian gov’t disapproves of the Stalin era deportations. What individuals think is their own problem. And in both US and Russia there are plenty of people who will defend the actions of their gov’ts regardless of what they do. In general, I find this comparison problematic because Indian genocide is qualitatively different — in many cases there was intent to kill. A more valid comparison would be with the internment of ethnic Japanese during the war, which was not a genocide, and was contemporary.

  17. I am going to make this brief. Because it is obvious that you think that the deportation of loyal communists, women, children and the elderly to places where large numbers of them died is justified.

    The partisan units did delberately attack and kill Crimean Tatar civilians. This is quite well discussed in the literature. (see the works for instance of Brian Williams and Greta Uehling) So it is not strange they would form defense units. Also for those recruited out of POW camps the alterenative option was often starvation (See Williams as well).

    Second, the charge of genocide is not only made by Americans. But by the RSFSR government itself on 26 April 1991 it called the deportations genocide. So there is a Soviet legal basis for the claim. As far as I know this declaration has never been repealed.

    Third, the footonote I cited for the 26.5 million deaths identified it as total not excess deaths. So I was comparing total estimated deaths in both cases. But, if you want a number of excess deaths for Crimean Tatars, the demographer D.M Ediev puts it at 34,300 or 18.01% of the total population. Note that the difference between excess deaths for Crimean Tatars and total Crimean deaths is less than 2%. So the numbers were quite close and this is still higher than Soviet excess deaths.

    Third it is obvious from the Bekyrova documents I cited earlier that the Soviet government did not actually provide adequate food, housing and medicine for the deportees before their arrival. It is also clear that the Uzbek authorities had no spare anti-malarial medicine and a shortage of housing. By late September medicine had still not arrived. It is also clear from the Uzbek side that they note that summer in Uzbekistan is regularly a malarial season. By fall a fifth still did not have adequate shelter. I think the Soviet government had a moral obligation to provide for the deportees and the failure is largely a result of putting a very low priority on their lives. They just did not care if large numbers of them died.

    Fourth, the Soviet government throughout all of its mass deportations starting with the kulaks never provided adequate provisions. See the works of Lynne Viola specifically regarding the kulaks. See the White Book for the Koreans. See Nekrich, Bugai, Alieva, Berdinskikh and others for the rest. There is no evidence that they took into account the failures to provide adequate provisions in any of the deportations. Each and every deportation ended up with massive mortality due to malnutrtion and disease spread by lack of adequate housing and medicine. If the Soviet government actually had any intention of making sure that their were adequate provisions, how is it that every single one of these relocations ended up mass numbers of people?

    Finally, on the issue of collaboration this argument really falls apart when one moves to the Caucasus. The Meskhetian Turks never collaborated with the Germans. Most Karachai young men were in the Red Army fighting at the time of the deportations.

  18. For Mike here is the citation on six year sentences for most ROA men to pass through PFL Camps. It comes from V.N. Zemskov, “Spetsposelentsy (po dokumentatsii NKVD-MVD SSSR), Sotsiologicheski issledovaniia, no. 11, 1990. It is foot note 22 on page. 17.

    22. В 1946-1947 гг. на спецпоселение поступило 148 079 «власовцев» (до этого они содержались в
    проверочно-фильтрационных лагерях НКВД). Этим лицам было объявлено, что они заслуживают
    самого сурового наказания, но в связи с победой над Германией Советское правительство проявило
    к ним снисхождение, освободив от уголовной ответственности за измену Родине, и ограничилось
    отправкой на спецпоселение сроком на 6 лет. Помимо служивших (как правило, рядовыми) в
    армиях фашистской Германии и ее союзников, изменнических воинских формированиях, полиции,
    органах оккупационной администрации и т. д., в контингент «власовцы» была включена часть
    побывавших в фашистском плену советских офицеров, которым за сам факт попадания живыми в
    плен было установлено наказание в виде спецпоселения. Большинство литовцев, латышей и
    эстонцев, служивших по мобилизации в немецкой армии в качестве рядовых и младшего
    командного состава, а также молдаван, служивших в румынской армии Антонеску, было осво-
    бождено от отправки на спецпоселение и до конца 1945 г. отпущено по домам. В 1951-1952 гг. было
    освобождено 93 446 спецпоселенцев контингента «власовцы» по отбытии 6-летнего срока

  19. For Mike, I meant “actual collaborator” as in one who put on a German issued uniform. But, the citation on the six year sentences can be found at fn. 22, p. 17 of V.N. Zemskov, “Spetsposelentsy (po dokumentatsii NKVD-MVD SSSR), Sotsiologicheskie issledovania, no. 11, 1990.

