Final stage of World War II: reality and myths about USSR’s and Anti-Hitler Alliance’s contribution. IPN debate

World War II destroyed tens of millions of human lives, whole villages, cities and countries but still causes nostalgia for the Soviet past. This nostalgia influences some of the people’s attitude to the current war in Ukraine, the security of the own state and personal security and to the country’s future development direction. A part of the explanations for such a state of affairs can be found in a recent publication that appeared in one of the journals of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, which says that what is happening in Ukraine is “a follow-up to the Great Patriotic War”. The authors based their conclusion on the erroneous assertion that “the countries that imposed sanctions on Russia and help the Ukrainian regime are those that fought against the USSR” in World War II. “These countries take revenge in Ukraine on Russia for our Great Victory”, said the authors even if half of the counties mentioned by them formed part of the Anti-Hitler Coalition and, respectively, fought not against but together with the USSR in World War II.  The situation was analyzed in IPN’s public debate “Final stage of World War II: reality and myths about the USSR’s and Anti-Hitler Alliance’s contribution. Postwar fate of the USSR, Germany and nations freed from Nazi occupation”.

Igor Boțan, the standing expert of IPN’s project, said there are tens of definitions of fascism and they all have something in common. “Fascism is total and harsh dictatorship that covers all the spheres of human life, society and the state and dictatorship is the opposite of democracy. For this reason, everything in fascism opposes democracy. In the economy, the freedom in entrepreneurship and competition are replaced by the exaggerated role of the state and full control over total production for the purpose of mobilizing, structuring and adjusting to the needs of the political regime. In politics, this is the unlimited power of a charismatic leader considered irremovable, the father of the nation who personifies the state and the people in the absence of elections or if these are purely decorative,” explained the expert.

According to him, the territorial extension is one of the strategic and tactical goals of fascism and this objective requires the full mobilization of people. Statism is the unlimited power and influence of the state, being considered the highest value in a fascist regime. Exclusivism is common to fascism and Nazism but the difference is that fascism appeared in Italy and acclaimed the grandeur of the Roman Empire and the exclusiveness of the Italians as a nation. The national German socialism placed at the forefront the racial idea, the idea of common pure blood of the Germans and their absolute biological superiority over other races, nations and people.

“As regards the Anti-Hitler Coalition, this was established in 1941, when the Soviet Union and the UK on July 12 signed an agreement to fight against Germany and another historical document was then signed on August 14, 1941. This is the Atlantic Charter signed between the UK and the Soviet Union. On January 1, 1942, the Anti-Hitler Coalition that was supported officially by 26 countries was constituted somehow formally. Towards the end of the war, in 1944, the figure rose to 54 countries,” stated Igor Boțan.

The expert said the nostalgia represents the idealization of events, times, places with which pleasant memories are associated. The effects of nostalgia are limited to past memories that seem more attractive than the past itself. The feelings of nostalgic people vary from sentimental sadness to obsessive and even depressive states.

The head of the Contemporary History Section of the Institute of History Virgiliu Bîrlădeanu, Doctor of History, said the opening of the second front in the western part was to radically change the situation. “It was to form the architecture of new Europe given the agreements reached in Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam and, as a result, a new structure was formed and a new border was established along Europe. As regards the eastern front that consisted of the Red Army’s offensive in all directions, I want to mention a page that refers to our direct history – the Iasi-Chisinau operation. In fact, the front in March 1944 stropped close to the Nistru and to a part of northern Moldova. New actions in the Red Army’s advance were expected in summer. The offensive started in August,” said the university professor.

According to him, what happened at the Chițcani bridgehead and especially at the Șerpeni bridgehead is a less known and very tragic story that the official propaganda, especially in the Soviet period, tried to remodel so as to present the triumphalist image of this offensive. It was to look like a pleasant walk not like a bloody war with a lot of crimes and abuses. “That mass carnage is mainly ignored by historic writings of the Soviet period. Multiple military troops were concentrated before the general offensive but it was a false operation that was to attract the enemies’ forces to this region. The main blow was to be given in the northern part and surely on the Chițcani bridgehead,” said the historian.

Virgiliu Bîrlădeanu noted that recently mobilized troops were concentrated in Șerpeni. These were badly trained and weren’t even dressed in military uniforms. “On August 18, about 30,000 persons without military training were taken to the mined battlefield. They imitated that offensive during several days. They didn’t have any chance and locals said that in that moment the water in the Nistru turned red. It was a mass tragedy that the official propaganda overlooked in the Soviet period. In the time of Voronin, many events were staged in Șerpeni but the truth about that episode of the war was ignored. The other stages of the war that led to its end were as bloody and as the regime of Stalin didn’t change its essence during the war,” he stated.

German political scientist Anneli Ute Gabanyi, senior research analyst at the Research Institute of Radio Free Europe in Munich and senior research associate at the German Institute for International and Security Issues in Berlin, said that Russia today wants to be the perpetuator not only of World War II but in a way wants to change the results achieved after the Fall of the Berlin Wall. “It’s true that at the beginning the Communist ideology was internationalist but Stalin brought about an ideological change, turning the Soviet Union’s war against Germany into the Great Patriotic War. He used nationalism and patriotism in the second part of the war in a very pronounced way,” noted Anneli Ute Gabanyi, who is the author of recent history studies and security studies concerning Romania and the Republic of Moldova.

According to her, today they insist on the same mobilization note as then, trying to present the war or the so-called special operation against Ukraine as a battle of Russia that purportedly defends the interests of nations, of the modern world and international order against alleged neo-Nazism. “Putin pretends that this neo-Nazism exists in Kyiv and that there is a new pro-Nazi coalition that supports Ukraine in this new war,” stated the political scientist.

“This is a technique to legitimize the current war waged by Russia against Ukraine. It is a technique to mobilize the population that is somehow misinformed and uniformed in current Russia. It seems that this propaganda technique is effective in this country. On the other hand, it is a tactic to explain the fight led by Putin who 15 years ago said that the dismemberment of the Soviet Union was actually the biggest catastrophe of the 20th century. We remember the diplomatic introductions before the military attack on Ukraine in which it was very clear that Russian aims to revive the history that existed before 1997, when it was decided to expand NATO,” said Anneli Ute Gabanyi.

The public debate entitled “Final stage of World War II: reality and myths about the USSR’s and Anti-Hitler Alliance’s contribution. Postwar fate of the USSR, Germany and nations freed from Nazi occupation” was the eighth installment of IPN’s project “100 years of USSR and 31 years without USSR: Nostalgia for Chimeras”, which is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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