Paper Recalls when Soviets and Nazis Marched Together
by Paul Goble
series: Crisis in the Caucasus - 2008
The Russian / Georgian Conflict and Its Impact on Azerbaijan
Window on Eurasia: Original
Vienna, September 23 Sixty-nine years ago today, Soviet
and Nazi German soldiers marched together in a military parade
in Brest, just one month after Hitler and Stalin had concluded
the non-aggression pact that made their countries allies, opened
the way for World War II in Europe, and led to Moscow's occupation
of half the continent for 50 years.
That event, and even more, that alliance which ended when
Hitler invaded the USSR almost two years later - are not things
that most Russians are inclined to recall, especially because
of the parallels such recollections invite between the policies
of the Soviet government and those of the Nazi one.
But remembering such things is becoming ever more important
not only for the sake of historical accuracy but because of the
growing tendency among some Russian government officials and
many ordinary Russians to put a positive spin on some of the
most odious aspects of the Soviet past, including state terrorism.
That makes an article entitled "Soviet-Fascist Friendship"
that appears in the current issue of Moscow's "Novaya gazeta"
especially important. It provides details about these events
that neither the current Russian regime nor most Western observers
know or even want to pay attention to http://www.novayagazeta.ru/data/2008/70/20.html
Few Russian officials and relatively few Russians want to talk
about the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact or to acknowledge the existence
of the secret protocol that divided Europe between the two totalitarian
dictators, but the "Novaya gazeta" article shows just
what that meant - both in terms of an alliance between Moscow
and Berlin and for the people in between.
Shortly after the Germans invaded Poland, Soviet forces followed
suit. The armies of the two totalitarian states came together
at Brest. The Germans got there first but because of the agreement
between Hitler and Stalin, that Polish city was part of the USSR's
sphere of influence and had to be handed over to the Soviet army.
Instead of simply withdrawing to the lines agreed to, the German
commander, Heinz Guderian, decided after consultations with Semen
Krivoshein, the commander of the Soviet 29th tank brigade, to
organize a joint military parade as a demonstration of "Soviet-German
When in Khrushchev's time, Moscow acknowledged some of Stalin's
crimes and erected monuments to some of his victims, the Soviet
government erected a monument in Brest to Soviet soldiers who
defended that fortress city against the German invasion of 1941.
But neither then nor now, the Moscow paper says, does it make
reference to the Soviet-German actions of 1939.
Such distortions of history and especially of the crimes of
the Soviet past are once again increasing. Fortunately, in addition
to the article just cited, there are additional brave people
in Moscow willing to speak out against a trend that not only
distorts the past but opens the way for more abuses in the future.
In its current issue, for example, "Gazeta" denounces
recent Russian government efforts to "mythologize"
and "revise" history especially when it concerns what
the Soviet regime and especially its secret services did to the
population by outright falsifications, selective indignation,
or the suggestion that "everybody did it" http://www.gzt.ru/politics/2008/09/21/230039.html
One of the worst examples of this, the article suggests, is "the
new myth" being propagated by Russian nationalists inside
and outside the government about the Red Terror. Increasingly,
the newspaper points out, Russian textbooks suggest that the
Whites and the Reds during the Civil War both engaged in terror
in roughly equal manner.
That is not true, and while one can understand the motivation
of some not to "divide society into good and evil"
by suggesting one side was right and the other wrong, this "balanced"
approach in fact lands both its authors and their readers into
an even more morally problematic place.
On the one hand, the Red Terror was something very different
from any terror the Whites engaged in. "It was, if you will,
the first case in history when terror against one's own population
was not a means but, in essence, the goal of the state. The first
time when terror became the government's official policy."
And on the other, "the number of victims of the Red Terror"
behind the lines was "'not less than two million'"
according to contemporary estimates, "an order of magnitude
higher" than the number of deaths in combat and one that
reflects the cavalier way in which the Soviet leadership behaves.
At one meeting of the Soviet government, Vladimir Lenin handed
Cheka chief Feliks Dzerzhinsky a piece of paper with the question:
"How many counter-revolutionaries are in our jails just
now?" The secret police chief answered "About 1500."
Lenin put a cross over that number. And Dzerzhinsky left fully
prepared to do Lenin's bidding to kill them all.
Such actions by the Soviet secret police during the Russian
civil war and by Soviet forces in Poland in cooperation with
the Nazis must be remembered, especially at a time when Vladimir
Putin says that the destruction of the Soviet Union was "the
greatest tragedy of the 20th century" and when his supporters
want to re-erect the statue of Dzerzhinsky in front of the Lubyanka.
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