Year 2020 – the Year of ‘Battle of Memories’ with Targets in Eastern Baltic States

If we follow just logics it will be hard to understand for what reason the salvo fired by the cavalry in Moscow  in the eve of January 17 to commemorate 75 years from  liberation of Warsaw during World War II by the Red Army,…

If we follow just logics it will be hard to understand for what reason the salvo fired by the cavalry in Moscow  in the eve of January 17 to commemorate 75 years from  liberation of Warsaw during World War II by the Red Army, while at the same time archive documents (mostly messages of Soviet soldiers) posted on the website of the Ministry of Defence of Russia had to show a real face of the participants of the Warsaw uprising from the Home Army (Army Krajowa) that was suppressed by Nazis in 1944 – as if they were bandits who attacked soldiers of the Red Army and representatives of the national minorities.
Deputy Minister Paweł Jabłoński of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland in his reply to this fact told that to Warsaw 17 January 1945 was not the day of liberation but a day of occupation. The aphorism of ‘seasonal state’ was actualized and reflected a sore historical memory of Polish people (and our, the Baltic nations):  120 years of captivity (as part of the tsar Russia), 20 years of freedom and then oppression again.   
Exchange of these words can be considered as a continuation of the relevant story that continues for several months, the rise of which was given by reaction of Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, who has no experience in studies (despite the dissertation that was defended 22 years ago, the authorship of which still raises doubts) at the end of 2019 regarding resolution adopted by the Council of Europe on Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 as the one that rouse World War II. President of Russia ‘hit back’ by a hour-long (!) lecture to leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kirgizia, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) on 20 December, which was later shown on Russian national TV.
The leitmotiv of this narrative is going back to the version of the outbreak of Joseph Stalin World War II, as if it was instigated not by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact but the path was opened to Adolf Hitler by Munich Western democracies such as United Kingdom (UK) and France after 1938 to persuade Czechoslovakia for capitulation while other countries in middle and eastern Europe were behaving pitiable. The USSR in the person of J. Stalin did not see any other way, just make a deal with Germany.   
Poland found itself the first in the row of those whom the Kremlin will ‘educate’ this year. The master of the Kremlin at turn of the year in the Board of the Ministry of Defence of Russia called the ambassador of Poland Józef Lipski in 1934–1939 the bastard and anti-Semitic pig for the fact that in 1938 he promised to erect the monument to A. Hitler if he actually exiled all Jews to Africa as he was planning to do. It doesn’t matter what leaders of the Polish Jewish community told after this ‘excursus’ of the Russian president – that J.Lipski actually helped Jews who fled  from Germany until the war reached Poland.       
Warsaw reacted to the historic ‘narratives’ of the president of Russia in the statement of Mateusz  Morawiecki, Prime Minister, who told that V. Putin was telling lies many times in regards to Poland, but his government will always defend historical truth and resolution of the Seimas on provocative attempts of top leaders of Russia that are not true to the fact and who try to impose all responsibility to Poland in regards to the outbreak of World War II (for instance, Vyacheslav Volodin, Chairman of the State Duma of Russia, encouraged Poland to offer apologies for the mistakes of the past and present). And finally – on 15 January the European Commission supported Warsaw in the dispute with Moscow.    
Of course, we can produce arguments (trying to comfort ourselves?) that Soviet propaganda taught the president V. Putin how to interpret the history during 6-7 decades of the last century that has nothing in common with history. He presented this ‘narrative’ from the paper to leaders of the CIS countries probably somewhat bewildered (at least some of them, for instance, Armenia). As a historian Leonid Praisman from Israel (by the way, he was born in the Soviet Union in 1949) told it was both funny and shameful.    
However, the logics that is based on decency, is ‘abundant’ to the Kremlin. Decent people feel sad when the president of Russia makes excuses to J. Stalin. Let’s say, no German politician who has a common sense would even think to make excuses to the country for the war against Poland or occupation of Denmark executed by A. Hitler in 1940. This means nothing to the ‘historian’ V. Putin, because he has other goals – in the meeting held in Saint Petersburg on 18 January with veterans and representatives of the patriotic organizations he promised ‘to shut loathsome jaw’ of some persons from behind the wall (actually ‘za bugrom’ may be translated as ‘from the cordon’, and this is terminology of the Cold War) based on the disclosed archives of documents about World War II.    