    As regards to almost no Crimean Tatars serving in the Red Army this is obviously not true. The Soviet recount of special settlers in March 1949 showed 8,995 Crimean Tatars that had served in the Red Army including 524 officers and 1,392 sergants. (See V.N. Zemskov 2003, table 29, p. 176). This is considerably more than none. Some of these men had fought in the Red Army until the conclusion of the war. One Soviet document specifically notes that among the 2,012 Crimean Tatars returning illegally to Crimea in 1947 and 1948 were those demobilized from the Red Army. (Bugai 1992, doc. 20, pp. 165-169). So the claim that no Crimean Tatars fought in the Red Army is obviously not true.

    So why was it necessary to send these men to special settlments in Uzbekistan? What about the 742 Crimean Tatar Communist Party and 1,225 Komsomol members counted in March 1949? (Zemskov 1990, pp. 15-16)? Why did a state that held up national equality punish loyal communists solely on the basis of their nationality?

  20. Thanks for the follow-up J. Otto, while also noting how what’s on paper isn’t always practiced.

    I understand Fedia’s point on how “Vlasovites” were seen as a minority of Russians versus the perception of Crimeran Tatars.

    That said, let me also say that the majority isn’t always so virtuous.

    Many Germans were supporters (or reserved supporters) of Hitler serves as a reference.

    This is said be someone who is a Germanophile.

  21. Dear Otto,

    Please pay more attention to what you’re reading. I’ll reply to your latest missive later, for now I would just like to point out that you are twisting my words when you claim that I believe Tatar deportation was justified. I do believe that there their collaboration was a justification for it (i.e. it is not as morally wrong to deport a massively collaborating nation as it is to deport a completely innocent nation), and that it was nothing unusual for the times, but I do not believe that overall it was justified by modern standards and I have clearly stated so. How you managed to miss it remains a mystery. Please be more careful in the future.

    Now, to tie up some loose end left over previously, you claimed that “total deportation of nationalities do fit article IIC of the 1948 Genocide Treaty”. I don’t know how you were expecting to get away with such claims considering the easy availability of such documents online. Article 2c states: “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;”. Article 2 itself begins with “genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”. Please note the two highlighted words.

    I do have to note that you have retreated from your previous claim of intent present in Tatar mortality, and have swapped it for claims of “callous indifference”. So it appears your attempt to apply the 1948 genocide convention to this topic has failed. The origin of the present discussion was your misguided comparison of German atrocities with Soviet deportations. The basic problem is that these acts were qualitatively incomparable because German actions do fall under the definition of genocide, and would more closely compare with American actions against Indians. Soviet actions do not fall under this definition. So I believe the foundation of your objections to Anatoly’s post basically crumbles on this point.

  22. Well I am glad you finally have clarified that you do not think the deportation of all the Crimean Tatars was morally justified. If you mentioned it earlier I did not see it. But, the collective racialized punishment of the deportations and special settlement regime do not seem to me to be mild or humanitarian. In terms of real human suffering they certainly do compare with things like the US removal of Native Americans.

    Most of the deportees were women and children not those who had been in self-defense battalions. Many of them were not related at all to those in self-defense units, but related to loyal communists. Compare for instance the deportations in the Baltic states and Ukraine where active guerillas and their immediate families were deported, but not the whole population.

    This will probably be my last post on the subject. Because we are not going to agree in our interpretations. Rearding article IIc of the genocide treaty. I believe because the deportations were intentional in a legal sense in that they should have known the results on the basis of past experience. You are looking for specific intent like in Mein Kampf and if that is the standard than only the Holocaust and maybe Rwanda can be counted as genocide.

