Stalingrad 80 years on - and Putin's propaganda
Yesterday, 2 February, marked the 80th anniversary of the decisive victory of the Soviet army against Hitler's troops at Stalingrad. The battle, which was fought from 1942 to 1943, is widely regarded as a turning point in the Second World War. Commentators discuss how the Kremlin is reinterpreting and exploiting the anniversary in light of the war against Ukraine.
Kremlin boss as "father of the peoples"
Vladimir Putin blatantly identifies with Stalin, Russia expert Anna Zafesova explains in La Stampa:
“The the Soviet Union has been reborn for two days in Volgograd. The municipal authorities have changed the signposts to those bearing the city's old name Stalingrad, while the 'father of the peoples' smiles from posters and murals and a bust of him has been unveiled in a blaze of red carnations on the Alley of the Heroes. ... The city on the Volga is to become Stalingrad again, and the president who visits it must fit into this context. He is slipping into the role that seems to have been tailor-made for him by his fearsome predecessor.”
New meaning in light of invasion of Ukraine
The Kremlin used the celebrations as an advertisement for the war, observes Deník N:
“President Putin and the current Russian military leaders and are trying to exploit the various legends surrounding the Battle of Stalingrad - some true, some fabricated by propaganda - to strengthen public resolve. To make the citizens more determined to sacrifice themselves in the name of 'defending the country' against 'European and Ukrainian fascism, decadent lifestyles and perverted values'. That is why the celebrations marking the 80th anniversary of the surrender of the German occupying power have taken on a new meaning in view of the war on Ukraine.”
What is happening today is not in any way comparable to what happened in 1943, historian Valery Solovei criticises in a Telegram post republished by Echo:
“Putin's historical analogies are very lame. The Soviet Union was indeed the victim of external aggression, and no one in the world, including in the West, questions the just and defensive character of the Great Patriotic War. Neither the crimes of the Soviet leadership against its own citizens nor its aggressive imperial policy in the pre-war years can change this. Putin's Russia, on the other hand, triggered a major armed conflict itself a year ago. And at this stage even viewers of the state television channels don't really believe the argument that had it not done so, it would itself have been attacked a day or an hour later.”
Without Ukrainians the Red Army would not have won
Ukrainian soldiers shared in the victory of Stalingrad, economist Vladislav Inozemtsev recalls in a Facebook post:
“Today many - too many - Russians associate Ukrainians with Banderites and nationalists. But if 80 years ago almost 300,000 sons and daughters of the Ukrainian people had not laid down their lives on the banks of the Volga and the Don, that victory which was, as one song says, 'one for all', might not have been won. And even though it may not be appropriate to talk about it now: the memory of the deeds of all Soviet heroes will outlast the centuries - and even more so all the present rulers.”