Streetwise Professor

July 11, 2010

History as Seen by a Tarantula*

Filed under: Financial crisis,History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 5:04 pm

There’s nothing like a historical debate to get the juices jangling here on SWP, and methinks Sergei (“The Tarantula”) Lavrov has provided the material (H/T LR).  Where does one begin?  Where does one end?  There’s just so much here.

Lavrov is Orwellian in his invocation of Orwell:

It is difficult to interpret such attempts to politicize history as anything other than euphoria in the spirit of “winner takes all” (presumably in the Cold War), that is, the right to interpret history according to the well-known method so well described by George Orwell.

Lavrov then proceeds to politicize history in a quintessentially Orwellian fashion.

Here are some of the high points (or low points, depending on how you look at it):

The history of World War II has been rewritten many times. Elements of this approach, which was dictated by considerations of ideology and political expediency, were also present in the Soviet Union. At the same time, even during the Cold War nobody ever tried to equate the Nazi regime and the Stalinist dictatorship. It occurred to no one to compare the Nazi threat, which meant the enslavement and destruction of entire peoples, to the policies of the Soviet Union, which was the only force capable in the beginning of opposing the military machine of Nazi Germany and, in its final phase, of ensuring its defeat, which was accelerated by the opening, however late, of a second European front in 1944.

Nice of him to mention the “second European front in 1944”–but no mention of the earlier efforts.  More importantly, there is a very revealing lacuna here.  Yes, Naziism meant the enslavement and destruction of entire peoples.  But Stalinism, and Bolshevism generally, had a body count that rivaled Hitler’s: and among the people enslaved and slain wholesale by Bolshevism and Stalinism were Russians.  To say that the USSR was not monstrous in the same way that Nazi Germany does not imply that the USSR was monstrous in its own, special, murderous way.

Historical revisionism has been used to attempt to link August 23 and September 1, 1939 – the conclusion of the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact and Germany’s attack on Poland. These two events are taken completely out of historical context, ignoring the Munich Agreement of 1938, which led to the dismemberment and occupation of Czechoslovakia; the Anglo-German Declaration, which was signed at the same time and was essentially a non-aggression agreement between Great Britain and Nazi Germany (the so-called ” peace in our time” agreement); and a whole series of other events that prepared the way for German aggression and directed it towards the East. As always, the sequence of events was critical. Were it not for the Munich Agreement, much of what followed would not have occurred.

By denouncing the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact the Russian Parliament has admitted that the Soviet Union made a mistake. And we are justified in expecting that in other nations which dealt with the Nazis it was done not at the political leadership level but at the political decision-making level. The West, like Soviet Russia, was not blameless. Why is this difficult to admit now that the Cold War has seemingly ended?

M-R is always good for a food fight around here, so let’s have at it.  Me first.

First, the linkage of 23 August and 1 September 1939 is not, as Lavrov suggests, a latter day invention of revisionists.  It was understood that the events were linked at the time.

Second, M-R was not foreordained by Munich.  Stalin made a deal in which he thought he would profit.  We’ve been over this before, so I won’t belabor it.  He was wrong in his calculation, but make no mistake: he made a calculation that he would advance his interests by dealing with Hitler.  Period.

Third, Lavrov’s implication here is that those in the West have completely overlooked Munich and heaped blame for the war only on the poor, misunderstood USSR.  That is complete bullshit.

Look.  I grew up in the United States during the ’60s and ’70s.  During that time, Munich was emblematic of the moral and strategic failure of Western governments.  Any proposal to make a compromise with international adversaries–most notably, the USSR–was met with accusations that such efforts would represent another Munich.  Every American president wanted to avoid another Munich at all costs.  One American president, Kennedy, wrote a book excoriating the weakness of the French and British over Munich.  I heard about Munich from the time I could remember: I seldom heard about Molotov-Ribbentrop.  To say, as Lavrov does, that M-R has been singled out for calumny while Munich has been swept under the rug is complete, utter, tripe. Only marginal loons like Pat Buchanan extol Munich.  It wasn’t difficult for virtually everyone in the West to come to honest grips with Munich before the Cold War ended.  It isn’t difficult now.

It is difficult to understand that the Western nations were prevented for reasons other than ideological preferences from implementing in 1945-1946 the principles that later led to the lessening of tensions during the 1970s, that is, from choosing to “engage” the Soviet Union. This would have encouraged Stalin to follow a moderate policy in Europe, but this chance was lost—not just for Europe but for the Soviet Union itself.

If it’s difficult for you to understand, Sergei, you are past all hope.  Yeah.  Sure.  Stalin would have been the soul of cooperation and moderation had the US and the UK just “engaged” him and not reverted to pre-war anti-Bolshi policies.  This is so self-evidently risible that it doesn’t require deconstruction.

What about the Phony War, which points to the unsavory plans of the Western Allies toward the Soviet Union in connection with Nazi Germany’s attack on Poland?

Who even knows what “unsavory plans of the Western Allies toward the Soviet Union” Lavrov is talking about.  Hey Sergei: Your paranoia is showing!  And about the Phony War.  Riddle me this: if the USSR, with the world’s largest military, was so incapable of taking on the Germans even with the potential support of Poland and perhaps the Western Allies that it was forced to treat with Hitler, how could you possibly expect the Western Allies to confront Hitler aggressively after Poland had fallen and the USSR was neutral?  And the USSR wasn’t so neutral, was it?  During the Phony War–and when the war turned anything but phony when the Germans attacked west–where did the Wehrmacht’s gas come from?  The fodder for its horses?  The food for its soldiers?  Do I need to tell you?

The establishment of a sustainable model of economic and social development—socially oriented with universal suffrage and supported by a significant middle class—was only possible during the Cold War and on the basis of new technology.

So just when is Russia going to adopt a sustainable model, then?

Freedom came from the East . . . .

Those who falsify history forget about what they gained as a result of the Red Army’s liberation campaign, including territory. The victory over Fascism and the events preceding the war, like it or not, gave all countries of Central, Eastern and Southeast Europe, as well as the former Soviet Union, their modern boundaries, which most members of the Euro-Atlantic family have no objection to. Would we like to return to the past—to a Europe burdened by the territorial problem?

Somehow, it seems to have escaped the notice of those in the path of the Red Army that anything approaching “freedom” came in its wake.  To suggest otherwise is truly Orwellian.  Moreover, I guess Sergei believes that the Poles, for instance, should overlook the inconvenience of nearly 50 years of brutal occupation because it gained territory in the aftermath of WWII.  Recall, moreover, that Stalin’s whole point of enlarging Poland was to gain territory under Soviet control at German expense.  It was hardly a gift to the Poles.  And if we want to discuss “territorial problems,” how about discussing, oh I dunno, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Moldova?

Lavrov’s attempts at economic exegesis betray a cluelessness about the the subject which is very difficult to exaggerate:

It was in response to the “challenge of the Soviet Union and socialism” that Western Europe’s economic development model became socialist.

Uhm, post-War Western Europe was not a libertarian’s paradise, but it wasn’t an example of a socialist development model either.  The welfare state and socialism are two different things.

Erroneous conclusions were eventually drawn from the end of the Cold War. Some thought that in the absence of the “Soviet threat” it was no longer necessary to restrain market forces by government regulation, so that it now became possible to engage in “financial alchemy,” including the financial pyramids from which liberal capitalism began at the start of the 18th century. The devastating consequences of such shortsightedness and the unwillingness to understand the historical pattern that Europe followed in the “hothouse” conditions of the Cold War are all too obvious to ignore and continue along the same path. Moreover, this mistake should not be repeated in the sphere of “strict security,” which is no less important in terms of its consequences for the future of Europe.

I see, the end of the Soviet threat (scare quotes aren’t necessary, Sergei: the threat was real enough) led to the unleashing of capitalism, red in tooth and claw, which begat the financial crisis.

Yeah.  Whatever.  I mean this is totally ahistorical drivel.  Overlooking that the connection between economic liberalization and the financial crisis is extremely remote, even assuming such a connection, ask the question: when did this move to liberalizing economies in the West begin?  With Carter, tentatively, in the late-1970s, Thatcher in 1979, and Reagan in 1981.  In other words, at the height of the Cold War.  The Cold War waxed its hottest at any time since the early-1960s at precisely the same period that restraints on market forces were relaxed throughout the West.  So much for your theory of cause and effect.

I could go on, but I’ll stop here.  I’m sure that this is enough to get the comments flying.  Have at it, folks!

* For newcomers, and those who have forgotten.  Last year I gave a talk about Russian energy policy to a group of US Foreign Service officers.  (I’ll talk to another group in 2 weeks.)  Afterwards, one guy came up to me and related the story of an intelligence specialist, Russian by birth, who said: “Sergei Lavrov is fascinating, in the same way a tarantula is fascinating.”