    • Re: American Indians relative to the mentioned non-Russian former Soviets

      I’m still curious to see a per capita wise comparison in population of the two, with others in the same respective nation, from 150 years ago to the present.

      This inquiry pertains to what can be considered the greater genocide as defined by some.

  23. On the question of genocide and the definition thereof – some might find this interview with Raul Hilberg (author of “The Destruction of the European Jews”) worth reading:

  24. This article by Alexander Statiev has the best account of partisan attacks on Crimean Tatar civilians that led to the creation of self-defense battalions.

    Alexander Statiev, “The Nature of Anti-Soviet Armed Resistance: The North Caucasus, the Kalmyk Republic, and Crimea,” Kritika, Vol. 6 no. 2 Spring 2005.

    You can download it as a pdf from the url below.

    On page 310 Statiev notes,

    “Self-defense units offered no resistance to the Soviet administration
    during the month between the liberation of Crimea and the deportation,
    which shows that the actions against partisans were caused not so much by
    hatred of the Soviet regime as by the need to beat off those who doomed
    Tatar peasants to starvation. Many Tatars volunteered to join the Red Army
    in 1944; and according to Beria, 40,000 of them enlisted by 25 April 1944.106
    If his figure is correct, this is a very high proportion of the Tatar population,
    which numbered 218,879 in 1939.107”

  25. Alexander Statiev has the what I think is the best article on the situation in Crimea before the deportations. The article can be downloaded on Google Scholar as a PDF.

    Alexander Statiev, “The Nature of Anti-Soviet Armed Resistance, 1942-1944: The North Caucasus, the Kalmyk Autonomous Republic, and Crimea,” Kritika, vol. 6, No. 2, Spring 2005.

    He agrees with me that the Crimean Tatars largely entered self-defense battalions due to Partisan attacks against them. He disagrees with Fedia’s claim that the Crimean Tatar population was generally inclined to be anti-Soviet. It is probably best to quote him directly,

    “The conflict between this ethnic group and the Soviet authorities started as a defensive reaction of the rural population to partisan violence provoked by the collaboration of a few Tatars. Self-defense units offered no resistance to the Soviet administration during the month between the liberation and the deportation, which shows that the actions against partisans were caused not so much by hatred of the Soviet regime as

  26. Damn, did not get to finish the quotation.

    Here is the full Statiev quotation again. He notes that the Crimean Tatars were not anti-Soviet, but joined the self-defense units to defend themselves from partisan attack. This is the standard historiography given in the works of Brian Williams and Greta Uehling as well.

    “The Crimean Tatars had no history of violent confrontation with the Soviet state, and no anti-Soviet resistance emerged after the Red Army overran it in 1944. The conflict between this ethnic group and the Soviet authorities started as a defensive reaction of the rural population to partisan violence provoked by the collaboration of a few Tatars. Self-defense units offered no resistance to the Soviet administration during the month between the liberation and the deportation which shows that the actions against partisans were caused no so much by hatred of the Soviet regime as by the need to beat off those who doomed Tatar peasants to starvation. Many Tatars volunteered to join the Red Army in 1944; and according to Beria, 40,000 of them enlisted by 25 April 1944. (106) If his figure is correct, this is a very high proportion of the Tatar population, which numbered 218,879 in 1939. (107) It is twice the total number of collaboraters enlisted in Crimea during the German occupation, including Slavs. Bulatov, who in fact shared responsibility for the failure to enlist Tatars in the partisan units, nevertheless concluded ‘the claim that the Crimean Tatars are enemies of Soviet authority is a slander against the Tatar people and an invention of politically ignorant persons who could not analyze the situation and seek to acquit themselves of their mistakes.’ (108)This admission did not help the Tatars. They fell victim to intriques of Crimean partisan organizations who, seeking to avoid punishment for their failure to organize guerilla warfare in ideal conditions, blamed the Tatars for all the disasters suffered by the partisans.” (109).

    Statiev, pp. 309-310.

