The Kremlin has scheduled a parade marking the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazism and the end of the war in Europe on June 24. Russian authorities were forced to postpone the date of this event (May 9) due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Although the number of patients got sick with coronavirus in Russia continues to grow, in Moscow in particular, the Kremlin could not disregard the possibility to take advantage of this historic date to reach its political goals.
Firstly, for the these 20 years of Vladimir Putin’s continuous rule, the flywheel of patriotic propaganda has been massively fed inside Russia by the emphasized celebration of military “anniversaries” amounting to hysteria and exaltation following on from God’s chosen Russian people and the special path of Russian civilization. Secondly, the world leaders invited to the parade (some of them really planned to arrive in Moscow in May, but it seems that only Xi Jinping is coming now) should, through their presence, transfer to the Kremlin elite the symbolic capital and thereby contribute to the legitimization of the Putin’s regime on the international scene.
In general, the Kremlin is not particularly worried that during the solemn march of troops, which will be enthusiastically watched by swarms of Muscovites, massive infection with COVID-19 will certainly happen (perhaps this will lead to a new wave of a pandemic in the country). The main thing for the Kremlin is by reminding the world of the USSR’s participation (75 years ago) in the defeat of Nazism to force everyone to reckon with Russia’s geopolitical claims today (even though it stubbornly disregards international law and destroys the international security system).
The new date of the celebrations (June 24) was chosen with reference to the fact that on this day in 1945 there was a victory parade on Red Square. But, as they like to repeat in Russia about WW II, “no one is forgotten and nothing is forgotten.” Historians could well have offered the Kremlin other (not so flattering) dates for the parade, and also reminded Putin of the not too heroic pages of the role of the USSR in that war.
So, at the end of September 1939, in the cities of Grodno, Brest-Litovsk and Pinsk (today it is the western part of Belarus, then the eastern outskirts of the Second Polish Republic) parades took place (the German side also called them “victory parades”) with the participation of Wehrmacht troops and the Red Army on the occasion of the successful joint seizure and partition of the Polish state.
For example, the parade in Grodno was taken by the Red Army commander of the 4th Army (the main striking force in this direction) V. Chuikov. The September 22, 1939 parade in Brest is more famous because it was filmed by cameramen of the German propaganda service Die Deutsche Wochenschau. And today anyone can find this newsreel on YouTube and see how commander of the 29th Separate Tank Brigade S. Krivoshein and general of armored force G. Guderian, standing on the platform, joyfully greet the allied soldiers – the Red Army and the Wehrmacht.
The point is that the German troops, starting the war on September 1, 1939, during the occupation of Poland, significantly broke out of the demarcation line, secretly agreed by Nazi Berlin and communist Moscow at conclusion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Taking obligation to start the war at the same time as A. Hitler, I. Stalin outwitted him – he only brought troops into Poland on September 17, 1939, justifying the two-week delay with alleged unreadiness. It turned out the Western countries declared the Nazi regime to be the “arsonist of war”. Nevertheless, the armed forces of the Third Reich, who found themselves in that part of Poland, which was intended under the pact for the Soviet occupation, disciplinedly and implicitly transferred the occupied settlements to their ally, the USSR. Well, since the mood of the German and Soviet military leaders was wonderful, the transfer process in some cities was not only of formal nature, but was marked by parades, solemn marches accompanied by military bands and official ceremonies of a retreat of the Nazi flag and the raising of the Soviet one.
Trying to present these facts in more favorable light, Russian patriots reject such terms as “joint parade” or “victory parade”, inventing such cunning formulations as, for example, “ceremonial withdrawal of German troops under the supervision of Soviet representatives”. The Kremlin could well have scheduled the upcoming parade not on June 24, but on September 22, when the joint victory parade of the Nazis and Communists in Brest took place.
And after the parades in Grodno, Brest and Pinsk in autumn 1939, which marked the partition of Poland and Eastern Europe between the two totalitarian regimes, in spring 1940, almost 22 thousand captured Polish officers were shot by the Soviet military. For 50 years, Moscow has been refusing to accept the responsibility of the USSR for this crime, trying to blame the Nazis. Only 1990 saw the Kremlin’s acceptance of the Stalinist regime guilty and disclosed the relevant archival documents. And in spring of this year, on the eve of the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the victory over the Third Reich, in some places of execution of Polish citizens held in Soviet concentration camps and prisons, they began to dismantle plaques with information about the killings and repressions (for example, a big scandal erupted in Tver). Well, the Russian “patriots” again began to push for a propaganda fake that the mass executions of Poles were perpetrated by the Nazis (although M. Gorbachev, B. Yeltsin, and D. Medvedev admitted the guilty of the Communists in this case).
We may also recall how the Soviet icebreakers “Lenin”, “Stalin” and “Kaganovich” secretly conducted the German raider “Comet”, which managed to destroy nine British and American ships there, through the Northeast Passage to the Pacific Ocean in August 1940.
Another interesting story is that during almost the entire war – until summer of 1944 – Japanese tankers were transporting oil from Northern Sakhalin to Japan. On Northern Sakhalin (the territory of the USSR) back in the late 1920s, a Japanese oil concession was created. At the end of 1941, the concession agreement between Moscow and Tokyo was successfully extended. There was a peace agreement between the USSR and Japan, but, on the other hand, Japan was an adversary of the USSR’s allies – the United States and the British Empire, and also an ally of the USSR’s adversary – Germany. Nevertheless, Soviet oil had been delivered to the Land of the Rising Sun for three and a half years of active hostilities in the Pacific Region, where it was refined into diesel fuel and fuel oil for Japanese aircraft carriers, ships and submarines operating against American ships, including, against convoys of American ships that delivered combat aircraft, military equipment, trucks, anti-aircraft sights, radars, aviation gasoline, explosives, raw materials, etc. under lend-lease to the USSR (in total 18 million tons of supplies). And only after pressure from Washington, in summer of 1944 the USSR cut off oil supplies from the Soviet territory to Japan.
On the whole, one must not forget that the beginning of WWII was laid by the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and its secret protocols of August 23, 1939. Back in 1956, the head of the USSR Nikita Khrushchev indirectly accepted this, saying that “if there hadn’t been Stalin, then perhaps the war itself would not have happened.” In connection with the 80th anniversary of start of World War II, in particular it is the fact of the conclusion of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, which has become the springboard for the World War, was in main focus of the European Parliament, which on September 19, 2019, adopted a resolution “on the importance of preserving historical memory for the future of Europe.”
After the Third Reich attacked the USSR in June 1941, Washington and London “closed their eyes” to the initial period of the war and allowed Moscow to join the Atlantic Charter, as a result of which the USA, the British Empire and the USSR became allies in the anti-Hitler coalition. But this present time, when the Russian military will be marching through Moscow in tribute to the memory of the Soviet soldiers who fought against Nazism, we must not forget that in September 1939, both Nazi Germany and the communist USSR were equally “instigators” of the erupted world carnage, which claimed the lives of more than 55 million people.

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