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  1. “Look. I grew up in the United States during the ’60s and ’70s. During that time, Munich was emblematic of the moral and strategic failure of Western governments. Any proposal to make a compromise with international adversaries–most notably, the USSR–was met with accusations that such efforts would represent another Munich. Every American president wanted to avoid another Munich at all costs. One American president, Kennedy, wrote a book excoriating the weakness of the French and British over Munich. I heard about Munich from the time I could remember: I seldom heard about Molotov-Ribbentrop.”


    When the history of that period was discussed, I heard about both of them as did others during that period. I seldom heard about Munich’s influence on M-R.

    On the other points:

    – Russian governmental and non-governmental sources have acknowledged that the Soviet era (Stalin’s rule in particular) left something to be desired.

    – M-R was ethically wrong, while the USSR couldn’t permit Germany to move further east had M-R been turned down by Stalin. (This point isn’t intended to overlook Stalin’s blunder of not recognizing how soon the Nazis eventually attacked the USSR.) Nazi Germany had clear expansionist plans of greater reach than what the USSR had in mind for itself. The latter sought some former Russian Empire territory. (“Some” is said to note the Soviet intent to recognize Finland’s independence, albeit with Finland having strategically changed boundaries.)

    – The Western attitude in Munich of sacrificing a country (Czechoslovakia) on good terms with the USSR, keeping the USSR out of the talks and not considering an alliance with the USSR to oppose Hitler’s act influenced M-R.

    – On “fascinating” aspects of foreign policy officials, there’s the recent example of Hillary Clinton talking about support for the territorial integrity of Georgia. Never mind how Serbia’s territorial integrity was violated in a way that disrespects UNSCR 1244.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 11, 2010 @ 6:09 pm

  2. Regarding what was said about the USSR seeking to take in some former Russian Empire territory: in addition to the exception of some Finnish territory is some Polish land between two world wars that are now parts of modern day Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 11, 2010 @ 6:26 pm

  3. It is hard not to notice how much Lavrov’s talking points remind of one famous brochure: – with some late-day corrections, of course: no Marxist lingo et cetera.

    But the essence of the historical outlook at WWII in Russia – almost universal among the populace, I think – is the same old and tried Stalin’s narrative. This is what has been taught at scheools; this is the measure against which all the warks of art (books, movies, TV shows) were tested by Soviet censors; this is what they in Russia wholeheartedly beleive in and tend to get quite hysterical (for the lack of better word) at any attempt to present any other outlook.

    The problem as I see it is not to try to re-convince the Russiance; the problem is for us to recognize how deeply effed up are the people we have to deal with. Of all the today’s politicians I know only John Bolton seems to have some clue…

    Comment by LL — July 11, 2010 @ 6:27 pm

  4. two

    Comment by peter — July 11, 2010 @ 6:28 pm

  5. Way too many typos, my apologies.

    Comment by LL — July 11, 2010 @ 6:28 pm

  6. Another back track:

    The current western Ukrainian territory in Galicia, Bukovina and Trans-Carpathia that was taken in by the USSR wasn’t part of post-Mongol occupied/pre-Soviet Russia.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 11, 2010 @ 6:37 pm

  7. one

    Comment by peter — July 11, 2010 @ 6:38 pm

  8. The most complex subject in the world. On the one hand, the possibility of a strong cooperation between the U.S. and Russia is too extreme (and good) to be true. If the U.S. and Russia would admit they see the world in the same way, approach life the same way, and live the same way, and pool resources, the entire rest of the world would be less weighty than that ideal union. Resources, science, technology, OMG, who would stand in our way? Maybe God himself, for fear that the unstoppable kingdom of Babylon would rise again. Am I kidding? No. The only trouble is, that two prima donna self-centered leaders cannot give in to each other, precisely because they are too alike. Repeat: the Russians are the closest thing in this modern world to Americans. If I had my way, the Russians and Americans would form a cooperative unlike any union the world has ever seen.

    What is the problem? Maybe feelings of betrayal. After all, since we are talking about WWII, perhaps someone can actually speak the truth: A. Russia was not as worried about Germany as much as what the future nature of Poland would be. B. For an extra dollar, what was the most effective weapon the Allies used against the Nazis? A: Twenty-six million desperate Russians. Read the communication between FDR and Churchill, observe the humiliation and begging. Britain: “OMG, Please, please, get involved in Europe…before we are lost! Answer: Well, we are giving serious thought…maybe if we let the Russians duke it out first, the Germans as well as the Russians will be weaker, this might be useful in the “world to come”. Right. It worked, but at what cost?

    Can we NOT get past WWII, with all its betrayals, and think about the “world to come”? Can someone tell me why there are no American automotive factories in Russian when we have facilities in Argentina and Vietnam, for God’s sake?

    Color me Russophile,


    Comment by Brian Rabourn — July 11, 2010 @ 6:54 pm


    Comment by Siegfried — July 11, 2010 @ 7:45 pm

  10. Honestly SWP, I think he is simply reflecting the whole country’s view of the past rather than offering anything uniquely “Lavrovian.”

    Russians are still stunned by two things every day.

    1) That we didn’t help them early on in the war and after it.

    2) That some of the former Soviet republics and basically all of the Warsaw Pact nations are pissed off at the Russians for poor treatment. They only think that they helped all these people and that the bad reactions in the past couple decades are simply flagrant ingratitudes.

    Both equal a cultural blindspot that Lavrov simply voiced for the rest of his countrymen. I saw it all the time when I lived there and couldn’t help but shake my head.

    As for #1, Lavrov identifies perfectly the issue that caused us to be hands off from the USSR early and after the war. He said, “It is difficult to understand that the Western nations were prevented for reasons other than ideological preferences in 1945-46…” Well, duh! This is the entire issue in one simple sentence. But oops, let’s just skip that part and move on to the 1970’s. Holy cripe.

    As for #2, I don’t have much else to add but that I just don’t think they’ll ever get over everyone’s “ingratitude”. They just don’t understand the harm they did.

    So, in the end, Lavrov really exposed the mind and soul of Russia. But to his credit, he at least does it more eloquently than Putin.

    Comment by Howard Roark — July 11, 2010 @ 7:51 pm

  11. Welcome back, Howard. Good luck on your stateside adventure. I owe you a FB message.

    I know that Lavrov’s view is the default opinion in Russia. That’s what’s so depressing.

    Re your #2, I was going to include a paragraph about no Russian discussion of history is complete without a self-pitying whine, but I let it pass. That’s a very complicated issue in this context, and deserves its own post. I did find it particularly amusing, in a pitiful way, that he tried to portray the Russian blundering at Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes in WWI as a heroic self-sacrifice for the Western allies. No, it was just a blunder. Just as many of those Russians who died–arguably most of the Russians who died–in WWII were the victims of various blunders political, strategical, and tactical.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 11, 2010 @ 8:11 pm

  12. +++he tried to portray the Russian blundering at Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes in WWI as a heroic self-sacrifice+++

    That sounds like learning history from Valentine Pikul’s novels… If I remember correctly, Solzhenytsin was much more honest in describing those events.

    Comment by LL — July 11, 2010 @ 8:18 pm

  13. Thanks SWP, just getting back into the swing of things. I even have another note I want to send you. :)

    I wanted to add another aspect to this, somewhat reflecting your last comment. I think a lot of Russians view our turning away from them as a personal and humanitarian rebuff. I think they say, “but we’re nice people, why didn’t anyone want to engage with us?” It is true that Russians are nice people, now that we actually know a few of them these days, but I think there is a similar situation facing us right here and now. How many of us would like to help the North Koreans live better lives? I think we all do, but it is simply impossible to do this with the government they have there. In 1946, we could not deal with the USSR on any rational or practical basis, either, so their people suffered as a result. (although plenty of them still say “we never needed the West anyway) You can’t split humanitarian spirit from politics, unfortunately.

    Comment by Howard Roark — July 11, 2010 @ 8:31 pm

  14. Likewise with being geopolitically selective.

    If Lavrov is a “tarantula,” what’s Ghimpu for denouncing M-R (specifically Moldova’s incorporation into the USSR in 1940), while insisting that non-Moldovan territory put into the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic should be part of an independent Moldova – despite the disputed land in question having never been part of an earlier independent Moldovan entity?

    Comment by Siegfried — July 11, 2010 @ 10:10 pm

  15. WRT Poland… Beggars can’t be choosers. Russia did not liberate Poland. Russia saved Poland. In exchange for poor territories in the East full of people who didn’t like them very much, poor agrarian Poland gained much richer industrialized territories in the West sans the Germans.

    Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Finland were part of the Axis. If anything, they got off lightly. The Baltics were pro-German. Czechs got on wonderfully with the occupants – highest industrial productivity in the Reich.

    The Soviet Union was a magnanimous victor. If anything, it was too humane. Russia has nothing to apologize for.

