Yefim Pivovar: "We shouldn't forget World War II lessons"
On September 1, the international community will mark a tragic date - the 80th anniversary of the beginning of World War II in Europe. The historian, the corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the president of the Russian State University for the Humanities, member of the Council of the Russian Historical Society Yefim Pivovar told Vestnik Kavkaza about the main lessons of the global conflict.
- Another anniversary of the outbreak of World War II is approaching. The Russian Historical Society discussed this issue just recently at the meeting. What lessons do you think should be learned from the events preceding the war?
- This tragic event of the 20th century can't be taken off the agenda. It is necessary to talk about its lessons for modern political forces, public opinion, for scientists, for educational practice. On the eve of World War I, and on the eve of World War II, several paradoxical phenomena were observed. There was a surprising lack of understanding of the severity of the situation by the leading political players of that era. How would Pearl Harbor have happened if the American establishment thought for just one second that Japan could launch such an attack? How could Poland's political forces claim that Poland is a dominant factor in eastern Europe, that France, England, the Soviet Union, Germany are negotiating with Polish politicians on equal terms; that they are strong enough for their opinions taken into account ? Even the statement that they will fight on foreign territory can also be found in documents of the pre-war era. How could the French ruling class underestimate the Wehrmacht, which led to the defeat of the French army, the winner of World War I? By the way, the Soviet leadership also expressed the opinion that we would fight on foreign territory. There was a general misunderstanding of the severity and catastrophic nature of the processes taking place.
- Did they overestimate their abilities?
- Th abilities were overestimated to some extent, while the strengths of potential opponents were underestimated. This is another lesson that participants in global political processes should always keep in mind. As historians, we, of course, should talk about this as a situation that is extremely important for the present and for the future. If aggressive plans are hatched, it's important to understand how dangerous they are.
Another lesson, which is also associated with invigilance, the lack of a sincere desire for collective measures to establish security, is that in fact no one took the reached agreements seriously. In 1934, Poland signed the German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact with Germany, the so-called Pilsudski- Hitler pact, and two years later Hitler participated in mourning events in connection with the death of Jozef Pilsudski. Now we perceive Hitler as the number one villain of all time, and then he was officially perceived as the head of a civilized European state. Although, of course, there were many reservations, fascism was criticized, the Comintern struggle against the fascist forces was underway, but everything was different at the official level - receptions were held in Berlin, diplomatic events were held in German embassies around the world.
- Is this evidence of a misunderstanding of what is happening?
- Yes, misunderstanding of the need for a collective struggle against the impending catastrophe. In addition to the Polish-German pact, there was also a Munich agreement, after which England and France also concluded non-aggression pact with Germany.
For some reason, on the eve of the 80th anniversary of the signing of the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, and before that, in the 1990s, the Soviet Union was criticized almost as responsible for the outbreak of World War II, as a force that was Hitler's ally, like two aggressors swept down on the world and so on. This continues to this day, since in a number of works the Soviet Union is equated with Nazi Germany. This has absolutely nothing to do with reality. In fact, the USSR and Germany were irreconcilable enemies. The Anti-Comintern Pact, signed by Hitler Germany, Mussolini and militaristic Japan, was directed against the Soviet Union, against the Comintern, which was created in Moscow, the leadership of which was in Moscow. It was an absolutely blatant statement about future aggression against the USSR.
- You said that many participants in those processes did not pay attention to the reached agreements ...
- There were a lot of pacts, non-aggression agreements. In the interwar years, they were enclosed by the Baltic states, England, France, and Poland. The German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact is no different from them. There were also secret protocols that were not published. Those documents did not mean for the forces that signed them that it was serious for them, that it has come to stay.
Immediately after World War II, they started to reject assessments of what was happening for the sake of political interests. And today there are forces that use these assessments, abandoning the principle of historicism. The lack of desire to follow the reached agreements led to the creation of mutual distrust. In the conditions of distrust in the Soviet leadership it was important to think about steps that could ensure the strengthening of the USSR in the struggle against the collective Western world. This is another lesson that we must convey to current generations. This is extremely important for countering aggressive forces, terrorism, attempts to use terror for political purposes, environmental threats and drug trafficking.
On the eve of the 80th anniversary of the beginning of World War II, I want to once again encourage you to consider calmly, from a historical point of view those processes, in which the peoples of the USSR sacrificed themselves, protecting the world. It is necessary to show the younger generation how serious those processes were. The responsibility of those who make decisions is also important in conditions when there are still aggressive forces in the world seeking to destroy the world order that has survived to our days after the end of World War II.