Let Putin apologize for Hitler-Stalin Pact, writes a Lithuanian historian.
tr. jjk 24-02-2005, last update 24-02-2005 20:53
Commentary by Alvydas Nikzentaitis, Director of the Institute of Lithuanian History, after Wednesday’s statement by the president of Russia that the USSR was forced to sign the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact by the earlier betrayal of the West at Munich.
In speaking of World War II and condemning its perpetrator, Germany, the role of the USSR should not be forgotten. The USSR was the state which in a very decisive manner entered the war not on the side of the anti-Hitlerite coalition, but actually on the side of Germany. I have in mind not only the occupation of the Baltic countries, but first and foremost the annexation of the eastern part of Poland. In taking this step, the USSR simply helped Germany to finish off Poland as a state.
Any attempts to compare the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact with the Munich Agreement are almost a crime. In evaluating those two historic agreements, it is necessary to speak not only of their consequences, but also of the goals that guided them. If the Munich Agreement made maximum concessions to Germany, it was because it was assumed that this would prevent the aggressor from starting a world war. But the Soviet-German pact openly spoke of aggression against third countries and the partitioning of Central-Eastern Europe.
What advice could be given to President Putin? First and foremost, to take an example from Germany. And perhaps even from Lithuania? Germany clearly and explicitly apologized for the World War II - specially to Poland. There is also the good example of the former president Algirdas Brazauskas, who apologized in the Knesset for participation of Lithuanians in the Holocaust. Both steps were praiseworthy, well-considered, and very important. If Russia would act as the German chancellor and the president of our country acted sometime ago, I believe that no one would now be giving any thought to the question of whether to go to Moscow for the May 9 celebrations or not.
A sober look at Stalinist crimes, at the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, is needed not so much for ourselves as for Russian society, in which there are still positive opinions about Stalin. A society that is unable to defeat the past always remains on the flank of history. One might wish that President Putin would take this decisive step, thus defeating the Stalinist past.
*The author is a director of the Institute of Lithuanian History. This text is published today, Friday in the Lithuanian daily Lietuvos zinios.
(via Marius - translated from Polish)