In the address during Federal meeting held on 15 January the President of Russia stated that even after collapse of the Soviet Union Russia still has its previous ambitions. Passionate agitation of Vladimir Medinsky, Minister of Culture of Russia, about the fact that schoolchildren must in mandatory order watch the film “Union of Salvation’ made by the director Andrei Kravchuk, the budget of which was one billion roubles (Film Fund of Russia and Russian TV channel 1 were sponsors) about Dekabrist uprising, where Russia is shown as the only super state that did not lose the war. The film actually raised discussion, for instance, Russian Conservative party was not satisfied about incomplete disclosure of conspiracy of ‘masons’, who sought to push foreign European freedoms to Russia.
It is likely that until 9 May, commemoration of 75 years from the victory against Nazi, ‘battle of memories’ will be one of the matrices of the foreign policies of the Kremlin and here it will by no means escape the eastern Baltic sisters. Poland is the target of the Kremlin just for the meantime. The Baltic States will undoubtedly find their ‘place’. Let’s say, already in spring escalation of the issue of genocide in the Baltic States, which is a sensitive topic to Jews, is anticipated in spring. By the way, the same L. Praisman told about realities of the World War II: among 21 thousand Polish officers killed in Katyn and other places by Soviets, there were about 600 Jews – although in Poland a rather strict anti-Semitic regime was prevailing in Poland during in-war period, but there were Jewish officers.   
Professor Alvydas Nikžentaitis, Head of the Lithuanian Institute of History told in January that by spreading false information about 13 January, partisan fights and collaboration of Lithuanians with Nazi, Russia tries to discredit the historical memory of Lithuania and legitimate its political regimen. According to the historian, the central figure of Russian memory is the super-state or even a better Russian word ‘derzhava’ (power). The idea of ‘derzhava’ is the main irrespective of the fact whether it is in the tsar Russia or now. Another main resource of this central myth is a story about victory in the Great Patriotic War. Historical policy of Russia is confrontational with those neighbours that interfere with these foundation stones of the historical memory. President V. Putin is definitely seeking to be written in a history as the founder of ‘derzhava’
And then, the resources of the information war, that have been known for years. Ainārs Dimants, Professor of Communication theory from Riga Turība University in his interview to Svoboda already in 2015 ( told that the European Union (EU) had no decent understanding about possibilities of the information attacks against eastern Baltic states first of all because of big Russian-speaking communities in Latvia and Estonia. According to a quite old survey (2014) over 77 percent of the Russian-speaking auditorium learn about the main events in the world from the Russian television – for instance, the First Baltic Channel, which although is registered in Latvia, a member-state of EU, de facto is the megaphone of the Kremlin’s ideas. The mere position of the agreement of the channel operations is not just a business project because all programmes can be changed except ‘Vermin’, which reflects the official position of Russia.    
After aggression in 2014 against Ukraine, Russian-speaking people from the Baltic States polarized, for instance, in Latvia 36 percent consider themselves as Putin’s followers and 20-30 percent of Russian-speaking population focus on Europe. Statement of A. Dimants in 2015 that it is important to encourage not Russian but European identity in Latvia probably will be checked by the Kremlin this spring again in all Baltic States and with a new propagandistic force. Moscow has the reason for that – almost in all surveys conducted by the Russian public opinion survey institute ‘Levada centre’ respondents indicate the Baltic States in the list of five or three as the most important enemies to Russia. This is also the result of the information war.  
Somebody could even say with a reason that nothing is new, besides, matters move to the positive direction, although not so fast as we wish. For instance, in our region (in Riga and Prague) centres for fighting against Kremlin’s propaganda have been founded. Nonetheless, year 2020 might be very particular for the eastern Baltic States. There are a lot of painful historical topics in Europe. Europeans are learning how to live with it without intruding their views to neighbours. History serves best for this purpose. The Kremlin tries to say that this will not succeed, we should consider year 2020 as the year of battle of memories’, which V. Putin’s Russia will undoubtedly fight with some neighbours and as I’ve told before, Baltic States are very ‘close’ in this sense.   
Arūnas Spraunius

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