July 07, 2009 (the date of publication in Russian)

Marine Voskanyan


Why does OSCE equalize Communism to Nazism?

Last week, OSCE delivered a new unfriendly gesture to Russia. At its XVII annual session, the organization approved the Vilnius Declaration including 28 resolutions, one of them entitled "Reunification of the Divided Europe", in which Joseph Stalin's regime in the USSR and the Nazi regime in Germany are recognized as equally evil. The document contains the assumption that "the two chief totalitarian regimes, Nazism and Stalinism, have practiced genocide, infringement upon human rights and liberties, military crimes and assault on humanity". The document urges the global community to "jointly withstand to any totalitarian rule regardless from its ideology", and condemns "justification of totalitarian regimes, reflected in public rallies glorifying the Nazi and the Stalinist past". August 23, the date of the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty, is supposed to marked as the All-European Day of Commemoration of Stalinist and Nazi victims for the sake of memories of the victims of mass deportations (sic) and executions. The document was endorsed by Lithuania and Slovenia, while the Russian delegation boycotted the vote, objecting of comparing Stain to Hitler. 



The resolution aroused a squall of protests in Russia – in the State Duma, as well as among ordinary citizens. In the Russian blogosphere, the OSCE resolution is among the top subjects of discussion.

Konstantin Kosachov, chair of the State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, claimed that the Federal Assembly would issue an official statement, possibly even in a form of a joint declaration of two houses which is a rare occasion, adding that the reaction is going to be "harsh and operative". Oleg Morozov, First Vice Speaker of the State Duma, claimed that the comparison of Communism and Nazism is disgusting; Gennady Zyuganov, chair of the Communist Party of Russia, characterized the document as "a disgrace of Europe", indicating that equalization of the USSR with the Nazi Germany is loathsome and destructive for Europe itself.

What is so offending for the Russian audience in this document? In fact, Russians don't dispute the totalitarian character of Stalin's rule, being more informed about the order in their country in that time from their grandparents. This fact does not need approval from European neighbors. Russians are rather outraged with the obvious hypocrisy: the document suggests that only the USSR and Germany were the evil states of the XX century, while other Europeans were "warm and fuzzy", never being involved in infringement of human rights, and in military atrocities. But if other Western powers were so impeccable, why did they concede half of Europe to Hitler, leaving Russians alone with the totalitarian adversary? Why did they hesitate for such a long time before establishing the anti-Hitler Coalition? Was it Stalin who paid for this hesitation, or millions of Russian families?

Have our Western neighbors really followed the UN Human Rights Declaration since the times of the Crusade? Have all of them condemned Hitler in his cradle? "Our respected partners forget that the subject of totalitarianism is much broader, and that totalitarian regimes existed also in Spain, Portugal, and Greece, and that the European history is far more variable to reduce it to the times of World War II", reminds Mr. Kosachov.

The idea of celebrating the date of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty as the All-European Commemoration Day implies that the USSR (and Russia as its successor) shares responsibility with Germany for unleashing World War II (though the war started before the Treaty was signed, and though the Treaty was violated by the Nazi). But OSCE forgets about other agreements struck at that time and focused on the same issue of division of power in Europe. Shouldn't Britain and France be reprehended for the Munich Agreement, as well as for the reluctance to sign the Anglo-French-Soviet Agreement on Mutual Assistance, proposed by Mr. Stalin? Why not condemn also Poland, as a participant of Czechoslovakia's partition?

The version that Stalin was the first to mastermind World War II, concocted by defector Victor Rezun-Suvorov (who later revised his views and authored a book glorifying Stalin), was gladly used as a propagandist instrument in the West. But when some other alternative views on the World War II history, exposing the role of European powers in its origin, are raised by Russian authors, they arouse a furious reaction. Poland's Foreign Ministry accused Russia of "falsification of history" in the "Weekly News" program on Russia TV Channel that had allegedly described Poland as the provocateur of war. Similar fury emerged over an article of historian Sergey Kovalev who also described Poland's pre-war behavior in an uncomplimentary way.



Any historian can confirm that Hitler's regime and Stalin's rule, both being totalitarian in their form, were essentially different in underlying ideas. There are no obstacles for condemning both, and this is happening. But why should be the two systems equalized to one another? Is this effort supposed to emphasize that other political regimes have never committed acts of genocide or war atrocities? In fact, European powers – both those that teamed up with Hitler or joined the anti-Nazi alliance – waged most ruthless colonial wars in the XX century. In public speeches, European leaders displayed racism comparable to Hitler's. "I don't think that American Indians or the indigenous population of Australia have undergone improper treatment, as a stronger ace, a cleaner race, a wiser race has replaced them". This remark belongs not to Hitler but to Winston Churchill. No wonder that British colonial policy was a subject of Hitler's own admiration. Casualties of colonial wars comprise millions, but these genocidal enterprises are rarely mentioned by historians.

