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Mainstream, VOL L, No 21, May 12, 2012

Our Common Victory and Its Lessons

Friday 18 May 2012, by Vyacheslav I. Trubnikov

[([Vyacheslav I. Trubnikov, one of the best and most respected Russian ambassdors to this country, wrote the following article on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the Victory over Fascism on May 9, 2005 when he headed the Russian embassy in New Delhi. It was carried in Mainstream (May 14, 2005). It is being reproduced seven years later as we observe the 67th anniversary of the end of Hitlerite Fascism on May 9 this week.])]

In Russia’s calendar of memorable dates the 9th of May 1945 occupies a special place. Just one mention of the Victory Day causes the heart of each Russian to be wrung. It’s unlikely that even now—60 years after—there can be found in the country a family which was not scathed by the flames of war. The grievous ordeals that fell to the lot of the peoples of the Soviet Union revealed the greatness of the human spirit and manifested numerous examples of heroism, personal feat and true patriotism. That is why this war (1941-45) has gone down in the history of our country as the Great Patriotic War.

The celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Victory has a symbolic significance both for the state as a whole and for its citizens. As never in history, in those dramatic war years the destinies of the great country and of its people became most closely intertwined. For many, especially the veterans, this is a very personal holiday, but the veterans, unfortunately, are leaving us. The memory remains. An eternal memory about people perished defending the Fatherland from the plague of the 20th century, who died from wounds, in prisons, in captivity or in the blockade.
And there also remain the lessons which the world community drew from the events of more than half-a-century ago. It is no coincidence that ahead of the 60th Anniversary of the Victory a hot debate on this theme has unfolded in many countries. Often, it is not merely an argument about how to interpret this or that event of the war period, but entirely opposite moral assessments of its outcome that have a direct relation-ship to the present-day European and world politics.
That is why, in discussing this theme, we also bear considerable moral responsibility to those who paid with their lives for the defeat of Nazism and to new generations learning about the war from the textbooks and films. It is our responsibility for not only upholding the historical truth about the war, but also for fixing firmly in public consciousness a correct understanding of its lessons from the vantage point of contemporary world development.

WORLD WAR II was indeed an epochal event. It was not only a global battle that exceeded in scale all the previous armed conflicts in world history. There collided in it not merely the different interests of states and even not so much the different ideologies, but the diametrically opposed, irreconcilable approaches to the very bases of mandkind’s existence. For the first time in history, the stake in this struggle was the preservation of the life of whole peoples. The gas chambers and crematoria of Osvencim, Buchen-wald, Salaspils and other death camps have demonstrated what fascism carried with it, what future its so-called new order had in store for the world. And those who in some countries today question both the significance of the Victory and the role of our country in it are forgetting that without it these countries might not have been on the map.

The essence of the attempts to distort the war history lies in a bid to assign the winner’s laurels to the Western democracies and to belittle the role of the Soviet Union, while at the same time putting the blame on it for Hitler’s unleashing of the Second World War.

As to the history of the pre-war period, there should be no forgetting about the policy of appeasement of fascist Germany pursued by Britain and the US, that aimed at warding off aggression from themselves, directing it to the East, against the USSR. The crown of this policy was the Munich agreement of 1938.
The assertions about an “exaggeration of the Soviet contribution to the cause of Victory” do not stand up to criticism. In 1944 the length of the Soviet-German front was four times greater than that of all the fronts where the USSR’s allies, put together, fought. At the same period up to 201 enemy divisions fought on the eastern front, whereas only two to 21 divisions faced the American-British troops in the very same months. Even after the opening by the West of the second front the allies had 1.5 million men in Western Europe, while the Germans 560,000. At the same time there were amassed 4.5 million German troops on the Soviet-German front, against whom 6.5 million Soviet soldiers fought. The Hitlerite forces sustained their major losses in the battles against the Red Army: 70 per cent of their manpower and 75 per cent of all their military equipment—tanks, guns, and aircraft.

As Winston Churchil wrote: “It was the Russian army who tore the guts out of the German war machine.” Now in our days the US President, George Bush, echoes him, noting at the celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the allies’ landing on Normandy: “If not Russia, none of this would have happened.”
We did not divide the Victory into percentages in 1945, nor do we divide it now. Together with our allies we marked the 60th Anniversary of the opening of the second front, together we shall celebrate the Jubilee of Victory in Moscow. All the allies of the anti-Hitler coalition won the Second World War.

It was our common Victory with the Indian people’s great contribution. We cannot but remember that the Indian Army numbered 2.5 million—the largest volunteer army in history at that time. India became a direct victim in this war, when Japanese troops invaded through Burma. The Indian Army stopped the Japanese advance in the battle of Kohima (April-June 1944), which was also a turning point in the land war against Japan. Moreover, the Indian military played a significant role in the South-East Asian and Middle Eastern theatres. Today we pay tribute to India’s casualties numbering over 24,000 dead and 64,000 wounded.
But no one has the right to detract from the price which our country and our people paid in the course of the war, play down the enormity of the Nazis’ crimes and even less to heroise them.