  27. Da Russophile:

    “But the exact same applies to the Western Powers, which according to the evidence brought forth in the timeline above a) wanted to tie up Germany and the USSR in a war, regarding the latter as the greater threat to Western civilization”

    It is a pity that you didn’t expand this theme a little with the behavior of the western powers during the Spanish civil war (should be a point in the time-line methinks) where the Russians provided the significant mainstay of the anti-Franco forces, the French willing to do so but only with the support of other nations (Britain refusing). I have little doubt that this cast a significant impression on Stalin as to whom he could and could not trust from the West that would have counted in his(!) calculations with regards to the M-R Pact.

    Good stuff,


  28. As noted in in some linked commentary at this thread, the discussion on M-R will be evident with Putin and other world figures meeting in Poland this Sept. 1:

  29. For anyone (still) interested, Putin wrote a “letter to the Poles” in the Polish Gazeta Wyborcza, which actually makes many of the same points made in this post, which you can find at the RF government site:

    We are already seventy years away from the tragedy that occurred on one dark day in the history of civilization – 1 September 1939 – the outbreak of the most disastrous and slaughterous war that Europe and the entire humanity have ever lived through.

    Invited by Donald Tusk, Polish Prime Minister, to take part in the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Second World War, I did not hesitate to accept the invitation, I could not do otherwise: because the war took a heavy toll of 27 million lives of my compatriots, and every Russian family keeps both the sorrow of loss and the honor of the Great Victory, while each successive generation takes over the pride in their fathers and grandfathers fighting in the battlefield; because Russia and Poland were allies in that righteous battle. And we – people living today – ought to be moral enough to bow our heads to the fallen and praise the courage and firmness of the people from various countries who fought and eventually smashed the Nazi.

    The twentieth century inflicted deep, non-healing wounds – revolutions, coups, two World Wars, the Nazi occupation of the bulk of Europe and the Holocaust tragedy, as well as the ideological divide in the continent. However, the European memory retains also the victorious May of 1945, the Helsinki Act, the demolition of the Berlin Wall, the tremendous democratic changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe at the turn of the 1990s.
    All of the above are the elements of our intrinsic common history. No judge can give a totally unbiased verdict on what was in the past. And no country can boast of having avoided tragedies, dramatic turning points or state decisions having nothing to do with high morals. If we are eager to have peaceful and happy future, we must draw lessons from history. However, exploiting memory, anatomizing history and seeking pretexts for mutual complaints and resentment causes a lot of harm and proves lack of responsibility.

    Half-truth is always a deceit. The past tragedies – not fully comprehended or interpreted in a double-minded or hypocritical manner – inevitably lead to new historic and political phobias, which result in collisions between States and peoples and affect the public consciousness distorting it for the benefit of unfair politicians.

    The canvas of history is not a third-rate copy which can be roughly retouched or, following customer’s orders, modified by the addition of bright of dark tints. Unfortunately, such attempts to rehash the past are quite common today. We witness the efforts to tailor history to the immediate political needs. Some countries went even further, making the Nazi accomplices heroes, placing victims on a par with executioners and liberators – with occupants.

    Individual episodes are taken out of the general historical background, political and economic context or military and strategic considerations. The situation in Europe prior to the Second World War is considered fragmentarily, regardless of the cause-and-effect relationship. It is indicative that history is often slanted by those who actually apply double standards in modern politics.

    One cannot help but wonder to what extend such myths-makers differ from the authors of the memorable “Brief Course of Russian History” published in the Stalin period, where all names or events uncomfortable to the “leader of all nations” would be erased and stereotyped and completely ideology-based versions of reality would be imposed.

    Thus, today we are expected to admit without any hesitation that the only “trigger” of the Second World War was the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact of 23 August 1939. However, those who advocate such a position neglect simple things – did not the Treaty of Versailles which drew the bottom line of the First World War leave a lot of “time bombs”, the main of which was not only the registered defeat of Germany but also its humiliation. Did not the borders in Europe begin to crumble much earlier than 1 September 1939? What about the Anschluss of Austria and Czechoslovakia being torn to pieces, when not only Germany, but also Hungary and Poland in fact took part in the territorial repartition of Europe. On the very day when the Munich Agreement was concluded, Poland send its ultimatum to Czechoslovakia and its army invaded Cieszyn and Freistadt regions concurrently with the German troops.

