Vladimir Putin met with young academics and history teachers at the Museum of Modern Russian History. November 5, 2014
Representatives of leading Russian universities and institutes under the Russian Academy of Sciences, in particular, the Institute of Russian History, Institute of General History and the Archaeology Institute, took part in the meeting.
Some titles from Putin speech
….I keep doing so because this really is needed today and is so very important for our people and country. We see the attempts being made to recode society in many countries, and such attempts are being made to recode our society too. This always goes hand-in-hand with attempts to rewrite history and shape it to particular geopolitical interests. But history is a science and if you are serious about it, it cannot be rewritten….
….Yes, we won the Great Patriotic War; we were winners in World War II. This was also likely no accident, because those who took part in World War I – they were essentially the people leading the main operations, supervising the fronts and the general staff. Who were those leaders? Military experts who fought in the First World War. There were some new commanders as well, an entirely new generation so to speak, especially after the 1937 repression. But the military experts who had made it through the furnace of World War I were at the forefront. And this also played a certain role. The cruelty of the leadership likely played a certain role as well.
We could, of course, argue about this and give political assessments. It’s just hard to say whether we could have won the war if the leaders had not been so cruel, if they were more like those in Nicholas II’s time. It’s very hard to say. And what would the consequences have been if we’d lost? The consequences would have been simply catastrophic. They were going to physically exterminate the Slavic people, and not just ethnic Russians, but many other peoples, including the Jews, the Gypsies and the Poles. In other words, if you weigh it, it is hard to say what is worse. We must study it and assess it, but those assessments must be as objective as possible….
…You are right. But here’s the issue. The issue is that researchers in the United Kingdom write about what is interesting to them. I have not seen this book, but as you yourself said, it focuses on the study of relations between Great Britain and Germany. In 1939 through 1941, right?…
….So that is what he focused on. Why are you offended by it? He is an Englishman and you are a Russian; you are interested in our Russian history. This is normal. If there is some kind of distortion there, if there are lies in there, that’s another issue. But if he is simply researching certain relations during a certain period, and is not concerned about others… After all, he is not talking about, say, relations between the United States and Germany during that period of time, he is not studying them. That is not the subject of his study. His subject is different in this case. So there is no reason to feel offended.
But I completely agree with you that we need to fully study this period, as well as others. Why? That period is also interesting. Because before that, we had the so-called Munich Agreement in 1938. And what is it? Incidentally, your colleagues in western nations hush it up. Chamberlain arrived, shook his paper and said, “I brought you peace” when he returned to London after the talks. To which Churchill, I believe, in private, stated, “Well, now the war is inevitable.” Because appeasement of the aggressor, which Nazi Germany was, would clearly lead to a major future military conflict, and some people understood that. There should be a deep multilateral study of what was happening before World War II.
Or, for example, there are still arguments about the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, and the Soviet Union is blamed for dividing Poland. But what did Poland itself do, when the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia? It took part of Czechoslovakia. It did this itself. And then, in turn, the same thing happened to Poland.
I do not want to blame anyone here, but serious studies should show that these were the foreign policy methods at the time. The Soviet Union signed a non-aggression agreement with Germany. They say, “Oh, how bad.” But what is so bad about it, if the Soviet Union did not want to fight? What is so bad?
Moreover, even knowing about the inevitability of war, supposing that it could happen, the Soviet Union desperately needed time to modernise its army. We needed to implement a new weapons system. Each month had significance because the number of Katyusha rocket launchers or T-34 tanks in the Soviet army was in the single digits, whereas thousands were needed. Each day had significance. So idle thoughts and chatter on this matter on a political level may have a purpose, in order to shape public opinion, but this must be countered with serious, deep, objective research.
As for the role of the Soviet Union and our allies in World War II, all this is also highly important. We cannot deny the enormous input of our allies into the victory over Nazi Germany. But we must compare the victims sacrificed at the altar of this common victory, the efforts and significance. And to do this, we simply need to restore some information: how many German divisions were on the Eastern Front, and how many fought on the Western Front? Simply the number of tanks, artillery, planes on the Eastern Front and the Western Front. Everything immediately becomes clear. We simply need to talk about this, to repeat it again, to count. But to do this, of course, we must work in the archives.
How many victims where there? How many people died in World War II in Great Britain? How many, 350,000? The US lost about half a million, somewhere between 350,000 and half a million, that’s it. Yes, that is an enormous number, it is terrible, but you see, it is not the 25 million victims lost from the Soviet Union. We simply must talk about this. But of course, in order to talk about it, we need good, deep research.
It is very interesting to show the real events of World War I. This is exceedingly important in understanding the relationship between nations, peoples and governments. After all, the allies were playing the game, they were competing against one another, but they also helped one another. For example, at the time, everyone knew and said, and nobody denies it today, that Russia saved Paris with its offense. We must give credit to the allies that in 1915, when the Russian army suffered a defeat, the allies gathered and began offensive actions at the cost of enormous losses – granted, they did not achieve a result, but they did it. And all of this ought to be discussed, but in order to discuss it, it must be researched.
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