Everlasting War and Everlasting Victory

anniversary of the end of World War II will be commemorated this year. This war ended on 8 May in Europe and the official end of this global conflict should be commemorated on 2 September – in remembrance of anniversary of th…

anniversary of the end of World War II will be commemorated this year. This war ended on 8 May in Europe and the official end of this global conflict should be commemorated on 2 September – in remembrance of anniversary of the surrender of Japan. In this case we are talking not just about the narrative of the discussed historical events, but also about the main historical story that has been anchored in the massive minds of the Russian society. This narrative becomes not just a mobilization tool in the hands of Moscow but also an instrument that is being actively used for propaganda.    
What war is Moscow talking about?
It is not hard to notice that in the context of historical events mentioned in Russia we are talking not just about World War II but about the Great Patriotic War. In the Russian context the titles of these two wars are often used as synonyms, however there we have a very important nuance. The period from 22 June 1941 to 8 May 1945 (9 May in the time of Moscow) is considered as the Great Patriotic War. In other words, Russia likes talking about the stage of the war when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union.
However, World War II began on 1 September 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. By the way, the Soviet Union joined this war not in 1941. We should mention that Moscow invaded Poland on 17 September 1939, actually acting as an ally of Germany. Actually, all this has been provided for in secret protocols followed by a non-aggression pact signed on 28 August between Germany and the Soviet Union, which is better known as Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
For those who are interested in particularities of this historical period I would like to look for the note, which Vyacheslav Molotov, Commissioner of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union handed to Wacław Grzybowski, Ambassador of Poland (by the way, he refused to accept it) on 17 September 1939. In the mentioned diplomatic document the blame of Poland for the outbreak of the war and aggression against the country that is defending itself from Nazis is justified as an attempt ‘to protect blood-brothers Belarus and Ukrainians’ who living in the territory of Poland.
The Winter War with Finland can be chronologically attributed to the events of World War II and also occupation of the Baltic States in summer 1940. However, all these events are very unhandy to the Russian propaganda, therefore, as it has been already mentioned Moscow counts back the outbreak of the war that is relevant to it – from 22 June 1941.        
Historical perspective and nowadays
It seems that 75-year period is quite long to talk about all these events quietly if we look at it through the philosophical point of view. On the other hand, sometimes it seems that World War II has not even ended – especially in the minds of Moscow ideologists. Every year a fierce battle is going on in regards to the Victory that is being commemorated on 9 May in Russia. This year we can also expect even harsher propagandistic and ideological battles, because, as I’ve mentioned before, the year itself is a jubilee year.     
Lev Gudkov, a Russian sociologist, has determined that World War II and victory in it was the essential historical event of the 20 century that had been anchored in minds of the current Russian population (see a set of articles ‘Negative identity’ of L. Gudkov) (Russian: Негативная идентичность. Moscow, 2004). In the ratings of Russian people this historical event is rated lower that Yuri Gagarin’s flight to cosmos according to its significance.
On the one hand, such a situation formed because the cult of Victory has started during Soviet times. Both the Soviet propaganda and creative industries of that time also contributed to all this, if we use contemporary definitions. Images of the War and Victory have been fixed in books, films songs, etc. However, here we can see the reverse process. The cult of the Victory is very convenient for the Russian propaganda (to manipulate in narratives relating to World War II), since it has been deeply anchored in people minds and make people sensitively react to any information relating to this narrative.  
Who is to blame most?   Kam labiausiai kliūna?
By using the Victory (and also all narrative of the World War II) the Kremlin in its present propagandistic attempts returns not just to the Soviet but also to Soviet narrative of 1939. Here we can remind just a few elements that are related to attempts to show Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact as a strategic Stalin’s manoeuvre (as if in order to win some time and postpone aggression of Germany against the Soviet Union), by making parallel emphasis that other countries used to sign similar pacts with the Nazi Germany and again blamed Poland for provoking the war.
We could already notice escalation of such narratives at the end of August of last year when 80 anniversary was celebrated of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. On the other hand, just the Soviet Union made secret protocols by signing the pact with Germany, according to which actually the areas of influence were divided in Europe. Thus, it would be simply not correct to compare the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with other pacts of other states with the Nazi Germany.
Heroic stories about the Great Patriotic War go together with stories about ‘bandits’ and ‘Nazi henchmen’ in the Baltic States, i.e. ‘forest brothers’. This narrative or the aspect of this narrative is very important to Moscow, since if we recognize that fights for independence were taking place in the Baltic States (and Ukraine) during post-war period, the fact of occupation in 1940 should be recognized, too. Of course, the Kremlin is not going to do so.
Moscow also has to escalate the topic of ‘Poland’s blame’ in order to distract from other well-known fact. We should mention just two here – shooting of Polish officers in Katyn (by the way, they are trying to bring to life the narrative again that they are actually the victims of Nazi) and delay of the Russian Army that Russia is describing as ‘liberator of Europe’ to help participants of the Warsaw uprising.   
On the other hand, a story that is being mythologized in Russia about the great Victory is officially brushed up from all complicated, undesirable and just dangerous aspects to this story. By blaming others for ‘rewriting of the history’ Moscow is involved in construction of the history. There are a lot of concealments or even falsification in this process.    
On the other hand, we have to understand that accusation of Poland for provocation of the war or discussions that all Jews were killed in the Baltic States (we can recollect Vladimir Putin’s speaking in Israel during commemoration of Holocaust on 23 January of the current year) reminds more of not attempts to find the truth but the current situation. Both Poland and the Baltic States are considered as geopolitical enemies in Moscow, or constituent parts of bigger geopolitical enemies such as NATO or the EU, to be exact. 
The jubilee year is actually handy to escalation of specific narratives. The Kremlin would never refuse that. We can forecast that a harsh actualization of the ‘great Victory’ and other satellite narratives (about ‘ungrateful’ Europe that forgot its liberators and about ‘fascism in the Baltic States’) in the information space of Russia with attempts to push these narratives to the air of other states will become even more intensive up to 9 May, which might reach the peak on the day of commemoration of the Day of Victory. Later this information attack might subside slightly but will not disappear. 
Viktor Denisenko

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