    And is it possible to turn a blind eye to the backstage attempts of Western democracies to “buy off” Hitler and redirect his aggression “eastwards” and to the systematic and generally tolerated removal of security safeguards and arms restrictious system in Europe?

    Finally, what was the military and political echo of the collusion that took place in Munich on 29 September 1938? Maybe it was then when Hitler finally decided that “everything was allowed”. That neither France nor England would “lift a finger” to protect their allies. “The strange war” on the Western front and the tragic fate of Poland left without help demonstrated, regrettably, that his hopes were met.

    There is no doubt that one can have all the reasons to condemn the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact concluded in August of 1939. But a year before, in Munich, France and England signed a well-known treaty with Hitler and thus destroyed all the hope for a united front to fight fascism.

    Today, we understand that any kind of collusion with the Nazi regime was morally unacceptable and had no prospects of practical implementation. However, in the context of the historical events of that time, the Soviet Union not only remained face to face with Germany (since the Western States had rejected the proposed system of collective security) but also faced the threat of waging war on two fronts, because precisely in August of 1939 the flame of the conflict with Japan on the Halkin-Gol river reached its highest.

    The Soviet diplomacy was quite right at that time to consider it, at least, unwise to reject Germany’s proposal to sign the Non-Aggression Pact when USSR’s potential allies in the West had already made similar agreements with the German Reich and did not want to cooperate with the Soviet Union, as well as to be confronted with the Nazi allmighty military machine alone.

    I believe that it is the Munich Agreement that led to disunity among the natural allies in the fight against the Nazis and made them distrust and suspect each other. While looking back at the past, it is necessary for all of us, both in Western and Eastern Europe, to remember what tragedies can result from cowardice, behind-the-scenes and armchair politics, as well as from seeking to ensure security and national interests at the expense of others. There cannot be reasonable and responsible politics without a moral and legal framework.

    In my view, the moral aspect of policies pursued is particularly important. In this regard, I would like to remind you that our country’s parliament unambiguously assessed the immorality of the Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact. This has not been the case so far in some other States, though they also made very controversial decisions in the 1930s.

    And there is another lesson to be drawn from history. All experience of the prewar period – from the Versailles Peace Conference to the beginning of the Second World War – provides strong evidence that it is impossible to set up an efficient system of collective security without involvement of all countries of the continent, including Russia.

    I am sure that Europe is able to give a joint impartial assessment of our common tragic past and to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Therefore, we cannot but be encouraged by the fact that the international history conference held in Warsaw in May with the participation of many Russian, Polish and German historians provided a lot of balanced and unbiased assessments of the causes of the Second World War.

    For the peoples of the Soviet Union, Poland and other countries it was a war waged for survival, for the right to have one’s own culture, language and future itself. We remember all those who fought together with the Soviet people. We remember the Poles who were the first to oppose the aggressor, defended courageously Warsaw and fortifications at Westerplatte in September of 1939 and after that fought in the ranks of the Anders Army, the Polish Army, squads of the Army Kraiova and the People’s Army. We remember the Americans, British, French, Canadians and other fighters of the second front who were liberating Western Europe. We remember the Germans who did not fear repression and offered resistance to Hitler’s regime.

    Establishment of the Anti-Hitler Coalition is, without exaggeration, a turning point in the history of the 20th century, one of the most important and determining events of the previous century. The world saw that countries and peoples, despite all their differences, diverse national aspirations, tactical discords were able to stand united for the sake of the future, for the sake of countering the global evil. And today, when we are united by the common values, we simply must take advantage of this experience of partnership to counter efficiently common challenges and threats, to widen the global space of cooperation, to get rid of such anachronisms as the dividing lines – whatever their nature may be.

    It is obvious that the recurrent heritage of confrontation of the Cold War era and narrow bloc-based approaches to the key problems of our times do not in any way fit in such a logic. A truly democratic multipolar world requires strengthened humanistic principles in international relations and implies rejection of xenophobia and attempts to be above the law.

