Dhe Russian special course began as early as 1945. While for most of the world the war in Europe ended on May 8, the Soviet leadership insisted on a separate declaration of surrender by representatives of the Nazi regime. It took place after midnight Moscow time. That is why in Russia, for years, the big holiday commemorating the victory of the Second World War has been held on May 9.
But it’s been a long time since the world has watched what will happen in Moscow and elsewhere on this anniversary as closely as this year. And it’s not because there was and still is speculation about President Vladimir Putin’s dramatic announcements.
Putin, the chief amateur historian
On the contrary, a regime celebrates the victory over “fascism” with sacred seriousness, whose representatives do not just wage war on a neighboring country because it is committed to Western democracy. Moreover, they accompany this campaign with declarations that to qualify as scandalous would be a crude understatement. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov considers the Ukrainian government, which his country is attacking, to be Nazi-dominated, in part because President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish. After all, according to Lavrov, Adolf Hitler also had “Jewish blood” in him. This is racial anti-Semitism at its worst.
President Putin has seemingly apologized to Israel, where Lavrov’s comments understandably sparked widespread outrage. It remains to be seen whether this reflects an insight into the monstrousness of what was said or if it was just damage limitation in foreign policy.
Putin has been the leading amateur historian for some time. His theses on Ukraine’s past and present are scientific nonsense. However, at least in Russia, the president has the power to declare that his view of things is the “truth”. It is to be feared that the main representatives of Russia will venture into new historical revisionist abysses. Because the longer the war against Ukraine lasts, the more the language of power in Moscow becomes radicalized.
But because, through the fault of these same leaders, neither the present nor the future of Russia looks particularly promising, the past must be used to justify somehow the war of aggression and the crimes that accompanied it. Above all, it is to be feared that Putin and Lavrov really believe in the historical nonsense they are spreading. Since you can’t negotiate on lies, neither can you take the path that some Western peace activists think they should advise Ukrainians under attack.
What should Vladimir Putin look like for a “face-saving” way out to a compromise acceptable to both parties, if he sees himself in the fight against Nazism – in other words, the evil par excellence? The question of whether a settlement would be possible with another Russian leadership must remain open. But there is nothing like it to see. Regime change cannot be brought about by foreign countries.
The UN will be dismantled
So while Putin’s official Russia, including ‘V-Day’, acts as if it defeated Hitler single-handedly, at the same time institutions are dismantled as collateral damage, which – with the best intentions – were created in response to this same world war in order to prevent similar calamities forever.
Many disrespectful things have been said about the United Nations in the past, especially in the United States. Part of it was completely true. On the other hand, no one has found better than this organization which, after all, represents the whole world.
In many respects, the founders of the UN can be accused of exaggerated idealism, even naivety. The construction of the Security Council is certainly not the last word. But the statesmen of 1945 could hardly foresee that after the terrible experiences of war and genocide, a few decades later, one of the victorious great powers, among all peoples, would pursue a policy which would again judge the people according to criteria that had to do with their “blood”.
Historical comparisons, which have not been lacking in the West since the start of the war against Ukraine, are often far-fetched and ineffective. In the current constellation, many are reliving World War II scenarios and engaging in military advice to Ukraine. However, there is no doubt that Putin’s regime is grossly misusing history.