    Comment by So? — July 12, 2010 @ 12:42 am

  16. > Russia has nothing to apologize for.

    Right. Except for this one tiny thing: being one of the aggressors in the most devastating war in history and enslaving half the Europe, destroying the lives of at least two more generations after that war. But I doubt anyone in the world wants Russian apology: that would be too disturbing given the way their apology for Katyn massacre turned out.

    Comment by Ivan — July 12, 2010 @ 1:01 am

  17. Russia was not the agressor, Germany was. MR was inevitable after Munich. Adhering to a higher moral standard than Western Europe had ever done herself would have been foolish. Calling Soviet domination of Eastern Europe enslavement is the same kind of hyperbole as calling Katyn a genocide. It debases the meaning of the word. Beggars can’t be choosers. After WW2 the Soviet Union would not tolerate a bunch of weak states – a potential invasion launchpad, on its western border.

    Comment by So? — July 12, 2010 @ 2:56 am

  18. Regarding WW II:

    Czechoslovakia had a good industrial base for the Nazis to utilize. For the most part, Czechs didn’t collaborate while not resisting to the degree of the Poles.

    Slovakia was recognized by the Nazis as a state unlike the Czech part. A good number of Slovaks didn’t identify with the Tiso regime.

    Bulgaria didn’t declare war on the USSR and Hungary refrained from activity against Poland.

    Concerning WW I:

    Russia’s “blunder” was to a good degree the result of not having an effective transport system realting to its military effort. Russia fought well against the Habsburg and Ottoman armies. And yeah, there was plenty of blundering by others during that war as well.


    Many countries romanticize about their past. There’s also the other extreme of being overly dismissive of a given country, due to harboring a certain prejudice.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 12, 2010 @ 4:00 am

  19. Czechoslovakia had a good industrial base for the Nazis to utilize. For the most part, Czechs didn’t collaborate while not resisting to the degree of the Poles.

    True, but the approaching rumble of Allied tanks brought out veteran members of the resistance like mushrooms after rain. The Germans must have been unbelievably cruel to have kept them all down for so long with so few men.

    Many countries romanticize about their past. There’s also the other extreme of being overly dismissive of a given country, due to harboring a certain prejudice.

    Well said.

    Comment by So? — July 12, 2010 @ 4:34 am

  20. Prof, I’m glad you wrote about what you knew when (re: appeasement). During the lead-up to the Victory Day celebration, when I wasn’t 1)sitting in 7-hour traffic jams 2) grabbing my dog who panicked when tanks started roaring down the street and 3) automatically ducking when the fighter planes rehearsed by zipping about 5 feet above my apartment building, I spent my time muttering at commentators on TV and radio. The muttering was almost always in response to bald, totally erroneous statements like “Everyone in the West knows about the holocaust; no one in the West knows about Hitler’s persecution and destruction of Slavs.” Or: “No one in the West talks about Munich.” Or: “In the US no one knows the role the USSR played in the war.” I grew up hiding under the desk in air raid drills, but even so I knew about everything these commentators assure Russians we knew/know nothing about. How about discussing what Russians really don’t know? My father and uncle fought in the war, and there has virtually never been a time in Russia when I’ve mentioned that and haven’t gotten astonished looks. “Your father FOUGHT in the war?” It’s weird; on the one hand, Saving Private Ryan is one of Russia’s most popular movies; on the other hand, after years of being told about Western “participation” in the war — which comes down to lend lease — people don’t begin to understand what the war was to anyone but them. And this won’t change soon. I have read the primer for school teachers on how to teach 20th century history, and the US “participation” is described this way: the war never came to their land, except for on some “colonies,” (!!!) and except for providing material support, the US was not much involved in the war. The latest polls showed that the majority of Russians think that the USSR could have won the war by themselves. I don’t want to diminish their victory, which was extraordinary and against all odds (and despite their leadership). But I don’t think it diminishes their heroism to point out that they had some help.

    Comment by mossy — July 12, 2010 @ 5:31 am

  21. Re your #2, I was going to include a paragraph about no Russian discussion of history is complete without a self-pitying whine, but I let it pass.

    Indeed. And Russians cite the invasions of the Mongols and Napolean and Hitler as justification for their “age-old sensitivity” about being surrounded or invaded as if those three never invaded anyone else.

    Comment by Tim Newman — July 12, 2010 @ 6:41 am

  22. Suggesting that Russia hasn’t been significantly aggressed upon in several instances while caricaturing it in the role of aggressor is historically flimsy.

    On another point regarding Czechoslovakia, note who assasinated Heydrich and the noticeable popularity of Czechoslovak Communists leading up to 1948. On the whole, the Czechs aren’t noted to do have done things along the lines of others like the Croat Ustasha and Galician Ukrainian nationalists.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 12, 2010 @ 7:23 am

  23. Suggesting that Russia hasn’t been significantly aggressed upon in several instances…

    I’d be surprised if anyone has done this anywhere on the internet, let alone in this thread.

    Comment by Tim Newman — July 12, 2010 @ 7:46 am

  24. List some countries in Europe who’ve experienced the same degree of aggression Russia has in relation to the Mongols, Poles, the Napoleon led attack and Nazi led one.

    Certainly not the UK.

    Some others who’ve experienced noticeable aggression were never strong enough to be in a particularly good position to dominate over others.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 12, 2010 @ 7:56 am

  25. List some countries in Europe who’ve experienced the same degree of aggression Russia has in relation to the Mongols, Poles, the Napoleon led attack and Nazi led one.

    Before I start providing you with lists, can you identify where I or anyone else has suggested that Russia hasn’t been significantly aggressed upon in several instances?

    Comment by Tim Newman — July 12, 2010 @ 8:13 am

  26. I grew up hiding under the desk in air raid drills, but even so I knew about everything these commentators assure Russians we knew/know nothing about.

    Now have you ever considered that you might be the exception rather than the rule?

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — July 12, 2010 @ 10:52 am

  27. So?

    On the discussd points relating to WW II:

    – The Czech military not known for the same level of strength as Poland’s.

    – Keep in mind the number of Germans living in Czechoslovakia and their role with industry there. (Hat tip to a friend who reminded me of this.)

    – The higher number of Romanians and Hungarians fighting on the Nazi side in the USSR, in comparison to the Czechs.

    – The harsh treatment Germans in Czechoslovakia received at the end of the war (as was true in what became Poland).

    Comment by Siegfried — July 12, 2010 @ 12:02 pm

  28. First, as flawed as it was, the Munich Agreement is not morally the same as M-R. UK and France definitely sold out the Czechs, but the Agreement itself only ceded the German Sudetenland to Germany in exchange for a promise from Hitler that he would not seek any more land. The idea was that it would protect the rest of Czehcoslovakia. When Hitler occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, it was in violation of the Agreement and showed the utter folly of having any deal with Hitler. M-R, on the other hand, was all about dividing up Eastern Europe between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. It was signed at the time when UK and France had explicitly guaranteed Poland’s independence and were negotiating with the Soviet Union on a united front. Stalin choose to cooperate with Hitler and not UK and France because he liked the deal he was getting with Hitler better – the destruction of Poland, and the occupation of the Baltic States, Bessarabia, and parts of Finland (which was all done by conquest or threat of force). The entire point of M-R was that Hitler thought that with the Soviet Union neutralized that UK and France would not go to war for Poland. That was its entire point. Hitler was surprised that his invasion of Poland started a major war.

    Second, as for So?’s point in #15: Maybe Romania wouldn’t have been part of the Axis if the USSR hadn’t extorted Bessarabia from it. Bulgaria never declared war on the Soviet Union. Finland never joined the Axis and kept it’s war with the Soviet Union (the Continuation War) legally separate from the German War. If Stalin had not invaded Finland during the Winter War, Finland would likely have never attacked the USSR in 1941. The Baltics were pro-German because the USSR had already invaded and occupied them. In almost all cases, there was plenty of coercion by the Nazis applied to its “allies.” With France out of the war, they had to choose between allying with Hitler and being invaded. That they choose to join Hitler was a consequence of the M-R pact.

    Third, there wasn’t a second front until 1944 because the M-R pact allowed Germany to concentrate all its forces against France in 1940 and eliminate it entirely. USSR is directly responsible for the lack of any second front to help it. And, of course, there was significant Allied efforts against Germany before 1944. The bombing campaign diverted much of the Luftwaffe and many troops to arm flak guns, and the invasion of Ital diverted troops from the Eastern Front. Not to mention Lend-Lease aid and sharing of intelligence. When things really looked bad, there was even talk of British troops helping them against the Finns and the Caucasus.

    The USSR was definitely an aggressor in WWII, although not as bad as Nazi Germany. But its earlier record is obscured because it ended up being invaded itself. Its record in Eastern Europe was horrible. It arrested those who fought against Hitler if they weren’t Communist. If he noticed too much independence from those Communists, he had them arrested and executed them in show trials.