    But, at the same time, we may say that Europe and the world as a whole are moving towards a greater security for all, towards understanding of all the importance of working together, towards cooperation, and not to more discords.

    The historic post-war reconciliation of France and Germany opened the way to the establishment of the European Union. At the same time, the wisdom and generosity of Russian and German peoples, as well as the foresight of statesmen of the two countries, made it possible to take a determining step towards building the Big Europe. The partnership of Russia and Germany has become an example of moving towards each other and of aspiration for the future with care for the memory of the past. And today, the Russian-German cooperation plays a major positive role in international and European politics. I am sure that Russian-Polish relations will, sooner or later, come to such high level, to the level of genuine partners. It is in the interests of our peoples and of the whole European continent.

    We are deeply grateful that Poland, the land where more than 600 thousand soldiers of the Red Army lie, those who gave their lives for its liberation, shows care and respect to our military burial places. Believe me, these words are not simply for the record, they are sincere and heartfelt.

    The people of Russia, whose destiny was crippled by the totalitarian regime, fully understand the sensitiveness of Poles about Katyn where thousands of Polish servicemen lie. Together we must keep alive the memory of the victims of this crime.
    Katyn and Mednoye memorials, just as the tragic fate of the Russian soldiers taken prisoners in Poland during the 1920 war, should become symbols of common grief and mutual pardon.
    Shadows of the past can no more cloud this and, all the more, the next day of cooperation between Poland and Russia. Our obligation to the past and gone, to the very history, is to do everything in order to make the Polish-Russian relations free from the burden of mistrust and prepossession, which we have inherited. To turn over the page and start writing a new one.

    Today, recalling the first day of the World War II, we are thinking about its last day – the Victory Day. We have been together during this battle for the future of mankind. It depends only on us that all the best and kind that links the peoples of Poland and Russia could be strengthened by new actions and multiplied in the new 21st century that has already come.

    It is important that such logic, a constructive one, is beginning to emerge in the Polish-Russian relations. After the unreasonably long pause, the key mechanisms of bilateral dialogue resumed their work both at the state and public levels. The bilateral contacts are developing, cultural, educational and other humanitarian exchanges are increasing.

    2008 was successful for the trade and economic ties between our countries – the mutual trade increased by more than one and half times. Under current complicated conditions of the global crisis we intend to exert every effort in order to overcome the influence of the unfavorable world business environment and start new promising projects. Those could embrace energy, transport, investments in industry, agriculture and infrastructure. To put it plainly, the promising perspectives for the partner work, for building relationships worthy of the two great European nations are opening before Poland and Russia.

    In conclusion, I would like to extend the warmest wishes to all Polish people and, first of all, to the veterans of the Second World War of peace, happiness and prosperity.

    • Here is the link to the original article at Gazeta Wyborcza.

      The poll on “Jak oceniasz artykuł Putina?” (how would you rate the Putin article?) is interesting. About half the Polish voters thought it was balanced and conciliatory, around a third thought it mixed and difficult to assess, whereas 15% thought it repeated the “same arguments, propaganda, lies”. This again suggests that most Russophobia in the east-central European nations is concentrated amongst the elites rather than the silent majority.

  30. 1. From our inveterate Luke Harding, Fury as Russia presents ‘evidence’ Poland sided with Nazis before war:

    Russia today released secret documents from the archives of its foreign intelligence service that it said showed how Poland sided with the Nazis before the second world war and tried to destroy the Soviet Union.

    Russia published 400 pages of documents gathered by undercover Soviet agents between 1935 and 1945, including telegrams, letters and reports intercepted from Polish missions abroad. Their release coincided with the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of war.

    The declassified files from Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service allegedly show that Poland was plotting against the Soviet Union in the years preceding the war, which began when Hitler invaded western Poland on 1 September 1939.

    Seventeen days later, the Soviet Union invaded eastern Poland. But according to the SVR, Poland was not simply a victim of Soviet aggression, but had been actively pursuing an anti-Soviet foreign policy from the mid-1930s. This included supporting anti-Soviet national groups in Ukraine, the Caucasus and central Asia.

