24th Oct 2016

Parliament chief reminds EU of historical facts on Stalin

  • The newly restored Kurskaya metro station, complete with Soviet insignia on the roof (Photo: SergeyRod)

The Polish head of the EU parliament on Wednesday (14 October) underlined some basic facts about Joseph Stalin at an event held in the context of mounting historical revisionism in Russia.

The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 23 August 1939, an agreement between Stalin and Hitler, carved up ownership of Poland, Finland, Romania and the Baltic states, saw millions deported and led to the deaths of 760,000 Poles, "many of them children," he said in his speech.

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"We can never forget those victims for they are a reminder of where we come from, and show us how much we have achieved."

The parliament president portrayed the EU as a guarantee that great powers will no longer make deals over the heads of smaller countries, including on energy security.

"What happened 70 years ago, that large states talked among themselves about the fate of small nations, has been made impossible by the European Union," Mr Buzek said. "When we discuss energy security or the proposed pipelines across the Baltic Sea, the voice of the smallest has to be heard."

The president's reference to Russia and Germany's plan to build a new Baltic Sea gas pipeline bypassing Poland and the Baltic states recalls an informal remark in 2006 by the now Polish foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, that the project is "in the ...tradition of Molotov-Ribbentrop."

A throng of politicians and historians from the Baltic states attended the one day-long EU parliament symposium to hammer home the importance of historical awareness.

The speaker of the Lithuanian parliament, Irena Degutiene, equated Stalinist crimes with Nazi crimes and noted that "the Soviet occupation and Stalinist terror totaled the loss of every third resident of Lithuania."

"We must continue doing the job in order to preserve the historical memory and, particularly, to deepen the knowledge and realisation by our societies (the young generation in particular) of what a large part of our and EU citizens had to go through," she said.

New history for new generation

The EU parliament seminar comes amid a new Russian campaign to rehabilitate the image of Stalin, who oversaw the deaths of millions of Russians but who also helped defeat Nazi Germany.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at a World War II commemoration ceremony in Poland last month defended the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact on the basis that Western countries also made deals with Hitler.

In September, a new Russian handbook for schoolteachers called History of Russia from 1945 to 2008 described Stalin as an "efficient manager" and his occupation of the Baltic states as "entirely rational."

Moscow authorities in August also opened a newly-restored 1950s metro station in the city, complete with Soviet insignia and a plaque saying: "Stalin reared us on loyalty to the people. He inspired us to labour and heroism."

The pro-Stalin campaign has fueled eastern European fears of a new wave of Russian imperialism, following Russia's invasion of Georgia in 2008 and its recent attempts to influence the upcoming presidential election in Ukraine.

A US decision to scrap plans for military bases in Poland and the Czech Republic has also raised concerns that Washington is no longer serious about its security promises to former Communist states.

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