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19 July 202112:31

The article by Vladimir Malygin, Ambassador of Russia to Malta, "Marking the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Great Patriotic war", published on 19.07.2021 in "The Malta Independent"

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The Great Patriotic war (1941-1945) began 80 years ago, when on 22nd June 1941 Nazi Germany invaded the USSR. That very day has irreversibly changed world history.

For the past decade or so Soviet Russia has remained being accused, as much as the Nazi Germany, for causing the outbreak of WW2 by signing the Treaty of Non-Aggression also known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Let us go back in history to discuss the nature of this pact, its background causes and historical aftermaths.


It is a fact that in 1938 the imminent hostilities could be stopped. It was still possible to curb Hitler’s military aggression by protecting Czechoslovakia’s borders. Alas, the leading Western powers have wasted this golden opportunity. At all costs they tried to avoid being dragged into a military conflict with the Third Reich.

The Munich agreement signed in September 1938 by Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy was a final act that untied Hitler’s hands. Soon after the Munich conference, Nazi Germany and Poland occupied parts of Czechoslovakia with Hungary invading south of Slovakia. Up next for Hitler to devour were Lithuania, Romania and Poland.  

To further exacerbate the dire situation was a failure of the Triple Alliance Negotiations between the USSR, Great Britain and France that took place in August 1939 in Moscow. In these circumstances the Soviet side was hard pressed to sign the Non-Aggression Pact with Germany which included a secret protocol that divided Eastern Europe into spheres of influence between the two sides. The vast parts of Western Ukraine and Belorussia, ex-Russian territories seized by Poland in 1921, as well as the Baltic countries did not fall under the Nazis’ “protection” in accordance with this pact. Their citizens, therefore, were saved from the Third Reich’s “Neuordnung” and Holokost. It is appropriate to recall that Lithuania alone lost 96% of their Jewish population in the Nazis and their collaborators’ atrocities during WW2.

“On the Soviet side it must be said that their vital need was to hold the deployment positions of the German armies as far to the west as possible so as to give the Russians more time for assembling their forces from all parts of their immense empire. They had burnt in their minds the disasters which had come upon their armies in 1914, when they had hurled themselves forward to attack the Germans while still themselves only partly mobilised. But now their frontiers lay far to the east of those of the previous war… If their policy was cold-blooded, it was also at the moment realistic in a high degree”. This paragraph was penned by Winston Churchill, British prime minister, in his WW2 memoirs. No one would ever call him “pro-Soviet” and yet such was his situational assessment.

A remarkable fact: by August 1939 a number of non-aggression agreements have already been signed, namely: between Nazi Germany and Poland (the German–Polish Declaration of Non-Aggression, 1934), Great  Britain (the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, 1935), Japan (the Anti-Comintern Pact, 1936), Hungary and Spain (joined the Anti-Comintern Pact in 1939), Italy (the Pact of Steel, 1939), Denmark (the Non-Aggression Pact 1939), Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia (Non-Aggression Pacts, 1939). As one can see, the Soviet Union was the last country that signed the non-aggression agreement with Nazi Germany. 

A number of biased historians tend to counter the results of the Munich conspiracy with the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact. They interpret the first one as an attempt to secure peace while condemning the latter by picturing it as a major cause of WW2. From a political point of view such interpretation looks purely opportunistic and cannot be taken seriously by professional WW2 historians.

It is just not possible to keep war at bay by appeasing the aggressor's ever growing appetite. Hitler’s example clearly shows that. He kept on demanding more for the benefits of the Third Reich until the European powers found themselves being held hostages. The policy of appeasement adopted by the Western democracies in the 1930s was a clear sign of their weakness in Hitler’s eyes. Feeding the beast, they would sooner or later turn into easy prey for the aggressor. Quoting Churchill, Chamberlain who was “given the choice between war and dishonour”... “chose dishonour and had war.”

Nowadays the West prefers to portray the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact agreement as a trigger of WW2 and to blame Soviet Russia. There is even more to it than this. European Parliament resolution of September 19, 2019 on the importance of European remembrance for the future of Europe stated that “a Treaty of Non-Aggression, known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and its secret protocols… paved the way for the outbreak of the Second World War”.

Fortunately, there are other points of view in the Western political circles. Heiko Maas, German Foreign Minister in his article marking the 75th anniversary of the end of WW2 for Der Spiegel, states that:

“The repeated attempt in recent months to rewrite history so disgracefully requires us to speak up loud and clear – something that should not actually be necessary in view of the irrefutable historical facts – and to leave no doubt whatsoever that Germany alone unleashed the Second World War by its invasion of Poland and Germany alone is responsible for the crimes against humanity of the Holocaust. Those who sow doubt about this and thrust other countries into the role of perpetrator do injustice to the victims, exploit history for their own ends and divide Europe.” The same position was announced by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in her speech dated June 19, 2021, when she was calling the day of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union "an occasion for shame" for the German people.

Another example of a reasonable and respect-worthy approach to this issue was adopted by the Hon. Evarist Bartolo, Minister of Malta Foreign and European Affairs who held a bilateral meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov in May 2021. Minister Bartolo stressed that “if we want to learn from history, we must make sure to set the record straight on WWII and to recognize the very important role that Russia played in the victory over Nazism which put the rest of humanity at risk”. 

It is beyond any doubt that victory in WW2 was a result of joint efforts of all the members of the anti-Hitler coalition. No doubt it is also that the USSR paid the ultimate price for the defeat of Nazism. Soviet Red Army crushed the enemy’s armies about 3.5 times more than the rest of the Allies did during other WW2 campaigns. During the Great Patriotic war Soviet Russia lost 27 million of its people, i.e. 14% of its population. In comparison, Great Britain lost 380 thousand (0.6%) and the US 427 thousand (0.3%). Malta, which played an important part in WW2 being a strategic base for the Allies in the Mediterranean war theatre, lost 1% of its population.

It is crystal clear that the campaign of rewriting history of the Second World war is orchestrated by rogued politicians and russophobes of all sorts in order to restrain Russia’s progressive development as well as discredit its importance in world history. Such targeted actions are no news — Russia has been through similar experience years and even centuries ago while being under different political regimes. As a general rule, the more influential in global affairs Russia becomes, the more efforts to weaken it, libel and misrepresent its core values and strengths comes from all sides. However, ill-wishers should understand clearly that their acts will not be left unanswered. Our country will continue to defend the historical truth by all reasonable methods, in principle and in a consistent manner, through reliance on facts and the system of international law.



Vladimir Malygin,

Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Malta

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