    Lev Sotskov, a retired KGB major general who compiled the documents, said there was evidence Poland signed a secret protocol with Germany in 1934. Citing a report written by an unidentified Soviet agent, he said Poland had agreed to remain neutral if Germany attacked the Soviet Union.

    His claims provoked uproar at a press conference in Moscow, with Polish journalists jumping to their feet and denouncing the document as a fake. There were also heated exchanges over the role played by Jozef Beck, Poland’s foreign minister in 1939, amid unsubstantiated claims he was a German agent.

    The “protocol” goes much further than the 1934 non-aggression pact between Poland and Nazi Germany…

    The documents show that a group of Polish spies based in Paris took part in a secret operation called Prometheism to incite an uprising in Ukraine, Georgia and other Soviet territories. “We know all about that. It’s already written about,” Wolos said.

    Other documents declassified include a letter from Hermann Göring following a visit to Warsaw in 1937. Göring passed on an assurance from Hitler that Germany wouldn’t attack Poland, warning that the real danger to Poland came from Moscow – “not just from Bolshevism but from Russia”.

    2. In his latest email letter, Mike Averko makes a valid point that if Poland expects Russia to continue incessantly apologizing for Katyn, then it should first reciprocate by recognizing its appalling treatment of Red Army POWs in the Soviet-Polish War of 1919-21.

    Last night, the Russian TV (channel 1) showed a smashing documentary “Could Stalin have stopped Hitler?” – made up entirely of foreign documents. The preface was that this film in NO WAY is pro-Stalin, it is with the understanding that he committed grave crimes against the people of the USSR, BUT the film will show that England, France and Poland refused several times to form an anti-Hitler pact (that Stalin proposed) and stop Hitler. They also showed secret Polish documents saying that Poland approved of Hitler’s policies, and wanted a Polish-French-German pact against Russia…. this is too long to retell the story here, but it certainly was sensational in exposing what the western powers and Poland were planning, and it was all against Russia. Then came the surprise, when Hitler turned on all of them…

    This documentary film was publicly protested by Poland, and it is obvious why… Putin also mentioned that in addition to Katyn – which is acknowledged as an NKVD crime, Poland should acknowledge what it did to about 70 thousand Soviet soldiers in the war of 1920 – they literally starved them to death in the most horrendous conditions. This is many times more than those shot at Katyn – which was also the place of mass murder of non-Poles by the NKVD.

  31. Just a quick postscript (I’ve been away a few weeks). A Romanian friend told me agreed 100% with Vladimir Putin’s address, and he is very far from being a Russophile.

    I think that there is more of a cohesive Central/ East European cultural identity than many in the west appreciate. As consumerism collapses in the crisis, I think that this may intensify. Especially as Russia seems to be inching towards liberalism. There is in Orthodox nations a deep fear of Freemasonry, global projects and the NWO which means that America’s influence has always been a bit shaky in the region.

    My Romanian friend also thinks it would be ridiculous to let NATO expand into Georgia and Ukraine.

  32. A Cool-Headed Look at 1939 by Anatol Lieven.

    In the Polish-Russian dispute over what happened in 1939, rival myth-making is being driven by domestic political calculations on both sides. Polish right-wing politicians including the present president have used the memory of 1939 and the alleged continuity of Soviet and Russian policy to whip up nationalist feelings and bolster their support. In Russia, the Putin-Medvedev administration also has mobilized Russian nationalism and has avoided condemnation of many Soviet crimes, since it itself is largely based on institutions inherited from the Soviet Union, including the security services.

    Viewed from one angle, the Polish side is more to blame for this unnecessary dispute. Russian governments have long since apologized both for the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the Katyn massacre. As for the idea of moral equivalence between the history of Nazi Germany and of the Soviet Union as a whole, that should have been laid to rest by the way in which the Soviet Union withdrew peacefully from Eastern Europe after 1989, and then imploded itself — remarkably peacefully for such a huge state. This is not something that one can imagine Nazi Germany doing.

    Furthermore, it does need to be acknowledged that while Soviet victory in World War II imposed a dreadful Communist system on Poland, it also saved Poland from what would have been its infinitely more ghastly fate under Nazi rule — which we know from Hitler’s plans for the systematic destruction of the Poles as a national community

    In the case of a Soviet-German war in 1939, an additional factor would have been at play, which was the openly expressed desire of some conservative circles in both Britain and France for a war between Nazism and Communism that would destroy both.

