Yefim Pivovar: "The topic of Second World War is something historians should work on, not politicians"
In the beginning of October, the Russian Academy of Sciences hosted a two-day international scientific conference "80th Anniversary of the Beginning of World War II." President of the Russian State Humanitarian University, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, member of the Council of the Russian Historical Society, Efim Pivovar, told Vestnik Kavkaza about participants of the event and results of the discussion.
- The conference was attended by historians representing leading scientific and educational centers of different countries. What were they talking about?
- Conference was called “The Dark Night of European Politics”, and it was not only about the beginning, but about the Second World War in general. Representatives of historical science of a number of countries, both European and those countries that were formed after the collapse of the USSR in the post-Soviet space, spoke there, including Director of the Institute of History of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences, Director of the Institute of History and Law of the Kazakh University, Special Representative for International Humanitarian Cooperation of the President of the Russian Federation Mikhail Shvydkoi, Director of the Institute of World History, academician Chubaryan... I, as the head of Russian section of the Russian-Czech Commission of Historicians-Archivists, also attended this conference. There was also Professor Emil Voracek. We spoke about lessons of those events for historical knowledge and for public opinion, for the future of our countries.
- What lessons in particular were mentioned?
- Today we can see excessive politicization of assessments of the Second World War among politicians, members of parliaments. That is demonstrated by many things, including resolution of the European Parliament that the USSR is guilty of unleashing the Second World War, which in itself is absolutely untrue. First of all, it was the peoples of the USSR who made decisive contribution to ensuring that this world is safe. Second of all, unfortunately, representatives of many European countries participated in horrible atrocities, voluntarily or involuntarily. Representatives of several countries participated in occupation of Soviet Union's territories. For example, France was a participant in the victory over Hitlerism, it was occupied after 1940, but some of its soldiers were also on our territory. There were also the Romanian units, the Hungarian units, the Slovak and so on. That's why it's clear who is responsible for the outbreak of war.
This conference showed that it's necessary to begin the process of gradual transfer everything related to this matter to historians. Politicians, deputies, representatives of various parties are fighting for power, and this political fight will continue forever, these are realities of our lives. It's necessary for historians to view decisions made during and on the eve of World War II not from the point of view of our time, but from the point of view of the context in which they took place. We must not forget that decisions were made by people who were in power at that time, in specific historical conditions. Although, of course, this does not mean that we will justify those who committed criminal acts or actions that violate international law, which was recorded by the Nuremberg Tribunal.
- Why is politicization of history is so dangerous?
- Some people bring up things that are convenient or useful in the modern political environment, but it's not real history at all, it's not historical knowledge. This is dangerous for our societies, for younger generations, because we can lose knowledge of what really happened. This may lead to huge losses in the future, because lessons of that war are extremely important, they can help to prevent such events from happening again. Historical knowledge of that period is of absolute importance.
The second point of discussion, which is also extremely important, and this conference showed it, is incomplete political processes that lead to contradictions, which put parties against each other and create possibility of emergence of more conflicts. This is how the Second World War began, it became continuation of the First World War. This happened because many contradictions were not resolved or were resolved not from the point of view of development prospects, but from the point of view of law of the strong. Humiliation of Germany and German people, to some extent, helped Nazis to come to power. Revanchism turned into National Socialism, which Hitler successfully
All of this shows that historians around the world still have great deal of work and have to evaluate everything calmly, find compromises and compromising points of view. We have to pass objective picture of what happened almost a hundred years ago to future generations so that those events wouldn't repeat again.
- You mentioned representatives of the Czech historical community. How do they assess situation around the monument to Marshal Konev, which was desecrated, and officials decided to transfer it to the closed territory of the Russian embassy?
- Those I spoke to believe that this is an extremely negative and unnecessary action. However, this is also the result of politicization in society. After all, young people who were born many years after the end of World War II make decisions on this issue. They were affected by what happened in the media and in educational process in Europe in 1990-2000. Educational practice should be based on objective scientific assessments, and not be politicized. I think that in the end, situation with monuments will be successfully resolved.