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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

WWII history refresher needed

By Steve Knight/editor-in-chief

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his countrymen could use a refresher course on World War II history.

At a ceremony Sept. 1 in Gdansk, Poland, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II, Putin made no apology for the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a secret Nazi-Soviet non-aggression protocol that some historians believe set plans in motion for war.

Signed Aug. 23, 1939, the pact carved up Poland and the rest of Europe between the two countries, preceding a war that would kill 50 million people.

Putin also made no mention of the Sept. 17 invasion by Red Army troops, the 1940 Katyn massacre in which 20,000 Polish officers were killed by the Soviets, or the 50-year communist occupation.

However, Polish President Lech Kaczynski reminded Putin of this past history in his speech at the pre-dawn ceremony.

“On 17 September … Poland received a stab in the back … This blow came from Bolshevik Russia,” he said, referring to the occupation of eastern Poland by Soviet troops.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk also attempted to give Putin a history lesson.

“We meet here to remember this because we Poles know that without this memory — honest memory about the truth — about the sources of World War II, Poland, Europe and the world will not be safe.”

Although Putin said in his speech that all pacts with Nazi Germany were “morally unacceptable,” the Russian government needs to cleanse itself from its Soviet past and apologize to Poland for its past actions.

Despite claims from Putin and President Dmitri Medvedev in Russian news media that the West is attempting to rewrite the history of World War II, Russia is distorting history by denying that it occupied Poland and most of Eastern Europe for more than 40 years.

Russia’s wish to reassert itself in the international community would be better served distancing itself from its 20th-century communist past, not embracing it by invading Georgia and threatening Ukraine.

No doubt, the real power in Russia is with Putin, not President Medvedev.

And Putin missed an opportunity to gain respect from Poland and the West.

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