Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Vladimir Putin's alternative history

Izvestia, the Russian news outlet formerly known as News of the Central Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies this Christmas published a pamphlet by Vladimir Putin entitled '75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE GREAT VICTORY: SHARED RESPONSIBILITY TO HISTORY AND OUR FUTURE,' writes Gary Cartwright.

Whilst the title may sound like that of a forthcoming Borat movie, it is in fact based on an article written by the Russian President earlier in the year, written to call into question the credibility of the European Parliament's 'motion for a resolution on the 80th anniversary of the start of the Second World War and the importance of European remembrance for the future of Europe.'

The motion, which was passed by the Parliament in September 2019, makes considerable references to collusion between Hitler and Stalin and to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939 by which much of Europe would be divided up between Nazi-Germany and the Soviet Union. The resolution was of particular importance to those EU member states whose countries were indeed absorbed into the Soviet Union, and whose people were to endure decades of misery as a result.

“The Kremlin is still active in Ukraine, in Moldova, in Georgia. It propagates the cult of stalinism and spreads lies,” said Lithuanian Christian Democrat MEP Rada Jukneviciene. “We have to oppose the attempts at glorifying communist and fascist regimes and attempts at playing down the crimes committed by these regimes."

"My colleagues from the far-left say that the Red Army defeated Hitler, and that’s true, but they don’t want to remember that the USSR was the ally of the fascist Germany for two years and that the communist regimes are responsible for the deaths of around 100,000,000 of their own citizens,” said Radosław Sikorski MEP from the Polish Civic Platform party.

All this makes uncomfortable reading for Putin, who felt the need to put forward his own version of history. Below are a few of his more questionable assertions, the responses are mine.

The League of Nations and the European continent in general turned a deaf ear to the repeated calls of the Soviet Union to establish an equitable collective security system and sign Eastern European and Pacific pacts to prevent aggression. These proposals were disregarded.

Vladimir Putin.

This statement by Putin is either a sad reflection on the way history was taught in the Soviet Union or an example of what one might diplomatically refer to as "disingenuity."

Ribbentrop Stalin

The Anglo-French-Soviet negotiations of 1939, which sought to create a triple alliance against Nazi Germany have largely been airbrushed out of the post-Soviet narrative. Certainly the involvement of Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, who was to be the principal Soviet signatory to the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, is rarely discussed.

Indeed, whilst negotiations between the three powers were underway in Moscow, Molotov was secretly negotiating with his Nazi counterpart Joachim von Ribbentrop. What was to be know as the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was signed in the Kremlin on August 23rd 1939.

Under the terms of this pact, with its secret protocol, the very existence of which was denied by the Kremlin for decades, but which Putin now openly admits to, much of Europe was to be dived between the two powers.

The image of the Soviet Union as the greatest enemy of Nazism has been carefully cultivated since 1945, and so the truth of the pact and how it came to be signed was hidden from the people, who were taught that it was a mere deception by Stalin in order to buy time to prepare for war.

The leading European powers were unwilling to recognize the mortal danger posed by Germany and its allies to the whole world. They were hoping that they themselves would be left untouched by the war.

Vladimir Putin.

From 1934 Britain began a major programme of rearmament recognising the threats posed in Europe, by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and in the far-east by Japan.

On September 3rd 1939, on the very day Britain declared war on Germany, the country was able to move a expeditionary force that would total 390,000 men to the French-Belgian border.

At the same time Stalin was still negotiating with Hitler.

The last attempt to persuade the USSR to act together was made by Hitler during Molotov’s visit to Berlin in November 1940. But Molotov accurately followed Stalin’s instructions (Document No. 8) and limited himself to a general discussion of the German idea of the Soviet Union joining the Tripartite Pact signed by Germany, Italy and Japan in September 1940 and directed against the UK and the United States.

Vladimir Putin.

Putin admits that as late as November 1940 senior Soviet and Nazi officials were in negotiation, but suggests this was just a facade to deceive Hitler.

"Hitler tried again and again to draw the Soviet Union into Germany’s confrontation with the UK. But the Soviet government stood firm", Putin writes.

The truth, as is often the case, is very different to what the Russian president writes: at that very time, Nazi bombers, powered by engines supplied by Soviet factories, were over London.

Between September 7th 1940 and May 11th 1941 more than 30,000 civilians were killed in the nightly raids in what was to become known as The London Blitz. A further 10,000 died in raids on other ports and cities, with countless more injured and more than 2 million houses destroyed or damaged.

In fact under the German-Soviet Commercial Agreement of February 11th 1940, as well as military hardware the Soviet Union was also supplying the Nazi war machine with petroleum, manganese, copper, nickel, chrome, platinum, lumber, cotton and grain, much of it transported via the trans-Siberian railway from the east.

Since 1939 German U-boats and supply vessels had been operating from the then secret Basis Nord naval base at Zapadnaya Litsa, in Russia's Murmansk region.

