World War II started in September 1939 and a number of significant events took place that month. A series of lies have been disseminated about the beginning of World War II to camouflage the real players and the real goals of the start of that war. A part of that propaganda and lie arsenal is used in the case of another war, that of aggression that was started by the Russian Federation against Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The experts invited to IPN’s public debate “Truth and lie about beginning of World War II” discussed the similarities and dissimilarities in the start of these two wars.
The permanent expert of IPN’s project Igor Boțan said the ‘world war’ term is used to refer to two worldwide armed conflicts that had a huge number of victims – 10 million and, respectively, 70 million. They took place in the first half of the 20th century. World War I lasted from July 28, 1914 until November 11, 1918, while World War II – from September 1, 1939 until September 2, 1945.
“These two wars affected most of the states of the world, including all the great powers, and covered all the five continents. A typical feature of a world war is that the peace treaty signed at the end of this war becomes the basis, the foundation of the global international relations in the postwar period, as it happened in the case of the Treaty of Versailles after World War I and the Yalta and Potsdam agreements related to World War II,” explained the expert.
Igor Boțan said that in the case of World War II, historians have identified five phases of this. The first phase is September 1, 1939 – June 22, 1941. The war started in a week of the signing of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. Nazi Germany and the USSR were actually partners. They together occupied and parted Poland. Later, Russia occupied states and regions of the so-called sphere of influence of the USSR. On November 30, 1939, Finland was invaded. The Baltic States and Bessarabia were occupied later. For its part, Germany occupied France, the Netherlands, etc.
“The second phase started on June 22, 1941 and lasted almost throughout the year 1942. It started with Nazi Germany’s aggression against its partner, the USSR. The Atlantic Charter was published in that period, on august 14, 1941,” said Igor Boțan. In December, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the U.S. had to renounce its isolationist policy and entered the war.
According to the expert, the third phase, 1942 - 1943, took place after the Battle of Stalingrad, the meeting of Teheran, while the fourth phase stated in 1944 and lasted up to May 8, 1945. The second front in Europe was opened and the Yalta Conference was held. This phase ended with the surrender of Germany. The fifth phase covers the period between May 9 and September 2, 1945. After the Potsdam Conference, Japan also surrendered.
“When they speak about the Patriotic War for the USSR, they mean only three phases – the second, the third and the fourth – as, from propagandistic viewpoint, it wasn’t very suitable in the Soviet Union to speak about the first phase, when the USSR and Nazi Germany divided the spheres of influence in Europe, triggering actually the war. Evidently, the fifth stage is also ignored as the Soviet troops that reached Berlin didn’t withdraw from some of the countries until after the Communist regime collapsed,” stated Igor Boțan.
Pavel Moraru, doctor habilitate of history, said World War I should be regarded as a continuation of the wars that occurred in Europe in the 18th-19th centuries. But a new war that turned global started in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. “Mankind witnessed a premiere, a world war that went beyond the borders of Europe. World War I began in 1914. I want to draw attention to the changes caused by World War I at international level, the long-term impact, as there is a close connection between World War I and World War II,” stated the historian.
According to him, 1917 was a very important year for the whole mankind. In that year, the U.S. entered the war, but not as part of the alliance, but as an associate country of the Triple Entente. This fact shows the U.S. didn’t want to renounce its isolationist policy. But the Americans had to enter World War I so as to destroy the old European system. The Americans realized that if they didn’t intervene, the wars in Europe would generate instability worldwide. “The year 1917 is also important because in that year, the involved nations started to get tired and government instability grew, poverty, misery grew primarily in the countries involved in the war – Germany, the Russian Empire. A proof is the fact that that two revolutions occurred in Russia in 1917... The war ended in 1918 with rather important consequences,” stated Pavel Moraru.
The doctor habilitate of history noted that World War I offered the occasion of putting into practice all those projects referring to international justice, including the creation of an international Parliament, etc. This way, the Americans tried to democratize the international relations. Namely the League of Nations was that organization, that rostrum that offered all the nations the possibility of stating their viewpoint.
At the same time, an atypical, minority Bolshevik regime was established in Russia and this aimed to fundamentally destroy the existing social, economic, political system. That internal and external policy pursued by the Bolsheviks should be taken into account – of hatred towards the rest of the world, towards other social classes, etc. It goes to the territorial and ideological expansionist policy of the Soviet state.
“The 1920s after World War I saw intensive diplomatic activity. It was a decade of diplomacy, negotiations when the countries tried to maintain peace through collective efforts. The phrase “collective security” which was promoted by the League of Nations derived from here. This collective security was also transposed by the signing of a series of non-aggression pacts. But the big world economic crisis came at the end of the 1920s and marked that turning point. From the diplomacy and negotiations of the 1920s, when the strategic situation was controlled by the countries that won World War I, the wining countries towards the 1930s lost this strategic initiative to the revisionist forces that were ascending,” explained the historian.
Pavel Moraru said that the 1930s represented a period when the situation went out of the control of the winning powers, including Romania, which promoted the collective security concept. Many historians consider the great world crisis was a prelude to World War II.
Doctor of history Mihai Țurcanu, of the Institute of History of the Moldova State University, said the number of victims is not the main feature of a world war. There were civil conflicts, such as the Chinese civil wars of the 17th century, the 19th century, which had numerous victims, but weren’t world wars.
“What defines a world war is actually the fact that it represents the result of an attempt to change the system. The main characteristic of a world war is the fact that it is a systemic conflict, an attempt to modify the rules of the game. It happened so in both of the world wars and that’s why they ultimately ended with new types of security guarantees, with new treaties that set down new bases of international order,” he stated.
According to the historian, the fact that they ended with the defeat of those who tried to change the international system is an interesting feature of World War I and World War II. The current international system has its own theoretical basis, which means international order – the same as that of the end of the 18th century.
“In principle, the system is based on the same view on the world, the same method of thinking, market economy, liberal values. Liberal values in the 18th century meant slightly something else than today, but the essence of things and the approaches were the same,” noted Mihai Țurcanu.
He also said that those wars ended with the integration into the system of those who generated those challenges to international order. “What happens today is not so different from what happened then as we today also see a systemic challenge. I’m sure that the ongoing war in Ukraine will have to end with new types of security guarantees and new international treaties that will create another international order or will confirm the one that exists today,” said the doctor of history.
The public debate entitled “Truth and lie about beginning of World War II” was the 18th installment of IPN’s project “Impact of the Past on Confidence and Peace Building Processes” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany.