Moscow's Twisted History Lessons

tags: Putin, WW II, Victory Day

Maxim Trudolyubov is the opinion page editor of the business newspaper Vedomosti, a Wilson Center fellow in Washington, and the author of a forthcoming book on power and property in Russia.

Russia’s Victory Day, celebrated on May 9th, has for decades been its most unifying event of the year domestically and its least controversial holiday internationally. But because of the peculiarities of the Kremlin’s politics of history, Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and the ongoing struggle over Ukraine, even the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Great Patriotic War has become divisive.

Heads of state the world over have been invited to the military parade in Moscow to mark the defeat of Hitler’s Germany. According to the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, leaders from China, Israel, the Czech republic, Serbia, North Korea and most former Soviet republics are planning to attend. But those from the Western countries that were Russia’s closest World War II allies have declined.

Russia has always had a love-hate relationship with the West. Writers from Turgenev to Brodsky worked to build bridges, while others, from Dostoyevsky to Solzhenitsyn, have warned that the West’s morals, cultures and customs are somehow corrupting.

President Vladimir Putin and his supporters have opted to embrace the view that the West has always sought to corrupt and cheat the Russian people, to thwart the country’s development and prevent Russia from taking its rightful place in the world. They have long insisted that the United States and its allies were unjust to Russia as the Cold War drew to a close, even as Moscow voluntarily gave up its interests in Central and Eastern Europe. And they castigate their own countrymen who have sought and still seek greater ties with the West.

“The greatest criminals in our history were those weaklings who threw Russian power on the floor — Nicholas II and Mikhail Gorbachev — those who allowed the power to be picked up by the hysterics and the madmen,” the journalist Ben Judah reported Mr. Putin as saying privately to his aides. ...

Read entire article at NYT

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