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PUTIN AND SOVIET "TRUTH"
May 24, 2017
By Toby Westerman
The strains of the stirring martial music have faded
away, so to the rumbling of tanks, personnel carriers
and the well-timed clacking of boots on Red Square to
commemorate Victory Day, the commemoration of the Soviet
victory over Nazi Germany, but Soviet-era myths
continue. There is even a new twist to enhance Putin
inspired Soviet reverie. Putin's use of Soviet mythology
affects not only the Russian people but also the entire
One of the most dearly held myths inherited from the
Soviet era is the story of the people of the Union of
Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR, Soviet Union) standing
virtually alone against, and finally vanquishing, the
invading Nazi hordes of Adolf Hitler. While other
nations faltered, the Soviet state and people fought the
fascist menace and won.
Putin stated during his 2017 Moscow Victory Day address
that World War II showed that "double standards" and
"short-sighted indulgences" bring tragic results. Putin
proclaimed that the Great Patriotic War (WWII) was an
"outstanding, sacred heroic deed of our people, a call
to live according to conscience, to keep the height of
truth and justice...." The phrases "double standards"
and "short-sighted indulgences" referred to pre-WWII
Western attempts at appeasing Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
Putin was taking a jab at U.S. and European policies,
particularly in Syria. Putin is saying that the U.S. and
its allies are weak in the face of terrorism (because of
Westerm support of anti-Assad rebels), comparing this
policy to the West's approach to Hitler in the 1930's.
As far as Putin is concerned, any group hostile
to Assad is a terrorist organization, but using the
Soviet relationship to Nazi Germany as an example of
resolute resistance to aggression is, however, absurd.
It does make for excellent propaganda for the Russian
people and for pro-Putin allies around the world.
As with all myths, there is truth within the general
narrative. On June 22, 1941 Nazi forces launched a
surprise attack against Soviet Union driving the Red
Army back to the gates of Moscow and Stalingrad.
Eventually, and with the help of "general winter,"
Soviet forces prevailed.
There are also a number of embarrassing facts mentioned
neither in the Soviet account, nor in Putin's use of
that account. First of all, the Soviet Union and the
government of Germany had been cooperating with each
other since the Treaty of Rapallo in 1922. From 1929 to
1933 there were even secret German military training and
arms development facilities in the Soviet Union, which
circumvented restrictions on the German armed forces by
the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I. After
Hitler came to power in 1933, these facilities were
moved to Germany, but Soviet-German cooperation
The height of Nazi-Soviet cooperation came in the
August 23, 1939 with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which
specified not only peaceful relations and spheres of
influence between the two states, but also enhanced the
transfer of German technology for Soviet raw materials.
The Soviets always claimed that they were forced to
ally with Hitler in the face of Western inaction against
Hitler, but these highly dubious claims were further
undermined by active Soviet assistance to Hitler's
military and the Stalin's participation in the 1939
invasion of Poland. Both Germany and the Soviet Union
saw the re-birth of the Polish state in 1918 as an
impediment to their own ambitions. The Nazis attacked
Poland on September 1, the Soviets on September 17. Not
until the Nazis launched Operation Barbarossa in June
1941 did Stalin break his active support of Hitler and
the Nazi regime.
Even after the Nazi invasion the Soviet people were not
united in a "sacred heroic deed" to support Stalin's
Soviet Union, and the "call to live according to
conscience..." meant something quit different to many
Soviet citizens than what Putin and Soviet mythology
Little known in this country, and a point of official
shame in Russia, was the existence of the "Russian
Liberation Army" (ROA) and its leader Andrey Vlasov. Not
all Russians who loved their country were loyal to
Communism or Stalin. Many Russians were angered at
Stalin's reign of terror at home with its never ending
killings and constant suspicion of everyone by everyone.
Some Russian prisoners captured by the Germans were
willing to take a chance on supporting Germany in hopes
of ending Stalin's rule and the domination of Communism.
Other Russians, who had fought against the Communists in
the Russian Civil War, also saw the Germans as possible
allies. As noted above, Russian-German cooperation was
not a new idea but existed throughout the years
These Russian anti-Communist patriots found a leader in
Lieutenant General Andrey Vlasov. Highly decorated for
his successful defense of Moscow, Vlasov had the
distinction of being the first Soviet general to force
German forces into retreat. During his attempt to
relieve the siege of Leningrad, Vlasov's army failed to
receive timely support from other Soviet forces and was
surrounded. The Soviet high command offered to fly
Vlasov out of the encirclement, but he refused and
stayed with his men. His army was eventually overwhelmed
and Vlasov hid in the surrounding area for 10 days until
his capture on July 12, 1942. During his imprisonment
Vlasov's antipathy to Stalin's police state rule was
bolstered by fellow Soviet officers sharing similar
hatred for Stalin and his Communists. Hoping to free his
nation from Stalin's tyranny, Vlasov offered his
services to the Nazi government as the leader of an
anti-Communist army allied with the Germans for the
liberation of Russian people. The Russian Liberation
Army, however, would be deployed only very late in the
war. Elements of the ROA did turn on Nazi forces and
prevented Waffen SS units from destroying the city of
Prague during that city's insurrection against Nazi
occupation in early May 1945. Germany surrendered on My
9, the same day German forces withdrew from Prague.
As the Third Reich collapsed, the ROA and its
commanders sought to surrender to American forces, but
previous agreements with the Soviets and the reality of
thousands of American soldiers who were freed from
German prison camps but still under Soviet control
forced the allies to hand over the troops of the ROA and
its leaders. (Some American commanders did allow small
numbers of ROA troops to slip away into American
controlled zones.) The Soviets considered all members of
the ROA to be traitors, with the leaders, including
Vlasov, being executed.
Not only are the members of the ROA considered as
traitors, but the official Russian version of the
defense of Moscow excludes Vlasov's actions. Vlasov's
very name is remains synonymous with treason.
The sad truth is that Soviet-era propaganda remains
dominant in today's Russia, and embarrassing historical
facts such as Soviet cooperation with Germany and the
existence of the anti-Communist ROA are ignored or
treated in virtually the same manner as in the days of
the old Soviet Union.
As in the Soviet-era, in Putin's Russia the only truth
is government sponsored truth, and that "truth" looks
much as it did during Stalin's rule.