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“Remembering the war means preventing any further attempts at starting a new one in the future” — Lidia Mikheeva
The Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation held an international online conference “In Honour of Victory!”
“75 years ago, the Soviet Union won a historic victory over the Third Reich and saved the world from Nazism. The Allies and the anti-fascist resistance also contributed to defeating the enemy. Today, we are united by the same values as in the past: the struggle against fascism, militarism, racism, anti-Semitism and all other ideologies of hatred in the name of international solidarity, peace and social justice,” said President of Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation Lidia Mikheeva during the international online conference “In honour of Victory!”
The conference was supposed to be held on May 7 at the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, social gatherings had been prohibited in Moscow, so the discussion was carried out on the Internet drawing an even wider range of participants from Russia, Germany, France, Greece, Canada, Brazil as well as Bolivia.
“Unfortunately, recently we have witnessed increasing attempts to falsify war history, certain political opponents are trying to reassess the role of the Soviet Union in the victory of World War II, and exclude the fact that it was the Red Army and the Soviet Union that took the brunt of the main Nazi attack. This was an extraordinary feat and they neutralized the global threat of Nazi domination,” she added.
The President of the Civic Chamber presented the online project “In Honour of Victory!” that contained the speeches of all conference participants and other authors. “Prominent political and public figures, diplomats, historians and university professors from around the world together declare their principled positions. They talk about the horrors and suffering that Nazism brought to their peoples, and also analyze the risks of reviving fascism and other ultra-right ideologies, and call for developing strategies to counter this,” she said.
“This is our common, most important objective – to prevent the revival and spread of ultra-right sentiments. Remembering the war means preventing any further attempts at starting a new one in the near future,” she emphasized.
Deputy Chair of the Civic Chamber Commission on Public Diplomacy, Humanitarian Cooperation and Maintenance of Traditional Values, Director General of the Institute for Foreign Policy Studies and Initiatives Veronika Krasheninnikova spoke in more detail about the portal.
“The portal that we created allows us to convey our interpretations and messages to a wider audience. Our project exists in Russian, English, Spanish, German and Greek,” she said, introducing each of the authors of the portal.
All authors of the project tried to highlight three main issues: the damage that Nazism and fascism did to their respective countries; how they assess today's attempts to redefine the role of the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II; the risks associated with the revival of fascism and other ideologies of hatred and violence in the world today, as well as what can be done to prevent a tragic repeat of history.
“This is a project about history. It highlights ideals and positions that helped us defeat fascism and win the war. But if previous Soviet generations brought this victory to today's generation, then have a debt to repay. We must protect our peoples and all of humanity from the revival of ideologies that could provoke a repeat of history. This is our task and nobody can do it for us,” explained Veronika Krasheninnikova.
First Deputy Secretary Civic Chamber, Hero of Russia Vyacheslav Bocharov further elaborated on why Russia would never accept any attempts to suppress facts about the war or any attempts to rewrite history.
“The number of tortured, killed, burned and poisoned children in the death camps and in the occupied territories cannot be estimated, as the figure is huge. And those responsible for these atrocities were convicted by the Nuremberg Tribunal. These facts cannot be ignored. What the Nazi army and its allies did in the temporarily occupied territories of the Soviet Union can never be forgotten,” he said.
He noted that people today, especially the younger generation, live in a semi-virtual world and spend a greater part of their time on the Internet. “Cruel and violent computer games that require killing and getting bonuses ultimately form a person who has no empathy and has no understanding that physical life is given only once and that it is a crime to end life. These young people are ready-made material for a possible war, the so-called cannon fodder. Many examples can be given, take for instance the intensification of international terrorism. I am sure that young people will come around one day, but this might be a deeply personal and tragic experience for the younger generation.”
“To prevent this from happening, we must do everything possible so that the history of the Second World War is known in full to everyone in the 21st century without rewritings, omissions and the desire to smooth out undesirable moments,” said Vyacheslav Bocharov.
“Now we see how war criminals are being rehabilitated even though they have a lot of blood on their hands. People make history, people write history, but they can also rewrite it. This can lead to dire consequences, and we all need to make concerted efforts in order to prevent this from happening.”
The Vice President of the Civic Chamber, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Sergey Ordzhonikidze expressed his conviction that history could be rewritten only for the sole purpose of justifying the policy of “Russia is an enemy and an aggressor.” This policy implies that NATO should gradually approach (and they are approaching) and encircle Russia.
“Any kind of threat that modern Russia can pose to the alliance is ludicrous taking into account the ratio of military budgets which is 1 to 20. Despite this correlation of military budgets, the countries of the West, actively assisted by the Baltic states, Poland and Ukraine, are inciting hatred towards the Russia of today. They are trying to erase the real memory of the war and poison the minds of the younger generation by changing the narrative and stating that Hitler’s Germany and the Soviet Union started the Second World War by agreement,” he said.