    Comment by Chris Durnell — July 12, 2010 @ 1:08 pm

  29. Don’t forget the Hungarian and Polish contribution to taking Czech territory before M-R.

    Instead of pursuing M-R and leaving the Soviets out of that process, the West could’ve considered a Soviet alliance to counter Nazi action against Czechoslovakia – a country on good terms with the USSR. As M-R was happening, some in the West were hoping for a Nazi-Soviet war, with the West left out. This situation encouraged M-R.

    For strategic purposes, the USSR offered a land redistribution proposal to Finland instead of war. The basis for that offer had to do with the view that in a major war, Germany would oppose the USSR, with Finland taking to the German side. This is what happened. Of course, the Finns had the right to refuse the Soviet land distribution proposal.

    Like Finland, the Hungarian view makes it a point to stress that Hungary’s war wasn’t against the West, but the Soviets. It would be wrong to suggest a great virtue towards WW II era Hungary and Romania, given the treatment of Jews in both countries during that period.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 12, 2010 @ 3:13 pm

  30. It is undeniable that there were appeasers in the British elites who wanted the Nazis to turn East…who does the Professor think Rudolf Hess was parachuted in to see? Even if these appeasers were not as powerful as they appeared in Kim Philby and co’s reports (and the reports from the Nazi sympathizer British ambassadors in Madrid and other European capitals) the point is how they appeared to Stalin and Hitler, not their actual power.

    Comment by Mr. X — July 12, 2010 @ 3:19 pm

  31. Note how the UK declares war on Nazi Germany but not the USSR regarding M-R.

    By the time of M-R:

    – many more in the West see the Nazis as a greater threat than the USSR.

    – Back then, there was probably a greater sense of what can be considered as self historicated diplomacy (M-R involved the Soviets taking territory that for the most part had been part of the Russian Empire, with the USSR looked at by some as a successor of the Russian Empire).


    The UK didn’t declare war on Hungary, Poland and Nazi Germany when these three took Czechoslovak territory.

    At the time in the West, some weren’t:

    – fond of Czechoslovakia’s good relations with the USSR

    – Poland was more strategically regarded in the West than Czechoslovakia

    – hoping that Hitler might stop after Czechoslovakia

    – or at least go against the USSR, with the West left out.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 12, 2010 @ 11:43 pm

  32. Finland and the Baltics were pro-German well before the war. Lend Lease truly kicked in only in 1943. The bombing campaign was a waste of resources. Russia’s effort in WW1 was secondary to that of the West. In WW2 the roles were reversed. Is that so hard to accept? Or is the Ambrosian “Rah-Rah! The Golden Generation won The War all by themselves!” the only interpretation? The fact is, the Western Allies jumped in when the outcome was beyond doubt, in time to share the spoils. Nothing wrong with that. No such thing as altruism in geopolitics. Of course, they could have invaded the continent earlier, losing millions in the process, but why should they have had to? The result would have been the same at greater cost to themselves, at a lesser cost to the Soviet Union. As for bragging rights, everyone writes their own history, as we can see here.

    Incidentally, I have a coffee table book on my desk, whose primary purpose is to separate my lap from the laptop. Illustraded History of World War II, 1988. 190 pages. The Eastern Front gets a grand total of 15 pages, including the usual “General Winter, stoopid Hitler, Russian hordes” dirge. No need to fabricate history. Just write a lot about a little, and a little about a lot.

    Comment by So? — July 12, 2010 @ 11:52 pm

  33. SO, I don’t think I’m the exception to the rule. A Russian friend was just telling me about a survey of US and British historians of WWII on the most important event in the war. There were many suggestions, but the Battle for Moscow got the most votes. I’m not saying that all Americans know all of this, but in particular, the Munich agreement, appeasement, and Chamberlain were criticized immediately and continue to be criticized.
    On wars: once I sat down and counted up as best I could how many times Russia (in various historical incarnations) had been attacked and how many times Russia (in various historical incarnations) had attacked other nations. The counting was tricky — do you count one Tatar-Mongol invasion or each wave? what do you call those “annexations” of Central Asia? — but more or less Russia attacked more than it was attacked. I’m willing to accept that three of those invasions (Tatar-Mongol, 1812, and Hitler) were catastrophic, enormous, and incredibly traumatizing which left scars on the national pysche. I’m also willing to cut some slack for being a country with no big natural boundaries. But… I get impatient with the notion that Russia is unique in its trauma of invasion (what European country hasn’t been invaded and had its borders carved up as many or more times?). And I really want to puke when people are interviewed on TV saying “Russia has never invaded anyone.”
    I also don’t really get upset when countries provide histories of WWII that focus on their experience of it. I’m sure that if I read a French history of WWII I’d roll my eyes a bit, as I’m equally sure the French roll their eyes at the American-centric histories of US publications. That’s normal. It’s also normal that the experience of individual Red Army soldiers, who really did liberate, and believed they were liberating, Polish villages (and didn’t know what their leaders had signed or what pillaging their comrades in arms were doing elsewhere), are deeply disturbed to discover that Poles don’t universally laud their actions. That’s true of virtually every event/action in every country and continent. It’s called different points of view on complex historical events.
    But that’s all different from what Lavrov is doing, which is falsifying history while decrying the falsification of history.

    Comment by mossy — July 13, 2010 @ 3:31 am

  34. The initial Polish attack on Russia was major, as well as the Polish contribution to Napoleon’s invasion in 1812. Who said that Russia has never invaded anyone? A term “whine” was used to describe when Russians bring up their country’s resistance to aggression. For consistency, that should be applied to Israel as well. What about when some Poles “whine” as if Poland never did anything overly aggressive?

    Overall, I don’t see Russians being more jingoistic or inaccurate than some others. One can nitpick and highlight examples to the contrary in a disproportionate manner from reality.

    Russia during WW I has been brought up without noting certain particulars on that subject.

    The initial Russian war plan was to withdraw for the purpose of allowing the Germans to extend themselves as Russian forces shortened their military’s line of communication.

    This plan was nixed because of German successes in Belgium, which posed a threat to Paris. The Allies sought for Russia to go on a major offensive. Russia struck on German territory, resulting in a noticeable German transfer of forces from the west to east.

    The “Miracle on the Marne” would’ve been more difficult to achieve without Russia’s move into German territory. Ludendorff expressed this view, with his British counterpart Maurice saying that Russian action greatly influenced the eventual outcome of the war.

    For a good portion of WW I, the Germans were more concentrated in the east. This included coming to the aid of their Ottoman and Habsburg allies.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 13, 2010 @ 5:43 am

  35. <emA term “whine” was used to describe when Russians bring up their country’s resistance to aggression.

    No, it wasn’t.

    Comment by Tim Newman — July 13, 2010 @ 7:34 am

  36. A term “whine” was used to describe when Russians bring up their country’s resistance to aggression.

    No, it wasn’t.

    Comment by Tim Newman — July 13, 2010 @ 7:34 am

  37. Sigfried, on Russian tv people — politicians and “average folks on the street” have been shown saying many times “Russia has never invaded anyone.” I have personally been told this several times by young people, and they are really amazed when I start listing.

    In Russia every time another country, like most recently Moldova, “falsely interprets the Soviet past and the Great Patriotic War,” there is outrage. It leads the news shows; the Duma invariably passes some kind of protest — with all the screaming politicians featured prominently on the news; it’s on the blogs; people talk about it on their lunch breaks. “How dare they rewrite history?! How dare they denigrate the sacred memory of our fathers and grandfathers?! How dare they?!” Through ommission and fancy wording, Lavrov is really just doing the same thing. You want someone in power to say: Well, it’s their country and their opinion. Period.

    In a way it’s similar to, say, the British in India. They were first appalled and horrified that the “natives” rebelled against them. “But we gave them so much! They became our friends!” Yeah, but the “natives” didn’t see it that way. You’d think that 65 years after the war and 20 years after the break up of the USSR politicians would have a little wisdom. It’s disturbing that they don’t.

    Comment by mossy — July 13, 2010 @ 10:47 am

  38. Oh really? That’s not my experience and that of others. The showing in Russia of Wajda’s film wasn’t generally met with shock or a defensive feeling of being disrespected.

    For accuracy sake, making a negatively collective judgment on Lavrov and Russians is relative to what’s evident elsewhere. Over the 4th, I saw a British documentary on the American Revolutionary War, noting how some battles were exclusively between colonists who took to either the independence or loyalist sides. The documentary also noted a good number of Indians and Blacks on the loyalist side as well. That’s not the history taught to me in American grade school.

    Don’t kid yourself. You can find plenty of red, white and bull in the US. On the flip side is a good number of others with a moderate stance. I’ll grant you that there’re Russians and non-Russians who trash the US in a way that I find offensive, along the lines of some of the commentary made against Russia/Russians. I don’t support either of these two groupings.

