It's no accident, perhaps, that these statements and poll results come as Russia prepares to mark, in May 2005, the 60th anniversary of the ending of the Second World War. Vladimir Putin's New Year message contained, among other things, this paragraph:
The incoming year, 2005, is a special one for all of us. It is the year of the 60th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War. This is a great occasion for us, for all the peoples with whom we share a common fate, I would say, as a historical fraternity.In the context of the new Europe, and Russia's position in relation to it, the significance of the phrase "peoples with whom we share a common fate" needs to be savoured. The invitees to the May celebrations will include Germany and the Baltic States. Germany is being invited essentially because, as one perceptive commentator recently put it: "they lost, everybody knows they lost, and nobody wanted them to win." The invitation to the Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, on the other hand, has a rather more intricate background: they are essentially being given an offer they cannot refuse*. Moscow's strategy here amounts more or less to a plot: if the Baltic States want Moscow to sign the border agreements on which it has stalled and prevaricated ever since the collapse of communism in 1989-91, they must attend the Moscow celebrations, and by doing so acknowledge that they were "liberated" by the USSR/Russia.
Thus, an important part of Stalin's political legacy lives on in Russia's current foreign policy. Indeed, in one sense it's possible to say that Stalin himself is not really dead yet. It looks as though in the twenty-first century the "New World Order" still has some way to go in establishing itself.
*A measure of the routinely Soviet-style tone of Russian MFA pronouncements on Baltics-related issues can be taken from a reading of recent statements such as this.