He stressed that in this regard, the opening of the portal “In honour of Victory!” is a crucial and timely step: “I am sure it will become one of the reliable pillars of the international struggle to preserve the historical memory and defend the ideals of our common great Victory.”
Member of the Presidium of the Russian Historical Society, Executive Director of the History of the Fatherland Foundation Konstantin Mogilevsky is convinced that the historical truth can be preserved only by uniting all mutual constructive efforts.
“Unfortunately, revisionist sentiments are growing stronger, while Nazi-allied accomplices are being rehabilitated. This is evidenced by the shameful story that unfolded in April in Prague where the monument to Marshal Konev was dismantled,” said the historian, emphasizing that the position of politicians does not reflect the mood of the majority of the population who opt for the historical truth.
According to him, the international intensive dialogue of historians is continuing. “We agree that there is an urgent need to uphold the historical truth about the Second World War. The moral lessons and the international consequences of the victory over Nazism constitute an uncontested foundation of modern international policies,” he said.
The Executive Director of the International Peace Bureau Reiner Brown spoke about the inadmissibility of rewriting history. He voiced the Oath of the Survivors of Buchenwald: ‘There will never be fascism again, and there will never be war again!’ - first and foremost, this expression is a sign of special gratitude to the Red Army for liberating not only Germany, but all of Europe from fascism.
“Therefore, it is absolutely disgusting when the European Parliament adopts a resolution which accuses both fascism and communism for igniting World War II. This is not just historical blindness, it is an incredible attempt to turn murdered people into killers and killers into freedom fighters,” he said.
Reiner Brown emphasized that historical truth should remain unchanged. “The liberation of Europe by the Allies, especially the Soviet Union, was a major turning point on the European continent paving the way for peace, democracy and prosperity. It is hard to imagine what barbaric darkness would have engulfed Europe had this liberation characterized by a high level of suffering, death and destruction not happened,” he added.
This position was confirmed by the Executive Director of the German-Russian Forum Martin Hoffman who stated that Germany celebrated May 8 as Liberation Day and May 9 as the End of World War II.
“This is a difficult but important date for us. For Germans today, this is a symbol of preventing disaster in Europe and across the world. There are numerous events due to be held on May 8 and 9. We have also proposed that German cities write and send letters of solidarity to Russian cities,” he was quoted as saying.
“Today due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is vital that we have universal solidarity. In this situation we are confronted with a common enemy. Despite the distance that we must maintain, we all understand that only through joint efforts can we help each other. This is an opportunity to show the real unity of Europe,” he added.
As a representative of civil society, Martin Hoffman emphasized that the people of Germany deeply regret the aggression the Third Reich responsible for unleashing the war. Today Germans regard Russia as a friend and partner, as well as a people with whom German citizens can express solidarity, which also encompasses the mutual fight against coronavirus.
He regretted that the mood of civil society did not always coincide with the position of those at the forefront of German politics.
The Head of the representative office of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Moscow Kerstin Kaiser said that the political, economic and social elites in West Germany helped to erase the stains on Germany’s past.
“The attempt to wipe the slate clean in regard to Germany’s Nazi past, as the West German elites and most of the population would like, has failed due to ongoing opposition. The strong opposition to the USSR and the Eastern Bloc in the past, including military opposition, and NATO’s tough stance on Russia today is apparently the price that Germany has paid by fully integrating into the West and becoming one of its leading powers.”
“Thus, starting from the late 1940s up to the present day, old German interests are combined with new imperialistic drives. Against this backdrop, it is not surprising that the Federal Republic of Germany has one topic that is almost always excluded from examination and memory of the past. Even today. These are the victims of the Soviet Union in the war of extermination that the Nazis waged against ‘Jewish Bolshevism’, fallen Soviet prisoners of war and ordinary civilians,” she added.
Furthermore, the Head of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation Moscow Office Thomas Kunze emphasized that good and friendly Russian-German relations should always be a top priority.
“This is especially important now more than ever as the people of Europe are faced with difficult challenges. We need to support each other during these unprecedented times caused by the coronavirus pandemic. This is the largest global disaster since 1945. It has encouraged nations to show greater mutual solidarity which is long overdue. Russia set a good example by providing prompt assistance to Italy ravaged by the pandemic,” he was quoted as saying.
“Technically, the post-war period ended in 1990. Today's crisis – 75 years after the end of World War II – denotes the actual end of the post-war period. After this period, we talk about the formation of the 21st century. Projects of the future such as the common European House and Europe from the Atlantic to the Pacific envisioned by Charles de Gaulle, Helmut Kohl, Mikhail Gorbachev, and later Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron, could gain new momentum,” said Thomas Kunze expressing hope.