    The pouncing on Lavrov reflects an ongoing double standard. Contrast his comments to what some others say.

    You brought up Moldova. Its acting president has the chutzpa to denounce M-R leading to Moldova becoming part of the USSR in the Moldavian SSR; while at the same time claiming Moldova’s right to disputed territory that was put into that Soviet created entity in 1940. The disputed land in question has no historical relationship to an independent Moldovan state.

    Hillary Clinton goes to Georgia where she righteously speaks of supporting Georgia’s “territorial integrity,” while violating Serbia’s in relation to UNSCR 1244.

    Over the years, Radek Sikorski has expressed views suggesting a historically innocent Poland.

    I regret to have lost track of an article from a few years back on the most jingoistic of countries. In that piece, Poland, Israel, Vietnam and Switzerland were ranked higher than Russia.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 13, 2010 @ 11:32 am

  39. A brief follow-up, when Putin was president, I don’t recall Russian public opinion souring on him after he rebuked the Soviet led interventions in Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968).

    On Russia attacking/occupying other countries, within reason, many Russians will note what transpired beforehand, that led to such action, which gets spun as payback.
    It’s inaccurate to suggest the Russians have a monopoly on such a characterization and that they’re completely in error for stating such.

    In Western mass media, there’re frequent articles about how Russia has never felt that Ukraine is independent. Makes one wonder why Russia recognized Ukrainian independence within Ukraine’s Communist drawn boundaries, without riots in Russia? Meantime, there’s evidence suggesting that Ukrainians are more upbeat about Ukraine having closer relations with Russia when compared to how Russians feel.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 13, 2010 @ 12:20 pm

  40. I noticed nobody took up my point about the Nazi sympathizers in the UK pre-war. Someone should pick up a copy of Rodney Atkinson’s (brother of Mr. Bean Rowan) book Europe’s Full Circle about the number of Mosleyites and Nazi sympathizers in the British elites. The Philby set was actually the minority among British elites who admired foreign totalitarians.

    Comment by Mr. X — July 13, 2010 @ 2:57 pm

  41. Europe of the 1930s comes across as an interesting place of competing political sympathies.

    The Soviets had their supporters. I heard first hand accounts about how in Germany the Communists (at one point) would get the better of the Nazis in street fights.

    Pre-Camp David Anwar Sadat received a good deal of negative coverage for his prior record of lauding Nazi Germany. Sadat’s explanation was that he admired how Germany rebuilt itself following the devastation of WW I.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 13, 2010 @ 11:05 pm

  42. Argh. Siegfried, the Professor quoted Lavrov and critiqued his comments. Sergei Lavrov is a big boy. He’s the Minister of Foreign Relations of a country that claims to be a super power. His comments were public. They get critiqued. The notion that no one can critique the Foreign Minister’s comments because somewhere, some time someone’s else leaders said something stupid — the notion in your phrase “Contrast his comments to what some others say” — is ridiculous. You think that his comments are no worse than others? Okay, point taken. But even if that’s true — so what? Does that mean we can’t critique it? Lavrov is just plain wrong in stating that no one talks or talked about Munich. He’s just plain wrong to present the USSR as “just another system” that was non-aggressive (to its citizens and other countries).

    Yes, Katyn was shown on TV, although I don’t know how many people saw it. And Putin’s more or less — I don’t know — apologies? criticism? — of Katyn and other Soviet interventions did not cause the population to rise up against him. This suggests to me that the population could handle some honest criticism of its past. Not everyone, but a lot of people could. (They did in the 80s and 90s.) The thing is, these statements are a drop in the bucket of chauvinistic, anti-Western propaganda. True, it’s come down from its peak in 2006 and 2007. But I object to a primer for school teachers, printed in 2009, that totally misrepresents the US’s role in WWII. The fact that I would also object to any US textbook that totally misrepresented the Soviet role in WWII is irrelevant.

    Bleah. I’m tired of this. I say again: you defend the place, put your body where your mouth is. Come live here.

    Comment by mossy — July 14, 2010 @ 4:43 am

  43. Mossy

    Lavrov is a “big boy” as opposed to Clinton, Ghimpu and Sikorski being children?

    What’s “ridiculous” is the ongoing double standard that some apply. Are you suggesting that it’s wrong to point this out?

    I don’t see how “chauvinistic anti-Western propaganda” should be highlighted over bigoted anti-Russian propaganda.

    Post-Soviet Russia is still developing. You might recall Putin acknowledging the importance of D-Day when he attended a major ceremony honoring that event in Normandy. The Russian position gets misrepresented. The Russians don’t seem to be denying the extent of how Western aid in trucks and food greatly helped the Soviet war effort. They take offense to the notion that they would’ve lost the war without that aid.

    On your last point and using your logic, if Russia is so bad then leave it. So there’s no misunderstanding, I “defend” an earnest approach at assessing a given situation.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 14, 2010 @ 7:16 am

  44. This is bizarre: “Lavrov is a “big boy” as opposed to Clinton, Ghimpu and Sikorski being children?” That doesn’t make any sense. Who’s comparing anything? Do you criticize Clinton? I do. I also criticize Lavrov.

    The reason anti-Western propaganda should be emphasized is that it makes up 90 percent of the tv and public announcements by politicians. Anti-Russian propaganda does not make up 90 percent of US tv and public announcements by politicians.

    “They take offense to the notion that they would’ve lost the war without that aid.” Well, they shouldn’t, because they probably would have lost the war without that aid. I don’t believe saying that diminishes their heroic victory. In any case, it doesn’t make their misrepresentation of the US war effort any more palatable.

    Comment by mossy — July 14, 2010 @ 8:45 am

  45. The referenced criticism on your part doesn’t appear to be proportionate. Instead, it’s done in a way to inaccurately suggest that Russians are collectively more out of wack from reality.

    Anti-Russian porpgapganda in the US includes how some casually accept the La Russophobe site in a way that they wouldn’t accept a La Judeophobe site targeting another group with caricatures. This kind of prejudice relates to the Captive Nations Committee lobbying for the congressionally approved Captive Nations Week.

    FYI, a RIA Novosti show at its site recently referred to openDemocracy as a “very respectable” venue. On the contrary, that site has noticeably favored qualitatively inferior and biased commentary against Russia. One can find other examples of such slanting.

    Contrary to your last point, the USSR would’ve likely defeated the Nazis regardless of the Western aid. Much of that aid only arrived when the Nazis were on the skids with vastly expired Western resources. Without the Western aid, the Soviets would’ve had a tougher time for sure.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 14, 2010 @ 9:14 am

  46. Siegfried, how many people in the US have ever heard of La Russophobe? It’s not national tv. National, state TV in Russia runs pure anti-Western propaganda. I’m not talking about a critical news piece – I’m talking about hours of talk shows and specials dedicated to denigrating not the US govt, but Americans.

    I also don’t know where you get the idea that US aid to the USSR came late in the war.
    “American aid to the Soviet Union between 1941 and 1945 amounted to 18 million tons of materiel at an overall cost of $10 billion ($120 billion modern).

    In 1942-1944 the Soviet Union chartered about 120 American ships and 50 U.S. tankers, and to protect these vessels from attack by Japan in the wake of its December 1941 strafing of Pearl Harbor, American crews sailed under the Soviet hammer and sickle flag.

    90 percent of lend-lease cargo was not military, however it’s impossible to talk about this U.S. government directive without mentioning the huge number of trucks, planes and tanks which were supplied by America to the Soviet Union because most of the country’s vehicles were destroyed in the first months of war.”

    From WIKI
    American deliveries to the Soviet Union can be divided into the following phases:

    “pre Lend-lease” 22 June 1941 to 30 September 1941 (paid for in gold)
    first protocol period from 1 October 1941 to 30 June 1942 (signed 1 October 1941)
    second protocol period from 1 July 1942 to 30 June 1943 (signed 6 October 1942)
    third protocol period from 1 July 1943 to 30 June 1944 (signed 19 October 1943)
    fourth protocol period from 1 July 1944, (signed 17 April 1945), formally ended 12 May 1945 but deliveries continued for the duration of the war with Japan (which the Soviet Union entered on the 8 August 1945) under the “Milepost” agreement until 2 September 1945 when Japan capitulated. On 20 September 1945 all Lend-Lease to the Soviet Union was terminated.

    Comment by mossy — July 14, 2010 @ 1:07 pm

  47. It’s not national tv. National, state TV in Russia runs pure anti-Western propaganda. I’m not talking about a critical news piece – I’m talking about hours of talk shows and specials dedicated to denigrating not the US govt, but Americans.

    Pardon to take this slightly off-tangent: This is one of the reasons I rarely take anecdotal evidence seriously. For every person who comes away with one impression, another has the polar opposite. From what I’ve seen of Russian TV its news is formulaic, but not anti-American, and the rest of it is mostly crap (soaps, crime dramas, beer ads, etc).

