Putin: West mostly to blame for World War II

On the 75th anniversary of the victory in World War II, Russian President Vladimir Putin has published an essay on the historical dispute over what caused the war. The key message: the main trigger was not the Soviet-German Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact but the appeasement policy of the Western powers. Is Putin right? And what was the goal of his essay?

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Vedomosti (RU) /

Newly packaged Soviet clichés

Historical facts have been subordinated to political interests here, Vedomosti concludes:

“Putin's article is primarily aimed at foreign policy objectives. It's another message to both the East and West: a signal of the desire to pour oil on troubled water and create a new and - in the Kremlin's view - just world order. But the historical content of the article is not exactly its strong point: new documents are wrapped up in the old attire of Soviet ideas about the events of World War II. It reveals factual errors and the attempt to justify the Kremlin's pre-war policy and its clear failures by glorifying the Red Army and the Soviet people.”

The Times (GB) /

Please update the reading list

Putin suffers from an outdated understanding of history that fails to address the shameful acts of the past, The Times criticises:

“The Russian leadership's underlying problem is that wartime history is no longer seen in simplistic, binary terms, with the only question being whether you fought the Nazis. The way in which the Hitler-Stalin pact paved the way for the war, and the Holocaust; and the real nature of the Soviet occupation of eastern Europe afterwards, were once historical footnotes. Thanks to historians ... they are now mainstream. ... Knowledge of Soviet crimes (let alone restitution for them) has some way to go in Russia. Mr Putin should widen his reading list.”

Echo of Moscow (RU) /

At least Stalin is not glorified

Historian Igor Tschubais is surprised in a positive way by the article. He writes in Echo of Moscow:

“Many authors, including myself, were afraid that the victory celebrations would lead to further Stalinisation of the country, and that the dictator and executioner of our people would become the 'father of victory'. Fortunately that's not the case. Putin stopped short of that - and even took a step back. In the article he sheepishly admits that Stalin committed crimes. And his second ideological admission has to do with the 'secret protocol' of August 23, 1939. ... Recently some have tended towards considering it as having had a certain utility. ... Putin's article returns to the position of recognising that the protocol was 'politically unacceptable'.”