Condemnation of totalitarian regimes is too obviously biased. For instance, the European Parliament has recognized the so-called Holodomor (the term attributed to the 1933 famine that actually affected similarly Ukrainian Russians) as a "crime against humanity and the Ukrainian people), while Britain is never blamed for the 1943 famine in Bengal that emerged – despite sufficient amounts of food – from Britain's deliberate export policy, when the "mother country" was seeking punishment of the local population for its struggle for independence.

This kind of selective approach brings results opposite to the intentions. "If you see young men with Stalin's portraits on T-shirts, you should blame not the elderly people who try to protect the values of their own youth, but liberal campaigners and propagandists who have transformed the history of GULAG into a banal thriller", writes Boris Kagarlitsky. The stronger anti-Stalinist campaign OSCE will pursue, the larger number of Stalin's fans it will eventually get.



History as a collection of facts represents interest for professional scholars – by the way, specialists adhere to a balanced approach towards World War II. Surrogates of history, disseminated by mass media and various political resolutions, is not more than a means of propaganda which has been universally instrumental both in the condemned totalitarian and modern democratic political systems. Europe's XX century is so complicated that even professionals disagree in judgments on its crucial episodes. An ordinary European or Russian is even less informed, especially if he picks knowledge from simplified bias of modern textbooks, never peeping into archives. In fact, prudent historical research is commonly replaced with media injections supposed to impregnate particular historical stereotypes into minds. Historical "pop messages" are required not for purposes of education but for shaping public opinion related to current agenda.

Historical superstitions, imprinted in this way, represent a convenient material for information wars, "gripping" the respondent by amalgamating with his earlier assumptions, with attitude to his parents and family experience. Urging to "get rid of structures and models of behavior that serve for whitewashing history", OSCE is obviously trying to respond to Dmitry Medvedev's decision to establish a commission on falsification of history and to introduce a ban on revision of the 1945 victory. But OSCE in fact implies, "Your granddad who fought against Nazi is not better then themselves, and if you disagree with that, you have nothing to do in our European clubs". The response is predictable in emotion and expression, frequently in obscene lexicon. Therefore, Russians are ready to be described as savages who are reluctant to condemn Stalin and therefore regard Europeans as traitors whom Stalin was foolish enough to liberate from the Nazi.

In the period when Russia and Europe are trying to develop mutually profitable neighborly relations, which is especially expedient under the current circumstances of crisis, such kinds of informational provocations can be viewed as deliberate sabotage. By the way, the OSCE resolution questions also Vladimir Putin's participation in the 60th anniversary of the onset of World War II, marked in Poland. Curiously, the document surfaced right on the eve of US President Barack Obama's official visit to Moscow.



The assumption that Stalinist crimes are massively justified in Russia is not true: they have been repeatedly condemned by the powers and the population, and even the Russian Communist Party recognizes the tragic errors and brutal excesses of Stalin's rule that cost millions of lives of Soviet people. It is well known to historians that the Soviet, and not the European population, has endured the severest toll of this rule.

Why is OSCE so focused on the 60-year-old history today? Is the resolution motivated only with money interest – namely, compensations sought by some top officials of the Baltic States? Recently, Latvia's Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins estimated the "losses from Soviet occupation" in $18.5 billion. Is money dearer than national pride?

The provisions of the resolution that "urge governments and parliaments to completely get rid of all structures and modes of behaviors initially based on infringement on human rights" and expresses "deep concern over glorification of totalitarian regimes including public rallies on occasions related to Nazi and Soviet past, as well as possible proliferation of various extremist movements and groups including neo-Nazi and skinheads", suggest that the Baltic States will have to curb SS veteran rallies and introduce equal rights for the titular and Russian population. Still, it is hard to imagine that they are really committed to implement all the provisions of the declaration in which they appreciate only the monetary aspect. In case they fail to introduce the abovementioned changes, will other nations perceive the document seriously?

Addressing the House of Commons in 1937, Winston Churchill claimed, "I will not pretend that if I had to choose between Communism and Nazism I would choose Communism". The vector of revision of the results of World War II seems to follow the same direction: today, Nazism and Communism are declared to be equally evil, and next day, Communism will be identified as the worst of the two – and such hints are already being made. The very fact that Russia is not committed to refuse from an essential part of its XX-century history, the label of an "evil empire" is ready for second use.

Instead on focusing upon building a future that would exclude atrocities and brutalities of the XX century, Europeans are invited to scavenger in most tragic and dark pages of their history. This digging in ashes arouses only new alienation and new potential conflicts – by now, luckily, only in the information sphere. Instead of becoming a subject of decent academic study, totalitarianism is being used as a fetish and a bargaining chip for brainwashing, without considering inverse effects. This manner of "galvanizing" the tragic past and using it as a media zombie in order to manipulate European and Russian minds is as careless as cynical.

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