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — July 14, 2010 @ 1:35 pm

  48. Mossy, the entity mentioned at the top of your last set of comments has been readily accepted by some high profile English language mass media connected Russia watchers, in a way that wouldn’t be tolerated in the hypothetical parallel I provide.

    RFE/RL and openDemocracy are very much tilted to an anti-Russian outlook. Other outlets like The NYT and WaPo show a bit of a preference in that direction as well.

    There’s media in Russia besides the top three Russian TV stations. The aforementioned three are by no means the same while being tilted. As for that tilt, it’s unreasonable to expect the Kasparovs to have an equal footing along the same lines as why fringe American politicians don’t get much US mass media space when compared to the Repubs and Dems.

    On the other subject, when were the trucks (a significant item of the aide) and other items received and put to use?

    There’s very good reason to believe that the USSR would’ve prevailed over the Nazis without the Western aid. Consider the Nazis’ running out of aid, in addition to not having as large a personnel. For sure, the Soviet war effort would’ve been more difficult without the Western aid.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 14, 2010 @ 8:55 pm

  49. A follow-up on the extent of anti-Russian bias concerns the more influential of Russian based (though not necessarily Russian owned or fully Russian owned and/or operated) English language media. Influential is used in terms of influence outside Russia.

    For example, some years back, CNN America had a prime time news show which had a segment sampling newspaper headlines from around the world. In at least one instance, leading papers in every country would be referenced (like Le Monde and Der Spiegel) with one exception. Russian media was represented by the non-Russian owned The Moscow Times (TMT).

    Like English language mass media, TMT reflects a definite slant. Some typical biases include:

    – When discussing Russo-Polish history, the use of the term “Russification” without mentioning “Polonization.” Of recent note, TMT and the BBC did such.

    – The tendency of utilizing Ukrainian sources having negative views on Russia, in contrast to how most Ukrainians feel.

    – Crimean history including: the Russian Empire’s defeat of the Tatar Khanate, the deportation of Tatars during the Stalin era and presentation of Tatars being present day victims of extremism. Downplayed to ignored is how Crimean territory was settled by Rus era Slavs before the Tatar occupation, which involved a slave trade against Slavs and others and how the present day situation includes clear acts of extremism among some Tatars.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 14, 2010 @ 11:07 pm

  50. Excuse misuse of “aide” (should be aid) in next to last post.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 14, 2010 @ 11:08 pm

  51. Okay, last attempt to explain why you can’t compare apples and oranges and call them the same thing.
    1. There is a difference between state-controlled national TV, which comes into everyone’s home, and which is the main if not only source of information for over 90 percent of Russians, and newspapers, internet resources, and even radio, which does not come into everyone’s home and which, in most cases, must be paid for.
    2. Therefore, it is not appropriate to compare Russia’s Channel One with RFE/RL.
    3. Kasyanov was the Prime Minister of Russia. He was not a “fringe” candidate like some representatives of tiny parties in the US. He was made a “fringe” candidate because he was blacklisted from appearing on TV (see above).

    Comment by mossy — July 16, 2010 @ 6:01 am

  52. Kasyanov was a political appointee who was selected as opposed to elected. I don’t believe Russia to be an oppressive place to the point that “Putvedev” could successfully suppress the developement of a popular pro-Kasyanov sentiment.

    Numerous other examples besides RFE/RL are provided. Feel free to directly deal with each of them. Numerous other examples can be given as well.

    Russians have other TV channels besides “state-controlled national TV,” in addition to radio, numerous newspapers, with many having access to the internet. On the first point about Russian TV, I understand the fluff factor to clear slanting. American TV mass media has limits as well.

    Getting back to the embrace of a seeming idealism on foreign policy and historical matters, one can reference instances like so-called “humanitarian intervention” and how Carter’s administration pursued human rights. The latter made it a point to highlight abuses in the USSR, while not being as stern on the greater abuses occurring at the time in Romania and China. Beijing was considered a valuable Cold War strategic asset and Bucharest was a nice pain in the ass to see in the Warsaw Pact.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 16, 2010 @ 8:48 am

  53. If over 90 percent of the population gets their news only from TV and you prevent a candidate from appearing on TV, that pretty much kills his chances.
    Yes, there are many channels in Russia, but the majority of them don’t provide news coverage. Local channels are in most cases now controlled, one way or another, by the oblast or city, and effectively by the center. Non-state channels get the same black list.
    It doesn’t matter how many examples you give, the difference between apples and oranges remain. The state controls tv, over 90 percent of the population get their info from tv. That’s the apple. Compare that to network tv in the US, not oranges. Even that isn’t a fair comparison, because Americans use — not have theoretical access to, but use — more sources of information than Russians do.

    Comment by mossy — July 16, 2010 @ 10:43 am

  54. Why such great oversight of such hypocrtical positions on Russia as detailed at this thread?

    The answer suggests that Russia isn’t so unfree as some make it out to be, with the West (US in particular) having more limits than what some are willing to acknowledge.

    I expect the US on the whole to be freer than Russia. The break from the Soviet past isn’t so distant.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 16, 2010 @ 10:56 am

  55. @Siegfried: re free/unfree. Please comment on (a) the “Forbidden Art” trial, and (b) the just passed legislation re giving the FSB the right to detain people for merely creating the conditions that could lead to the commission of a crime. These both suggest that yes indeed, the break from the Soviet past is not distant at all. Indeed, the distance is getting shorter as time passes.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 16, 2010 @ 3:58 pm

  56. “What about…” Professor eh?

    Fair enough seeing how I do the same.

    Taking a holistic approach, I don’t see Russia lurking back to the Soviet past. Someone in Russia informed me that state TV recently ran Mikhalkov’s documentary on the Whites (which if I’m not mistaken had previously aired on Russian TV) and another film giving a non-Communist era overview of Mihailovic and Vlasov.

    That’s more like the kind of Russia I want to see, as opposed to anti-Russian crap, suggesting that Russia doesn’t have a past to be proud of.

    To get back to your query:

    On such matter, I lean to the libertarian view of letting such things go. Among a good number of Soviet born Russians, I see a difference on this opinion. Russia is still developing. Given the past, I’m wary of some rapid change, which might have negative ramifications when compared to a more gradual approach.

    Something else might very well be at play as well. What if certain kinds of “art” (garbage in some instances is more appropriate) is getting encouragement and funding abroad as some other kinds of art are limited? This question relates to what was especially evident in Russia during the 1990s.

    On “art” (garbage):


    A provocative painting by Lena Hades, a Moscow artist, depicts a double-headed eagle holding a vodka bottle, an anti-Semitic banner, a harmonica, a satellite and a Dostoevsky novel.


    This is somewhat on par with depicting Israeli soldiers wearing German WW II era helmets with the Star of David on them as they enter Gaza. For further “artistry,” paint a blue armband around these soldiers showing a white discuss with the Star of David in it.



    Hades has posted images of her paintings, including “Chimera of the Mysterious Russian Soul” with the double-headed eagle and “Our Russia” with the obscenity-strewn curtain, on her LiveJournal blog.

    Hades told The Moscow Times that her artwork aimed to depict “the inconsistencies of the mysterious Russian soul.”

    “Only a Russian can pray and curse simultaneously,” Hades said. “A Russian is a saint and a sinner all at once.”

    Hades said her paintings were “partly self-criticism” because she was “half-Russian.” She said she was born in the Kemerovo region and also has Jewish and Tatar roots.


    The first part of the above excerpted can be reasonably viewed as being on the bigoted side.

    When done in a certain way, so-called “self criticism” is good. As for her background serving as some sort of a qualifier, others can do the same from a different angle.

    On a related matter, I note how a regular Russia Profile panelist has casually used terms like “colonize” and “conquest” to describe Russian manner in Ukraine and Poland. I suspect that he wouldn’t be so free in using such terms when describing Israeli actions.

    For the record, my own preference is to refrain from being overly rhetorical in a way that overlooks key variables to a given subject. This doesn’t preclude me from making appropriately frank replies to half baked comments.



    “Amen. For our freedom and yours, so to say,” Ivanova responded on her own blog, citing a famous patriotic slogan popularized by Poles during their 1830-31 war with Russia.


    Concerning Russo-Polish relations, I’m reminded of a recent Moscow Times article describing the “Russification” of Poland without noting the earlier attempt at “Polonizing” Russia.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 16, 2010 @ 9:33 pm

  57. Yes, there is great romanticizing of the pre-Revolutionary era and the Whites (see the movie Kolchak). That sort of stuff is all over. And then we jump to the Stalin era, which was “yes, a lot of people were killed but it was all for industrialization” and then take another leap to a totally false period of prosperity and great power status under Brezhnev (“they feared us but respected us”). There is no crtique of Lenin, the revolution, the destruction of churches and clergy, the first prison camps, etc. People respect Kolchak and Stalin in the same way.
    If you were imagining that there was/is some sort of communist view of the Soviet past being propagandized, there wasn’t and there isn’t. But that doesn’t mean that there is a serious critique or analysis of the past going on either.