The main outcome of the war is not just the victory of one coalition of states against the other. In essence, it is the Victory of the forces of construction and civilisation over the forces of destruction and barbarity, the Victory of life over death.

The war turned into the greatest tragedy for the peoples of Europe and the world, regardless of whose side their states fought on. Not a single family, not a single life story was untouched by its consequences. It is the duty of historians to tell the truth about this tragedy, but it should not serve as an object of political speculations. In the assessments of the war’s outcome, no shift in moral guidelines should be allowed. Speaking in Osvencim on January 27, 2005, President Valdi-mir Putin called deeply immoral the attempts to rewrite the history of the war, to equate the rights of the victims and the hangmen, of the liberators and the occupiers.

Together with the entire people, our diplomacy travelled its road to Victory. The creation of the anti-Hitler coalition may rightfully be called the biggest diplomatic breakthrough of its time. The coalition became an example of the rallying of states of different ideologies and political systems in the face of a common mortal danger. Today, 60 years on, there is no need to simplify or embellish history. Each of the anti-Hitler coalition states pursued its aims, had its own national interests. The achievement of mutual trust did not come easy. But still, the participants of the coalition succeeded in rising above their differences and putting aside all that was secondary for the sake of achieving a common Victory as their principle task. The opponents of fascism were untied by a common undersanding of the fact that evil had to be resisted together, sparing no effort for that, allowing no compromises, no concessions or separate deals. This lesson in full measure retians its relevance in our days as well.

THE experience of the international brotherhood in arms during the war years is assuming particular significance in the conditions when a global challenge has again been thrown down to humanity, this time by international terrorism, which is no less dangerous and cunning than fascism. And no less merciless: thousands of innocent people have already become its victims. The foundations of civilisation have again turned out to be in jeopardy. Like fascism, terrorism has nothing to offer the world, but violence and scorn for human life, its preparedness to trample upon any, and the most elementary norms of human morality for the achievement of its maniacal aims.

To cope with this kind of threat, just as 60 years ago, is only possible on the basis of solidarity and mutual trust. “Double standards” with regard to terrorists are as inadmissible as attempts to rehabilitate the fascists’ accomplices. Giving terrorists a public platform for stating their man-hating views is as immoral and unnatural for contemporary Europe as the parades of former SS men in the countries claiming adherence to democratic values.

Our duty to those who paid with their blood for the sake of saving humanity from fascism consists primarily of putting a reliable barrier in the way of disseminating the ideas of intolerance and racial, national or religious superiority, behind which world dominance pretensions hide, serving as a ground for new threats. The unity of the antiterrorist coalition nations, harmonious development of relations between various nationalities and confessions, tolerance and mutual respect, the preservation of cultural diversity, an open, constructive dialogue of civilisations—these are the main conditions for victory over the forces of hatred and extremism.
Neither do the lessons of World War II appear less relevant from the viewpoint of construction of the post-war world pattern. The outcome of the war exerted a profound influence on the development of international relations. Even now, 60 years later, when the world has changed beyond recognition, the elements of the post-war arrangement of Europe and the world retain an enormous significance for the cause of safeguarding peace and security on our planet.

The striving to deliver humanity from the scourge of war for good inspired the nations

of the anti-Hitler coalition to establish a global mechanism for safeguarding peace and security the United Nations Organisation. Its Charter became a generally recognised basis of contem-porary international law, and a fundamental code of conduct for states and international organi-sations. The principles and standards of the UN Charter, which stood the test of the Cold War, are today an unalternative basis for shaping a new, secure and equitable world pattern of the era of globalisation.

The 60th Anniversary of Victory must not be a cause for confrontation or serve to settle old scores and reciprocal grievances. It is symbolic that the United Nations, at the initiative of Russia and other CIS (Commonwealth of Independent Sates) countries, has designated the 8th and 9th of May as the Days of Remembrance and Reconciliation. It is in this vein that we also intend to hold the celebrations in Moscow on May 9, where a special summit will take place, with more than 50 heads of state and government, and heads of leading international organisations in attendance. It is important that the Holiday contributes to uniting all countries and peoples and serves to reinforce our solidarity in the face of the global challenges of the 21st century.

The Anniversary of the Victory is, above all, a tribute of memory and the profoundest gratitude to those who upheld our Fatherland’s independence and brought the long-awaited liberation to the peoples of Europe enslaved by fascism. The Anniversary commemorations must serve as a reminder of the enormous inner spiritual potential Russia and the Russian people possess. In this regard, the history of the Great Patriotic War is an inexhaustible source of strength and confidence in the future for us. For all honest people the Holiday of Victory will remain a bright and sacred day.

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