The former French Ambassador to the Russian Federation, Deputy Director of the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS) for Russia and the CIS Jean de Gliniasty spoke about the perception of the war by French citizens. He noted that more than half of French citizens believe that it was not the USSR, but the United States that had delivered the decisive blow to Nazi Germany.
“The depth of the error in terms of perception of an obvious historical fact is quite amazing. The lack of knowledge, and even the denial of the Soviet Union’s role in the great Victory, is shocking. However, there are many explanations for this. The main explanation, albeit rarely mentioned, is a significant weakening of History education in France, probably more so than in other countries,” he said.
Jean de Gliniasty also highlighted the fact that people had begun studying history through films, magazines, video games, comics and other sources that are not related to real history. “The phenomenon of ‘soft power’ exercised by the media is especially noticeable in France,” he added.
The conference was also attended by Professor of History at the University of Montreal Michael Jabara Carley who reads lectures on the Second World War for students at the University.
“Most of them believe that the United States won the Second World War. Those who know the real historical truth have probably attended my lectures,” he said.
According to him, the West has forgotten about the Great Patriotic War, what is more, few can recall the anti-Hitler coalition created by the USSR, the UK and the USA.
“It seems that Western media, Hollywood and mainstream television have crossed out the colossal role and sacrifice of the Soviet Union in defeating Nazi Germany. To them World War II is associated with how the UK and the USA won the war. They always forget about the USSR,” he said.
According to Michael Jabara Carly, the willingness of the West to ‘erase’ the Red Army’s feat began early on. “After the liberation of France in 1944, the French government published victory posters displaying three flags — the French, American, and British flags. The red flag of the Soviet Union was conspicuously missing,” he added.
Greece was represented at the conference by the former Deputy Minister of Defence of Greece, co-Chair of the Russian-Greek Ministerial working group Konstantin Isikhos. According to him, the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Victory over Nazism could mark the beginning of a new era of international celebrations – events could be held around the world in order to enhance the universal significance of this hard-fought Victory in the future.
“Progressive social and political forces must unite their historical memory against neo-fascist and neo-Nazi ideas as well as strategies. This encourages us to prepare a democratic counterattack with mass innovation in cultural and educational strategies for the younger generation,” he said.
“We need to create social instruments to fill the void with a new renaissance highlighting values such as solidarity, equality of rights for all and democratic participation, introduced in the simplest and most systematic way.”
Representatives of Latin America were also present at the conference. They talked about the long-term consequences of the war, which have had a significant impact on South American countries, and about the threats they face today.
The former Minister of Foreign Relations and Minister of Defence of Brazil Celso Amorim talked about the threat of growing right-wing radicalism in his country.
“Awareness of the injustice of the new globalized economic system has not always yielded positive results. Far-right and neo-fascist ideologies are spreading all over the planet, leading to serious consequences in underdeveloped countries. In Europe during the interwar period, right-wing liberal forces also paved the way for politicians with extremist ideologies to praise mysticism and violence in order to come to power,” he recalled.
Celso Amorim noted that this is especially pronounced today in some countries of Latin America, especially after two or three decades of social and political progress in the region. “The leaders of these countries have been partially inspired by the rise of Donald Trump, who stands at the helm of a country with very unusual social and economic conditions. These Latin American politicians not only violently attack the social achievements of recent years or even decades, but also seek to destroy the very foundations on which democracy is based,” he stated.
The former Bolivian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and ex-Bolivian Ambassador to Russia Maria Luisa Ramos, currently the leading columnist of Sputnik News in Spanish, talked about the impact of Nazism in Latin America and how it had affected the lives of people there.
According to her, one of the most tragic consequences of World War II was the decision of US intelligence organizations to recruit Nazis and allow them to work with American divisions.
“In 1947, the guiding principle of American counterintelligence agencies was established – the hunt for Nazi criminals was replaced by anti-communist activities. This decision, as part of the new strategy for world domination by the United States, had dire consequences for Latin America," she said. "The continent was intended to become not only a refuge, but also a new space for planning, preparing and conducting coups, as well as the rule of bloody military dictatorships.”
María Luisa Ramos claims that the Americans knew they were bargaining with people who had committed heinous crimes against humanity. "However, the logic of ‘the end justifies the means’ prevailed in this particular decision aimed at recruiting the Nazis and using them for new – some would say old – functions," she stated.
Concluding the international virtual meeting, Veronika Krasheninnikova thanked the project participants for their outstanding texts, speeches and principled positions.
“In view of the energy, ideas and suggestions put into your presentations today, we will, by all means, continue with this project together and will do everything that is required of us to protect those ideals which previous generations lost their lives for,” she concluded.
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