    Comment by mossy — July 19, 2010 @ 4:52 am

  58. There was the anti-White propaganda of the Soviet period. One of them exaggerates the Western support the Whites received and downplays the foreign support for the Reds. Richard Pipes shares this view.

    I’m all for a balanced overview. Part of what might be at play is a maturation process of going from one extreme to another, followed by a more objective course. Note that movies for the masses on historical figures like Patton and Kolchak are prone to some inaccuracy.

    Some see the Brezhnev period as one of relative stability with the USSR having arguably peaked around the late 1950s/early 1960s.

    Soviet geopolitical influence peaked during Brezhnev’s period as GS of the CPSU. However, that growth occurred as things were showing signs of crumbling (especially in retrospect).

    This very last point is noted by Gorbachev when discussing what he inherited as Soviet leader.

    Consider how a dead tree can see branches coming out of it, as well as how the nails and hair on corpses grow for a period following death.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 19, 2010 @ 10:51 am

  59. The linking of Kolchalk and Stalin is loose.

    During WW II, the anti-Communist White leader Denikin issued a statement calling for Russians to not support the Nazis. A prominent English language Russian based editor recently wrote about how a relative of his who fought on the White side had sought fighting on the Soviet side during WW II.

    Communists and anti-Communists of the same national grouping the world over can share some (stress some) points of agreement.

    For that matter, the Western support for Stalin during WW II didn’t see Roosevelt and Churchill becoming Communists.

    On the matter of inaccurate films on historical figures, during WW II, Hollywood produced such on Stalin. As the Cold War begins, one of these films was revised at the end to show an expansionist USSR.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 19, 2010 @ 11:05 am

  60. “I’m all for a balanced overview. Part of what might be at play is a maturation process of going from one extreme to another, followed by a more objective course.”

    Yeah, truth looks extreme compared to lie but I don’t see any problem with that nor reason to make a “balanced overview” just to be less extreme. If you realize Soviet propaganda was full of lies does that make your opinion extreme? How should “balanced overview” look like in that case? Saying there was propaganda elsewhere? Why do you have such problems when someone questions things like “USSR would win against Nazis without West’s help anyway” – after all, one who questions it is just trying to make a “balanced overview”, something you call for. Why did Stalin accepted such help if it wasn’t necessary for USSR, it would be much bigger victory for Soviets if they really defeated Nazis alone and not just tried to say that after few decades? Why have Russian supporters such problems when people state USSR helped to defeat Nazism but it started to fought it no sooner than it was invaded by its former ally and that Soviets might very well remain friends with Nazis if Germans didn’t start Barbarossa?

    Comment by deith — July 19, 2010 @ 12:01 pm

  61. “If you realize Soviet propaganda was full of lies does that make your opinion extreme?”



    On the other points, there’s ample reason to find fault with the Western attitude to Hitler before and during M-R.

    The term “phony war” is used to describe a period after Britian declares war on Germany for the latter’s attack on Poland.

    Note that Britian didn’t declare war on the USSR.

    As noted, Allied aid made the Soviet war effrt easier. There’s good reason to believe that the Soviets would’ve prevailed without that aid – albeit with greater difficulty. The Nazis’ resources became greatly limited as well.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 19, 2010 @ 12:10 pm

  62. Actually “Siegfried” or should that be Arthur/RTR/Ostap Bender/Michael Tal/Phobodunce/Voice Of Reason, there is far more evidence to suggest that Russia would have collapsed without British and American aid.

    For example, most of the food supplied to the Red Army was supplied under lend lease, along with many of the basics required just to keep an army on it’s feet, let alone in action, including POL, ammunition, supply trucks, trains, freight wagons, not to mention the tanks, from Matilda’s, Valentines, Churchills, Grants and Shemans (which were highly prised by Soviet tank crews, being issued to many Guards units), the aircraft such as Hurricanes, Spitfires, P-38’s, P-40’s, B-25’s etc.

    In addition the majority of T-34’s were produced using US supplied armor plate which was vastly superior to Russian produced armor plate.

    Then we have the small matter of Barbarossa being delayed by a couple of months due to the Germans being forced to go and bail out their Italian allies in Greece and Yugoslavia, culminating with the virtual decimation of the German Paratroop force on Crete.

    What would have happened if Germany had been able to enjoy another 2 months of good weather in its invasion of the USSR? What if they had had the tens of thousands of German troops, tanks, and airpower that was stuck on garrison or combat duties in the Balkans, Crete and Greece?

    Bye bye Moscow most likely.

    Comment by Andrew — July 23, 2010 @ 5:31 am

  63. Where do you get this info. on some of the materials for the T-34 Andrew or whoever the **** you are?

    I agree that the Serbs did their share during WW II.

    Numerically, the bulk of Nazi forces were stationed against the USSR. The Nazis were clearly challenged on issues pertaining to raw materials and man power.

    FYI, contrary to your claim, in camparison to the T-34, the Sherman wasn’t highly thought of by experienced Red Army tankers. This explains why the Red Army preferred to use the Sherman in more of a backup role.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 24, 2010 @ 12:57 am

  64. No, the Sherman was not disliked “by experienced Red Army tankers” nor used “in more of a backup role”, whatever that nonsense might mean. Buy a clue.

    Comment by peter — July 26, 2010 @ 5:35 am

  65. Actually, in comparison to the T-34, it has been likened to a tin can on tracks.

    Western WW II documentaries overwhelmingly stress the T-34’s importance to the Red Army’s successs over the Shermans – in comparison, the latter is rarely mentioned as being utilized by the Red Army.

    Later chump.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 27, 2010 @ 8:39 am

  66. You cannot be serious. “Has been likened” by who? By “experienced Red Army tankers”? Can we have a reference please? And which T-34 are you talking about — the original one or T-34/85? Like I said, buy a clue.

    Comment by peter — July 27, 2010 @ 10:50 am

  67. No, no, no.

    The T-34 gets ranked as one of the best in the way that the Sherman doesn’t.

    Kindly reference your supporting sources if possible.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 27, 2010 @ 5:39 pm

  68. Once again, you wrote, and I quote, that “in camparison to the T-34, the Sherman wasn’t highly thought of by experienced Red Army tankers. This explains why the Red Army preferred to use the Sherman in more of a backup role.” You have yet to produce any reference to support your naked assertion. What part of “reference” do you not understand?

    Comment by peter — July 27, 2010 @ 6:55 pm

  69. As I correctly suspected, you provide zilch to back up the dubious suggestion that the Sherman

    – played a substantial role in Red Army tank warfare

    – was on par with the T-34 in effectiveness.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 28, 2010 @ 12:26 am

  70. ????????? ?????

    ? ???? «???????» ?????? ????????? ? ?????? 1942 ???? (?????? ????? ???????? 5-? ??????????? ??), ?? ? ???????? ??????????? ???? ???? ???????? ? ????????? ??????? ?????? ? ????? 1943 ???? (? ??????? ????? «???????» ?? ???????????). ??????? ? ????? 1944 ????, «???????» ????????? ??????? ??????????? ?? ???? ????????? ?? ???? ??????? ??????? ????????????? ?????.

    ???????? ??????? ???????????? ????? ??????, ???????? ?????????? ???????? ?????? ??????? ?? ????????? ? ?????????? ???????, ? ????? ????? ??????? ???????? ?????????? ???????????? ? ??????? ?????. ??????? ??????? ?? «????????» ????????? ??????. ?? ????????????? ?????? ????? ???????? ????? ??, ??? ? ????? ??????? ?? ??? ??????????? ??????????? ?????? ??????????????? M3, ? ? ?????? ? ???? ? ???? ??????? ??? ??????? ???????? ???????????? ???????????? ???????.

    ????? 1943 ???? ????????? ????????? ?????????? M4A2, ??????????? ??? ?????? ?????????? ???????. ?????, ???????????? ????, ????? ??????? ????????? ????????? ?????? ???????, ??? ???????? ?????????? ????????? ???????? ??? ???????? ?? ??????????? ?????? ???????. ????????????? ????????? ??????? ? ??????? ???????????? ??????? ??????? ???????, ? ???? ???????? ????? ???????????????.

    ? ????? ???? ??????????? ????????? ?????????????? ?????????? ?-34, ? ?????????? ????? ?? ???????, ??? ?????-???? ?????? ???????. ????? ?????????????? ??????? ??????? ???????? «????????», ?? ????????? ? ?????????? ???????, ? ????? ????????????? ????? ?????? ? ????? ?? ????? ????????, ??? ?????????????? ?????? ?????????.

