back to front - rewriting history
WORKERS, JULY 2005 ISSUE
We live at a time when we can actually see history being rewritten. The 60th anniversary of the defeat of fascism in 1945 is a case in point. Schools are already equating Stalin with Hitler. The history of China and Mao is now being reversed as if it were truth. Now the role of the USSR in World War II is being rewritten. Bush's decision to visit Latvia and Georgia either side of the celebrations in Moscow shows one man who is behind the rewriting.
We are now being asked to believe that the war started when the USSR and Nazi Germany signed a non-aggression pact in August 1939. According to this theory, the Baltic Republics suffered a Soviet occupation and the war only really finished with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Those who advocate this would have to admit, therefore, that the rise of Nazi Germany and the coming war was for the purpose of destroying the USSR.
Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia never existed before the Russian revolution of 1917. They had been part of Russia, or at times part of Swedish, Danish or German territories. Their populations had actively taken part in the 1905 and 1917 Russian revolutions, with Bolsheviks in a majority in Latvia and Estonia.
By the end of World War I, the US, Britain and France wanted to isolate revolutionary Russia with a cordon of hostile states if their armies of intervention failed to destroy the revolution. They succeeded in creating these three states and encouraged Poland to take as much of western Russia as possible. They also tried unsuccessfully to detach oil rich Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia, but failed because Attaturk's new revolutionary Turkey had come to terms with Russia. Many Balts fled to Russia and many, notably Latvian Red Riflemen, went on to rise to the highest levels in the Red Army. Russia had lost much of Byelorussia and Ukraine to the invading Polish ultra nationalist army, which also took the Lithuanian city of Vilnius. Russia knew that the threat to its sovereignty and its revolution would come from the west.
Surrounded by hostile artificially created states, Russia viewed the rise of fascism in Germany with concern. It supported the Spanish Republican forces with arms while all other European countries either appeased fascism or adopted its methods. With much foresight, it forced Finland, formally part of Russia and now allied with Hitler, to cede territory to defend Leningrad. It signed a non aggression pact with Germany for the same reasons, to buy time, and defend its territory. Part of that pact restored the territory lost at the end World War I, mainly stolen by invading Poland and yielded under the Brest Litovsk Treaty. Russia then went about building its defences for what it knew was coming, the Nazi invasion.
Some 27 million Soviet citizens died to save the world from fascism. Many of the nationalists in the Baltic states collaborated and fought with the Nazis, while many more Balts fought and died fighting with the Red Army. These were the real heroes of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. No wonder Putin recreated, just for one day, the truth of the heroic Soviet past in the celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the defeat of fascism.