In a lengthy article in a US journal, Russian President Vladimir Putin insists on recognition of the Soviet Union as the prime defeater of Nazi Germany, criticises Poland’s actions before the war and defends the annexation of the Baltic states.
The article, titled The Real Lessons of the 75th Anniversary of World War II, appeared in the National Interest journal on Thursday, six days before a huge military parade in Red Square to commemorate the end of hostilities in Europe. The timing underlines how the war, in which the Soviet Union lost an estimated 27 million people, is a linchpin of Russia’s national identity and how officials bristle at any questioning of the USSR’s role.
“It is essential to pass on to future generations the memory of the fact that the Nazis were defeated first and foremost by the Soviet people,” Putin wrote. He bemoaned that “certain politicians rushed to claim that Russia was trying to rewrite history”.
Poland and Russia frequently butt heads over who is to blame for starting the war, and Mr Putin took up the issue in the article.
“The blame for the tragedy that Poland then suffered lies entirely with the Polish leadership, which had impeded the formation of a military alliance between Britain, France and the Soviet Union and relied on the help from its Western partners, throwing its own people under the steamroller of Hitler’s machine of destruction,” he wrote.
Mr Putin reiterated the contention that the Soviet Union was forced into signing a non-aggression agreement with Germany before the war — the Molotov- Ribbentrop pact — after Western powers cold-shouldered creating a military alliance.