Signs of Memory as a Nervous Indicator of the Growing Russian Imperialism

A well-known promise of Vladimir Putin, President of Russia to shut up loathsome mouths of those who rewrite the history was given at the beginning of the year during the meeting with veterans of World War II. As an unexpecte…

A well-known promise of Vladimir Putin, President of Russia to shut up loathsome mouths of those who rewrite the history was given at the beginning of the year during the meeting with veterans of World War II. As an unexpected projection of this high-sounding statement a piece of news was spread in public domain on 19 April about a common declaration of Heiko Maas and Jacek Czaputowicz, Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Germany and Poland that denounced a rising anti-Semitism and hatred relating to 75 years anniversary of liberation of Zachsenhauzen and Ravensbruk concentration camps.  Zachsenhauzen concentration camp was liberated on 22-23 April 1945 by Soviet and Polish soldiers and Ravensbruk – by the Soviet Army. In the latter camp 28 thousand prisoners were killed.
There was no voice of Moscow in the denounced declaration, instead almost on the same days it emerged in a different way when the Embassy of Russia announced in Czech Republic that it will not reside at the address in Prague ‘Boris Nemtsov square building No 1’. The physical location of the Embassy did not change, just its official address ‘moved’ to the Consulate Department that is located in the same building complex, however at another address – Korunovační Street. It turns out that Russian diplomats got scared of the late B. Nemtsov. Zdeněk Hřib, Mayer of Prague, who participated in the ceremony of changing the name of the square ‘Under Chestnuts’ at the end of February was surprised at a such a decision and reminded that even President of Russia called killing of the oppositionist a shabby and cynical act and that its organizers must be punished.       
To this end we shall recall again the story of displacement of the monument to Igor Konev in Prague on 9 April, especially for an extremely furious reaction from Moscow when not only Maria Zakharova, representative of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, but also the Investigative Committee of Russia instituted criminal proceedings (!) in regards to indications of ‘justification of Nazism’. On the same day Sergei Shoigu, Minister of Defence of Russia addressed a Czech colleague Lubomír Metnar by a letter and asked to pass the monument of the Soviet general to Russia and got an answer that this monument belonged to the municipality of district 6 of Prague and not the Ministry of Defence of Czech Republic. Administration of 6 district of Prague previously agreed with the museum of the 20 century that is being established in Prague to commemorate 30 years of ‘Velvet Revolution of  1990’ in regards to exposition of the monument.
As Jan Latsina, Deputy Head of the Administration of district 6 of Prague told the radio that he can understand a very emotional reaction of Moscow; however Russians may not demand something that does not belong to it. Czech Republic, as a member of the European Union (EU), is observing international acts. The displaced monument will become the first exponent of the Museum of History of 20 century where it will be exposed with all plates that it used to have – that soldiers under command of the Marshal saved Prague from destruction on 9 May 1945 and the one that was added in 2018, which says that the Soviet general contributed to bloody suppression of the Hungarian Uprising in 1956.
Stanislav Kokoschka, author of the book “Prague in May 1945’, a fellowship of the Institute of Modern History of the Czech Academy of Sciences reminded to the radio channel of a rather complicated history of ‘becoming’ a monument. The epic of its erection planned for 30 anniversary of World War II, lasted 6 years and reflected complicated relations between Czechs and Soviets after terrible events in 1968, when military forces of the Warsaw treaty drowned in blood an attempt of democratic changes in Czechoslovakia. After collapse of the Soviet Empire the monument to I. Konev turned into ‘a forgotten monument’ until Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, arouse a conflict in the east of Ukraine and damaged relations with the EU and Czech Republic. According to the historian, events about the monument should be treated in the light of this context; the General has become a political hostage in a certain point of view.
It has not always been in Czech Republic like this for ever. In the retrospective point of view Lithuanian has behaved more cautiously in the area of monuments. The monument of the Soviet General Ivan Chernyakhovsky and his remains were passed to Russia in 1993 without big misunderstandings. Actually, Lithuania then had to deal not with V. Putin’s Russia. Already in September 2015 Polish had problems with dismantlement of the monument to the General I. Chernyakhovsky in the town Pieniezno – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia called in the then Ambassador of Poland in Russia Katarzyna Pelczynska-Nalecz to submit a note of protest to the government of Poland.   
Estonia and all EU faced similar serious problems when Estonians in April 2007 decided to move the bronze monument of the soldier from the Tenismeg hill in Tallinn centre to the cemetery of soldiers. This instigated street riots. Within three days of the riot the police arrested around 1,200 people; 50 people were injured and one was killed. Some Russian politicians tried not just terminate diplomatic relations with Estonia and but also ‘privatize’ this pseudo state, in the opinion of Sergei Glazyev, a deputy of the State Duma.   
Despite that Estonia was the first state in the world that experienced massive cyber attacks, for over two weeks its governmental and media websites were attacked from hundreds thousands of computers; supply of electronic banking and Internet services were temporarily discontinued. Most attacks were executed from Russia. Already then they knew that some IP addresses were of the computers located in the Kremlin. A logical step was that Estonia then established a NATO Cyber Defence Centre and today it is the cyber security leader in Europe.
Of course, the reaction of Moscow was not adequate, however it was based on propaganda tricks fairly good. For an ordinary Russian it seemed that remains of the Soviet soldiers in Estonia were violated and support of the USA and EU to Tallinn was the evidence that Russia was surrounded by enemies. The Kremlin tried to punish Estonians, let’s say, in a demonstrative and painful way. It tried to repeat the same with Czech Republic. The alleged civil outrage, downthrown of the moral responsibility to the opponent has been constantly used by the ruling class of Russia and guite successfully, to tell the truth.   
By the way, after dismantlement of the monument to the marshal I. Konev Czechs have also been attacked by cyber attacks (actually, not on the Estonian scale) – some hospitals, the Ministry of Health and Vaclav Havel Airport in Prague. The decreasing scale, most probably was determined by the imperial height of the ruling class of Russia that is growing (we can compare how this historical issue was solved by Lithuanians, Estonians and Czechs) and gaining more signs of ambiguity, which was increasing in the twenty first century.   
Aggressive historical narratives of the Moscow government (here we have to add the quarrel with Warsaw about the beginning of World War II) with elements of the virtual presence (let’s hope, it will remain) is turning into a farce because of objective reasons. As a result of COVID-19 pandemic President V. Putin postponed the victory parade of May 9 in Moscow. The Duma of Russia changed the last day of World War II from September 2 to 3 and in the explanatory letter explained that the victory of the Soviet Union over Japan in 1945 played a major role in the end of World War II.    However, Japan signed an unconditional instrument of surrender on 2 September of the same year in the American Linear Liner with participation of a representative of the Soviet Union. Does the need for the revenge obscure so much that they do not care a skiver to the actual historic facts?   
It seems that the official discourse of the ruling class of Russia that brings a chaos of value and cognition started to change in a strange way in reaction to the version of ‘not its’ historical memories. Thus, I think it is worth concluding by making use of the potpourri of comments of the Russian Internet on the historical topic: ‘Only in Russia the end date of the war is determined by voting of deputies (…), ‘Deputies have returned to their favourite engagement – further overwhelm fascists and samurais. With elements of rewriting history’. ‘We will not let anybody rewrite the history! We will just move forward the end date of World War II and will not let right away!’ and a totally drastic statement: ‘To announce the day of shooting Polish intelligentsia in Katyn as the Victory Day. To hold the parade that was cancelled in Moscow because of the pandemic right in Katyn’.
Arūnas Spraunius

Voras Online
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