    ? ???? ?????, ?????????? ?? ????-????, ????????? ?????????? ? ????????? ????? (?? ?????? ???????? ?????????? ??? ??????), ??? ????????? ?????????? ???????? ? ?????????. ??????? ?????????? ??????????? ? ???? «????????» ????????? ??????? ? ????? ??????? (????????, 1-? ??????????? ???????????????? ??????, 9-? ??????????? ???????? ??????), ??????????? ?????? ???? ????? ?????. ????? ? ????? ? ??? ?? ?????? ?????????????? ???????????? ??????? ????? ? ?????? ????? ?-60 ? ?-80 ?????????? ????????????.

    ?????????? ????? 1945 ???? M4A2(76)W HVSS ???? ?????????? ?? ??????? ??????, ? ????????? ??????? ? ????? ?????? ??????.

    Comment by peter — July 28, 2010 @ 2:55 am

  71. Okay. Sherman not used in Kursk.

    Can get more academic if need be on some excerpts at this link:

    Excerpts in question:

    The Sherman’s ONLY virtue was reliability. It was poorly-armoured, it’s gun was always too weak, and it had a reputation for burning.

    The T-34 has to be considered ‘best all-round’: mainly because of the ‘all-round’ stipulation: an excellent balance of armour, firepower and mobility: the three factors that make up the tank. At any stage of the war it could defeat its enemies and withstand their attacks to a reasonable extent, and its maneuverability/mobility was always something the Germans were jealous of. It’s diesel engine made it less of a ‘Ronson lighter’ [guaranteed to light first time]. It made 500hp and had a 76mm gun: in 1940. It was improved as the war went on: always a characteristic of a great tank. It had all the Sherman’s advantages but none of its drawbacks. T-34 casualties were high due to poor training before 1944 and lack of radios.

    Second would have to be the Panther: again an excellent balance of characteristics. It was let down by being too complex and by having suspect reliability, especially the transmission. Unlike the Sherman and T-34, the Panther arrived quite late (July 1943) and could not be built in large enough numbers.

    The only remaining contender is the German Panzer Mark IV: again a reliable workhorse of a tank, used and produced all through the war. It was overshadowed by its more ‘glamorous’, animal-named comrades, but would have to be rated better than the Sherman (equal in armour and mobility, more firepower) but a bit behind the T-34 (much slower in real conditions, only equal in firepower and perhaps slightly behind in armour).

    One could name other excellent tanks such as the British Comet and American Pershing, or the Soviet IS-2 and -3, and the German Tigers 1 and 2: but these tanks, though formidable, were too late (Comet and Pershing) or were not good ‘all-rounders’ (the German and Soviet heavies). Others like the German Pz III, the British Churchill and Cromwell, and the Soviet KV1 were decent tanks that did much for their respective armies, but ‘greatest’ as a balance of technical superiority, practicality, ease of manufacture… the T-34 I think.


    The Best all round tank of wwll…. has to be the soviet T-34. an unbelievable machine which when compared with the tanks of the axis and allies forces in term of Armour, firepower, durability. and reliability. the T-34 is the best at none while the second best at all. it is also worth noting that to manufacture these tanks was considerably quicker than their counterparts allowing for vast numbers to be produced in an incredibly short space of time.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 28, 2010 @ 3:22 am

  72. Why on earth have you posted this pile of retarded apples-to-oranges crap from some teenage site?

    All I’m asking you to do is substantiate your claim that, I quote, “in camparison to the T-34, the Sherman wasn’t highly thought of by experienced Red Army tankers. This explains why the Red Army preferred to use the Sherman in more of a backup role.”

    Can you provide your source please? Or shall we assume you just made that up?

    Comment by peter — July 28, 2010 @ 4:30 am

  73. “We” can assume whatever.

    A more academic breakdown will confirm that the Sherman didn’t out-perform the T-34. In addition, there’s a consensus that the Sherman was more vulnerable when struck than the T-34.

    The Sherman receives praise in comfort and the positioning of its instrumentation. That seems to be the extent of its plusses.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 28, 2010 @ 5:08 am

  74. “We” can assume whatever.

    So it’s a yes, you just made those “experienced Red Army tankers” up.

    A more academic breakdown will confirm…

    Given your nonexistent credentials and reputation, you are clearly in no position to perform “a more academic breakdown”.

    … the Sherman was more vulnerable when struck than the T-34.

    Apples and oranges, in more ways than one.

    The Sherman receives praise in comfort and the positioning of its instrumentation.

    Positioning of its instrumentation? Like I said, you simply haven’t the foggiest clue what you’re talking about.

    Comment by peter — July 28, 2010 @ 6:03 am

  75. Appropriately applies to your last set of comments and others:

    “Sorry to be blunt, but you need some professional help here. I’m out of this round. I don’t argue with crazy people.”


    More bluntly put, you’re a trolling idiot with a perverse fetish, which includes not being able to successfully prove your point.

    I didn’t make up ANYTHING. Obviously, the tin can reference relates to the vulnerability of the Sherman when taking hits to it. That comment was made by T-34 tankers at an event which included intelligent people having a greater knowledge and interest in the subject than yourself.

    Internet forums can be positive when free of your putrid likes.

    Comment by Siegfried — July 28, 2010 @ 10:26 am

  76. … the tin can reference relates to the vulnerability of the Sherman when taking hits to it.

    Oh give me a break, Mike. You are too retarded to even figure out HTML tags (you know, those little thingies one uses to make hyperlinks and bold/italic stuff), what do you possibly know about “the vulnerability of the Sherman when taking hits to it”?

    Comment by peter — July 28, 2010 @ 2:12 pm

  77. Siegfried, you are obviously a bit of an idiot, so I will spell it out.

    The Lend Lease tanks such as the Churchill and Sherman were highly prized by their Soviet crews.

    The T-34 is vastly overrated due to post war Soviet propaganda.

    Its main benefit was that it could be produced in very large numbers, however it was extremely prone to exploding violently when hit, as shown by the fact that it’s crews had only around a 30% chance of survival at best when hit. Part of this was due to the extremely cramped nature of the tank, but much was caused by shoddy welding and poor production values.

    It’s fire control system was extremely poor (no stabilised gun, such as on the Sherman) with rudimentary sights and no range finder.

    The 76mm gun was adequate in 1941 and early 42, but almost useless by 1943, and even when the 85mm gun was introduced it was far less effective than the 75mm used by the Germans on the Panther or even the MK IV, as well as being vastly inferior to the 17pdr used on the Sherman Firefly.

    For anyone who doubts the wartime reputation of the Sherman amongst the Red Army, consider that in January of 1945, 1st Guards Mechanized Corps, an elite unit, turned in its T-34/85s and was completely re-equipped with Sherman M4A2s.
    Amongst the other units using the Sherman were the 3rd Guards Mechanized Corps, 9th Guards Mechanized Corps and many individual Tank Brigades.

    For a good (and honest) overview of the T-34, try reading “T-34 Mythical Weapon” by Robert Michulec & Miroslaw Zientarzewski which strips away most of the Soviet BS about the T-34 in actual service.

    Comment by Andrew — August 5, 2010 @ 1:15 am

  78. Also interesting to note that when Sherman 76’s encountered T-34/85’s in Korea they slaughtered the Russian made tanks with little problem with a kill loss ratio of over 3 to 1 in the Shermans favor.

    Comment by Andrew — August 5, 2010 @ 2:09 am

  79. This back and forth on the M-4 Sherman and T-34 is quite fascinating. My take is that the T-34/76 was superior to the Mk III’s and Mk IV’s that represented the vast bulk of German armored forces in June 1941 and well into 1942, not to mention Mk II’s or Czech tanks that were still in German formations.

    One of the T-34’s main virtues was its wide track. Another was its sloped armor.

    If you look at a T-34, the crudity of the manufacturing is evident. But the Soviets were able to produce in numbers, and that’s what mattered. And, as the upgunning to the 85 mm shows, the design was flexible.

    Early versions of the M-4 were undergunned and underarmored. They also had a very bad tendency to burn. But they were also produced in such huge numbers that overcame many of their defects. The upgunned Shermans were indeed far more effective than the original. The Israelis even upgunned some Shermans to a 44 caliber 105 mm piece. The Israelis also replaced the gasoline engines with diesels, which were less prone to turning the tanks into “Ronsons.” These served effectively in the ’67 War.

    It should also be mentioned that the T-34 evolved from US Christie tanks that the Soviets bought: the US army wasn’t remotely interested. The family resemblance is closest if you look at the suspensions and track wheels. The T-34 used a Christie suspension.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 5, 2010 @ 11:13 am

  80. поиск по базе билайн, поиск по базе мтс…

    […]Streetwise Professor » History as Seen by a Tarantula*[…]…

    Trackback by поиск по базе билайн, поиск по базе мтс — December 27, 2011 @ 8:13 am

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