World War II was the biggest world war in the history of mankind. In those times, the propaganda justified the necessity of invading other territories. The invasion of other territories and the acts of aggression were presented as steps necessary for liberation. The crimes committed in that war were presented as heroic deeds requested by those who were “liberated”. Many of these things remind of the current time, of the war in Ukraine. Even in such conditions, nostalgia for the former USSR persists and has effects on the current life of Moldovan society and on Moldova’s future development course. How things evolved and where that nostalgia derives from were among the subjects discussed by experts invited to IPN’s public debate “Who started World War II and why? Propaganda myths as a source of nostalgia for the USSR”.
Igor Boțan, the standing expert of IPN’s project, said that a world war implies large coalitions, unions of states that affect the interests of almost all the countries of the world. During such wars, significant political and economic objectives are being pursued. The world wars lead to dramatic changes in the system of international relations. There was an Anti-Hitler Coalition that consisted of 54 states and a Hitler Coalition formed based on the Berlin-Rome-Japan axis during World War II.
The expert noted that World War II had five stages - September 1939-June 1941 when Germany and the Soviet Union were allies, attacking Poland and Finland; June 1941-November 1942 when the alliances were re-formed; November 1942-June 1944 when the Soviet Union started the counteroffensive against the Nazi troops and the three leaders of the Anti-Hitler Coalition met in Teheran; June 1944-May 1945, which ended with the surrender of Germany, and May-September 1945, which ended with the surrender of Japan.
“If we refer to the five stages, it’s clear that the Soviet Union avoided admitting that Germany started the war together with it. That’s why in the Soviet Union, and also in current Russia, they spoke only about two periods during which the Soviet Union was attacked by Nazi Germany and up to the capitation of Germany. The other stages are not taken into account by the Russian propaganda historiographers,” stated Igor Boțan.
Doctor of History Anatol Țăranu, former Ambassador of Moldova to Russia, said that when it goes to the period that preceded World War II, it should be noted that the people, primarily those in Europa, lived under the auspices of the Treaty of Versailles, which brought World War I to an end. This determined the entire geopolitical configuration in Europe in the interwar period. In World War I, Germany suffered a painful defeat and the whole interwar period was marked by Germany’s attempts to recover after this defeat. “This feeling of frustration of Germany was manifested especially after the fascist regime of Hitler came to power in this country. This regime represented extreme nationalism and was actually an element of a racial policy pursued by the National Socialist Party in Germany,” stated Anatol Țăranu.
According to him, France and England, which emerged victorious in World War I, tried to keep the resuts of the war intact as they benefited from these. This struggle between Germany and the beneficiaries of World War I actually filled the interwar period. Furthermore, the Soviet Union towards the start of World War II considerably strengthened its positions, going through socialist industrialization and building extremely powerful armed forces. This was a very important factor for the European and international politics.
“Fascist Germany tried to review the results of World War I, while the Soviet Union followed the communist ideology, the so-called world revolution. From this viewpoint, the world revolution could have been staged only by a war. The Soviet Union by definition was a state that considered the possibility of waging a large-scale war in order to achieve its goals, objectives and state ideology. This way, Europe was doomed to a new war and this started on September 1, 1939, when Nazi Germany attacked Poland. But that attack occurred when a new configuration of military-political alliances appeared in Europe. That war became possible because the famous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed in Moscow on August 23, 1939,” stated Anatol Țăranu. He noted that following that agreement between two great totalitarian powers, World War II started and that was the biggest war in the history of mankind.
University lecturer Marin Gherman, director of the Institute of Political Studies and Social Capital of Chernivtsi, an associate of “Ștefan cel Mare” University of Suceava, said the political communication model of that period was very different from that of the contemporary period. Then, a lot of media outlets appeared and developed. “As they say, there is no difference between mass communication and propaganda. Then they counted a lot on censorship, on what we called closure of the information area, on the promotion of clear messages: what didn’t suit the ideological system wasn’t said and what was said was controlled. We speak about two totalitarian systems that controlled everything. They started with control in the family and ended with mass communication,” stated Marin Gherman.
According to him, propaganda justified the necessity of invading other territories. The invasion of other territories and the acts of aggression were presented as steps needed for liberation. The crimes committed in that war were presented as heroic deeds requested by those who were “liberated”. “The ideological systems were built differently. The Soviet Union was based on clear concepts of extension of the revolution and the necessity of extending socialism and communism onto the other states, while Hitler was dominated by other ideological constructs. We should not forget that namely in the time of Nazi Germany, the Ministry of Truth, about which we know from history, and the notion of propaganda appeared,” explained Marin Gherman.
He also said that the two states were on friendly terms and looked at each other as at future dominators and masters of the world. “This ideological, propagandistic construct that is used now too, about dark Nazism and the liberation of mankind from Nazism, appeared much later, in the context of the second stage of World War II, when the two states got into a direct conflict,” said Marin Gherman.
The public debate entitled “Who started World War II and why? Propaganda myths as a source of nostalgia for the USSR” was the sixth installment of the series of debates “100 years of USSR and 31 years without USSR: Nostalgia for Chimeras”. The project is implemented by IPN News Agency with support from the Hanns Seidel Foundation.