    So from the point of view of strategic calculation, Stalin’s actions in turning the tables on Britain and France were quite understandable, and would have been followed by most countries in the same circumstances. The same goes for the moves to increase Moscow’s strategic depth by the military occupation of eastern Poland and the Baltic States.

    Poles and others should drop the suggestion that the Soviet Union was the moral equivalent of Nazi Germany, and that contemporary Russia should acknowledge this. It is appallingly offensive to all Russians, and especially the vast number whose own families suffered terribly under Stalin. This approach virtually ensures a continuation of hostility between the Polish and Russian peoples, which every responsible leader should seek to diminish. Equally, Russians themselves, and everyone who has Russian interests at heart, should demand from the Russian government a much more searching public examination of the crimes of the Soviet Union against its own people and others.

  33. The Financial Times redeems itself a bit – German-Soviet pact was brilliant strategic coup.

    Published: September 5 2009 03:00 | Last updated: September 5, 2009 03:00

    From Mr George Hallam.

    Sir, Stefan Wagstyl is correct to criticise the recent Russian view that Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was just a tactical move by Stalin to win time to prepare for war against Hitler, but not for the reason he gives (“Stalin still looms large over eastern Europe”, August 31).

    Prior to the pact western governments, led by the British government, and, also incidentally, the City of London, consistently favoured Hitler. To quote Lord Lloyd’s 1939 justification of the British declaration of war in The British Case : “However abominable . . . [Hitler’s] methods were, however deceitful his diplomacy, however intolerant he might show himself of the rights of other European peoples” the possibility of an ultimate settlement still remained. Why? Because Hitler served a supposed common interest in protecting “traditional institutions and habits” from communism.

    By making a pact with Germany, Stalin was able to destroy Hitler’s credibility as a bulwark against Bolshevism. Overnight Stalin did more to undermine Hitler’s influence in ruling western circles than had been done by years of lectures and sermons on “the evils of Nazism”. As Lord Lloyd said at the time: “The conclusion of the German-Soviet pact removed even this faint possibility of an honourable peace [with Hitler]”.

    Without the pact, not only might the Soviets have found themselves at war far sooner than was historically the case, they might well have done so with Britain and France looking on as neutrals; just as they had during the Spanish civil war. This would have allowed Germany to supply itself from the entire world market. Much as Stalin later berated the British for their reluctance to open a second front, he had much to be thankful for in that the Royal Navy maintained a blockade on Germany.

    So the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was not just a tactical move. It was a brilliant strategic coup and should be celebrated as such.

    George Hallam,
    Department of International Business
    Greenwich Business School,
    London SE10, UK

  34. georgesdelatour says:

    “20 September, 1938 – In reply to his pleas, the Soviet government answered Beneš that it would assist Czechoslovakia, should France join in. However, Poland categorically refused the passage of Soviet armies through its territory, even at the request of France. [At around this Poles are saying: “With the Germans, we lose our land. With the Russians, we lose our soul].”

    Astonishing isn’t it. Why on earth would the Poles be frightened of allowing the Red Army onto their territory? Can you think of any reason? I can’t! After all, look how well things turned out between 17th September 1939 and 22nd June 1941, and between 1945 and 1989.

    • But it should also be noted that 1) the Poles did break the Polish-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact by helping in the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, and 2) allowing an army to traverse through one’s territory is not anywhere near equivalent to occupation – any traversing Red Army forces would have been vulnerable to strategic surprise and cutoff in logistics. Furthermore, Stalin’s primary emphasis by then was on “socialism in one country”, not revolution; it is doubtful he’d have wanted to draw world opprobrium before Hitler by occupying Poland, when the same objective – maintaining meaningful buffer states between them – could have been accomplished by keeping the war in Czechoslovakia.

      This is not to say that the Poles’ concerns weren’t entirely valid in the context of the time. They just played their hands wrong, and paid for it (as did most of the rest of Europe collectively).