In autumn 1939, the Soviet Union, pursuing its strategic military and defensive goals, started the process of incorporation of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Their accession to the USSR was implemented on a contractual basis, with the consent of the elected authorities. This was in line with international and state law of that time.

Vladimir Putin.

The people of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia would be truly astonished by this "truth."

In late May and early June 1940, the Baltic states were collectively accused of military collaboration against the Soviet Union by holding meetings with German representatives the previous winter - something the Soviets were doing at that moment, and would continue to do for some months to come.

On June 14th the government of Lithuania received an ultimatum from Moscow to accept Soviet troops on it territory. Unprepared for any military conflict Lithuania was forced to concede, promptly losing its independence. A puppet government was installed, and following an election of the type one would associate with the Soviet Union, and indeed modern-day Russia, the country petitioned to be accepted into the Soviet Union.

A similar process was carried out in Latvia and Estonia, and the three states laboured under the Soviet yoke until the long awaited collapse in December 1991 of what Ronald Reagan called "the evil empire".

The country would have to enter the inevitable war with the Nazis from very disadvantageous strategic positions, while millions of people of different nationalities, including the Jews living near Brest and Grodno, Przemyśl, Lvov and Wilno, would be left to die at the hands of the Nazis and their local accomplices – anti- Semites and radical nationalists.

Vladimir Putin.

In this breathtaking piece of hypocrisy Putin appears to suggest that Stalin's invasion of Poland helped to save the Jews.

In 1940, on the orders of Stalin himself, as many as 300,000 Jews from Russian-occupied Eastern Poland were transported to Soviet Gulag labour camps deep in the Soviet Union.

“The knock came in the middle of the night. We were allowed just a few moments to gather our belongings. If your name was on the list you were taken to a train depot in horse-drawn wagons. Then, we were loaded onto one of several cattle cars and waited several days, until the train finally headed off to Siberia," said survivor Sylvia Becker.

Overall, some 50% were to perish during their forced labour, 55% of those who perished were women.

Stalin's Purge Of Soviet Jews

"After the foundation of Israel in May 1948, and its alignment with the USA in the Cold War, the 2 million Soviet Jews, who had always remained loyal to the Soviet system, were portrayed by the Stalinist regime as a potential fifth column," wrote British writer and Historian Orlando Figes.

Stalins War Against Jews

In November 1948, as a Zionist movement in the USSR began to flourish, perceiving a threat Stalin began a purge of the Soviet Union's Jews. It began with the closure of museums and cultural institutions. "Judging by absolutely indisputable and obvious indications, the reappearance of antisemitism is not coming from below, not from the masses. . . but is directed from above, by someone's invisible hand," wrote eminent microbiologist Nikolay Gamaleya in a February 1949 letter to Stalin.

The events of 12–13th August 1952, remembered as The Night of the Murdered Poets saw 13 prominent Yiddish writers executed on the direct orders of Stalin.

At the same time an increasingly paranoid Stalin had ordered the purge of the Jewish doctors - the "vrachi-vrediteli" or "vermin doctors."

On 13th January 1953 the Soviet government declared in Pravda that nine of the Kremlin's most prestigious doctors had, several years earlier, murdered two of Stalin's closest aides. A show trial was convened as a prelude to initiation of a carefully constructed plan in which almost all of the Soviet Union's two million Jews, nearly all of whom were survivors of the Holocaust, were to be transported to the Gulag.

The next step was to be the deportation of the Soviet Jews. "First, almost all Soviet Jews would be shipped to camps east of the Urals. Second, the authorities would set Jewish leaders at all levels against one another. Also the MGB [Secret Police] would start killing the elites in the camps, just as they had killed the Yiddish writers the previous year. The final stage would be to 'get rid of the rest,'" wrote Louis Rapoport, senior editor of The Jerusalem Post and author of Stalin's War Against The Jews: The Doctor's Plot & The Soviet Solution (1990)

Nikolay Poliakov, the secretary of Stalin's Deportation Commission, revealed that, according to Stalin's initial plan, the deportation of the Soviet Union's Jews but the monumental task of compiling lists of Jews had not yet been completed, wrote Roman Brackmanine The Secret File of Joseph Stalin: A Hidden Life (2001).

"Pure blooded" Jews were to be deported first, followed by "half-breeds" A Mark Clarfield, professor of gerontology, wrote in the British Medical Journal in 2002.

The destination of the deportees was Birobidzhan, the administrative centre of Russia's Jewish Autonomous Oblast, located on the Trans-Siberian Railway, near the China-Russia border.

The purge, and the planned deportations, ended abruptly on March 5th 1953 with the death of Stalin.

"Stalin is the most popular figure in all of Russia," - Vladimir Putin.

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor of EU Today.

An experienced journalist and published author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

Gary's latest book WANTED MAN: THE STORY OF MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV: A Manual for Criminals on How to Avoid Punishment in the EU is currently available from Amazon

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