News & Politics

Russian Supreme Court: USSR Did Not Invade Poland in 1939

This was the scene in Moscow, August 23, 1939 after representatives of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia signed a ten-year non-agression pact. Shown from left to right are: Vyachesloff Molotov, Joseph Stalin, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Friedrich Gaus. Molotov signed for Russia and von Ribbentrop for Germany...(AP Photo)

The Russian Supreme Court had to perform a slight alteration of history, but it upheld the conviction of a Russian blogger who reposted a social media blurb saying that both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland in 1939. Under Russia’s criminal code, Vladimir Luzgin was found guilty of “rehabilitation of Nazism” for going against the Russian narrative that it was the Soviets who came to the rescue of Poland by annexing about a third of the country.

It may be no accident that the ‘offending text’ should be Ukrainian, and fairly nationalist, however it was specifically over the following paragraph in the repost that the criminal proceedings against Luzgin were initiated:

 “The communists and Germany jointly invaded Poland, sparking off the Second World War.  That is, communism and Nazism closely collaborated, yet for some reason they blame Bandera who was in a German concentration camp for declaring Ukrainian independence”. 

Russia’s Supreme Court has now agreed that this paragraph constitutes “the public denial of the Nuremberg Trials and circulation of false information about the activities of the USSR during the years of the Second World War”.

It is hard to know what is most shocking in all of this. A prime contender must be Alexander Vertinsky, dean of the History Faculty of the Perm Humanitarian-Pedagogical University.  He proved willing to appear for the prosecution and claim that the paragraph really did contain “statements that do not correspond with the position accepted at international level”.

There are also two Russian courts willing to agree that since the Nuremberg Trials did not mention the Soviet invasion,  the information was ‘knowingly false’.  With the Soviet Union as one of the victors exerting considerable influence at Nuremberg, it was highly unlikely that Soviet collaboration with the Nazis and its invasion would get a mention.

The rulings are extraordinarily cynical.  Whatever was said at Nuremberg, any genuine historian will confirm that the Soviet Union invaded what was then Poland on September 17, 1939.

To deny this is absurd when the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its secret protocols which carved up Poland between the Soviet Union and Germany have long been in the public domain, and can be read about in any history book.

Perhaps the most chilling aspect of this is that the Perm ‘historian’, the courts, the prosecutor are doubtless well aware of the historical facts.  Luzgin has more than likely been prosecuted for revealing inconvenient facts, and the Russian prosecutor, courts, as well as a historian have all proven complicit in this cynical travesty.

The bill outlawing something dubbed ‘rehabilitation of Nazism’ has been in force since May 2014.  It claims to be aimed at opposing the glorification of Nazism and distortion of historical memory.  The renowned Sova Centre disagrees and believes its aim is to prohibit historical discussion.  It’s application in this case has flouted provable historical fact.

Russia isn’t the only country that has attempted to obscure its role in World War II. Japan’s collective memory loss about treatment of POWs, the rape of Nanking, “comfort women,” and its refusal to admit making aggressive war against China resonates with many nations in Asia to this day.

But what makes this case so egregious is that Russia has to deny the fully documented reality of their alliance with Hitler. After the war, more than a million documents from the era of the Weimar Republic through the end of Hitler fell into the hands of historians. Never before in history had such documentation been discovered simultaneously with the fall of a great nation.

Historians set to work cataloging and studying the documents but before they had gotten too far in examining the find, politics intruded. The Nuremberg prosecutors cherry picked what they needed to convict war criminals, but the document investigation was eventually halted when the allies realized they needed a strong, independent Germany to fight the Soviets. Most of the unread documents were given back to the German government.

But before that happened, the whole sordid affair that led to the “Treaty of Understanding and Friendship” had been exposed, including the aforementioned secret protocol that not only divvied up Poland, but also delineated “spheres of influence” in Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries.

The Russian people believe all sorts of things that simply aren’t true, including the idea that there are no Russian troops in the Ukraine. If Putin tells them the sky is purple, they will believe it as easily as they believe Russia didn’t invade Poland in 1939.