A new Russian film on the 1968 events in Czechoslovakia has revived accusations that the Kremlin is twisting historical facts to forge a new ideology and justify some of its most controversial actions and policies.
Here is a look at some remarkable recent Russian treatments of history:
1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia
A Russian film glorifying the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 has sparked fury among Czechs and Slovaks.
Warsaw Pact: The Declassified Pages, which aired on state-run Russian television on May 23, justifies the armed crackdown on the democratic “Prague Spring” movement and claims Warsaw Pact troops were sent into Czechoslovakia to protect its citizens from a purported NATO threat.
Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek accused Russia of “grossly distorting” history and summoned the Russian ambassador in protest. Czech President Milos Zeman, who is seen as relatively Kremlin-friendly, dismissed the film as “Russian propaganda lies,” according to his spokesman.
The Slovak Foreign Ministry accused Russia of “trying to rewrite history and falsify historical truths about this dark chapter of our history.”
Defense of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
Putin caused dismay across Europe last year by arguing there was nothing wrong with the infamous 1939 nonaggression pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, which led to the carve-up of Eastern Europe.
“What’s bad about that if the Soviet Union didn’t want to fight?” he asked a meeting with historians in Moscow. “Serious research must show that those were the foreign-policy methods then.”
Last month, Putin again defended the pact during a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying the deal was signed “when the Soviet Union realized it was being left one-on-one with Hitler’s Germany” despite what he described as “repeated efforts” by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to form an anti-Hitler coalition with Western countries.
Merkel responded by pointing out that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact encompassed a secret protocol under which Stalin and Nazi leader Adolf Hitler agreed to divide Eastern Europe into respective spheres of influence.
The agreement paved the way for Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939, as well as the Soviet Union’s invasion of eastern Poland in the following weeks and its occupation of the Baltic states in 1940.
Hitler was ‘good’ until 1939
Amid Russia’s persistent claims that Ukraine is teeming with neo-Nazis, a pro-Kremlin Russian newspaper caused stupor last year with an article asserting that Hitler was actually “good” before turning against the Soviet Union.
“We should distinguish between Hitler before 1939 and Hitler after 1939, and separate the wheat from the chaff,” read the piece in Izvestia, which rejected comparisons between Hitler’s annexation of Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland to Putin’s annexation of Crimea.
The author, Andranik Migranyan — who heads the New York office of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, an NGO set up under President Vladimir Putin in 2007 — credited Hitler with uniting Germany, Austria, the Sudetenland, and Memel “without a single drop of blood.”
“If Hitler stopped at that, he would be remembered in his country’s history as a politician of the highest order,” Migranyan stated.
Critics reminded Migranyan about some of Hitler’s most horrific policies prior to 1939, including the establishment of concentration camps, the purges of “non-Aryans,” the creation of the Gestapo, and the bloody Kristallnacht pogroms in 1938.
Crimea as sacred cradle of Russian civilization
President Vladimir Putin has gone to great lengths to defend Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by portraying the peninsula as a holy cradle of Russian civilization.
Speaking in a state-of-the-nation address in December, he said Crimea had an “enormous civilizational and sacral meaning for Russia, just as the Temple Mount of Jerusalem does for those who profess Islam and Judaism.”
Grand Prince Vladimir is believed to have converted Kievan Rus to Orthodox Christianity in the 10th century after being baptized in Crimea.
The logic behind the annexation, however, is disputed as the conversion of Kievan Rus established the foundations for both the Russian and Ukrainian states.
The Black Sea peninsula was also home to various populations before Russia first annexed it from the Ottoman Empire in 1783, including Greek colonies some 2,500 years ago and Crimean Tatars, who today are considered the region’s indigenous population — and have been under increasing pressure since the Russian takeover in March 2014.
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This article originally appeared at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Copyright 2015.
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.