Our common victory and its lessons

For all peoples of the former USSR and for Russians, May 9 will mark 70 years since the Day of Victory in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) against fascism.

For all peoples of the former USSR and for Russians, May 9 will mark 70 years since the Day of Victory in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) against fascism. May 9 is a day of glory, a day of pride for our entire nation. The people do not forget such sacred dates. We know the significance of this victory and at what cost it was won. We remember that it was our country, our army that dealt the decisive, crippling blow to Nazism, reduced it to ashes and determined the outcome of World War Two. 

Nazi aggression reached its peak of cruelty in the attack on our country. The Nazis sought not just to break our people's will but to enslave us and destroy our nation. According to Nazi plans, the Soviet Union was to be carved and liquidated as a state. So much went into this Victory: courage and self sacrifice, endurance and faith, grief and tears. Countless were the paths of this war.

This is not simply a date, a page in history or a trace of memory. On May 9, 1945, our nation emerged victorious over barbarism and violence, fear and pain. This day represents the greatest act of justice in world history. In Russia's calendar of memorable dates just one mention of the Victory Day causes the heart of each Russian to be wrung. It's unlikely that even now - 70 years after - there can be found in the country a family which was not scathed by the flames of war. That is why this war has gone down in the history of our country as the Great Patriotic War. It was a terrible stab in the back for the Soviet people.

It lasted 1417 days (almost 4 years). From generation to generation our families retain a memory of the tragedies, personal reminiscences and the emotions of participants in the heroic struggle against fascism. The Soviet people’s victory in the Great Patriotic War marks the most important event in the history of Europe, in the life of Russia and the other states former republics of the Soviet Union and our greatest common spiritual heritage. There are over 2.7 million veterans in Russia. Each of them contributed to the Victory in decisive battles and on nameless heights, at military hospitals, in resistance units, during the siege of Leningrad, in Moscow, in all the regions, in the rear, in evacuation, where the vital power of this country was being strengthened by gruelling labour – all this was achieved through the efforts of specific individuals.

Soldiers launched the offensive to bring victory closer. Mothers, wives and children bore the heavy burden of labour on the home front. Today, decades later, we honour the personal exploits of each and every one of them. 70 years on, we remember those who fell on the battlefield, those who were tortured in the camps and who died of hunger and from their wounds, all those who sacrificed their lives defending their country’s unquestionable right to remain a free nation and who gave the world this day that liberated it from war.

The Victory anniversary celebration has a symbolic significance both for the state as a whole and for its citizens. As never in history, in those dramatic war years the destinies of the great country and of its people became most closely intertwined. The memory remains. An eternal memory of those who perished defending the Motherland from the plague of the 20th century, who died from wounds, in prisons, in captivity or in the blockade.

Lessons of the World War II

And there also remain the lessons which the world community drew from the events of more than half a century ago, but which have not lost their relevance today. More often than not, it is not merely an argument about how to interpret this or that event of the war period, but entirely opposite moral assessments of its outcome that have a direct relationship to the present-day European and world politics.

World War II is unparalleled by its scale, ferocity and human and material losses. It has engulfed into its orbit the four fifths of the global population and was the most bloody and most destructive of all wars in the history of mankind. The war claimed lives of more than 50 million people. It was life-and-death struggle for the right on existence of many nations of our planet.

Two thirds of those who died on the battle fields were young men from 19 to 35.

Victory Parade 1945 in Moscow, these were soldiers who participated in World War 2.

World War II was indeed an epochal event. It was not only a global battle that exceeded in scale all the previous armed conflicts in world history. There collided in it not merely the different interests of states and even not so much the different ideologies, but the diametrically opposed, irreconcilable approaches to the very bases of mankind's existence. For the first time in history, the stake in this struggle was the preservation of the life of whole peoples. The gas chambers and crematoria of Buchenwald, Salaspils, Sachsenhausen and other death camps have demonstrated what fascism carried with it, what future its so-called "new order" had in store for the world. And those who in some countries today question both the significance of the Victory and the role of our country in it are forgetting that without it these countries might not have been on the map.

In the years of hardship, we have stood up and prevailed, having paid for the Victory the huge price, the irrevocable losses. 8.5 million were lost in action, 2.5 million have died of wounds, 3.9 million were lost in the Nazi concentration camps. About 7 millions civilians were also victims of war. But we did not divide the Victory into percentages in 1945, nor do we divide it now.

The fate of the world was decided at that times on the battlefields of the Great Patriotic War.

This has long since become a fact of world history. But we do not divide this Victory into ours and theirs. All the allies of the anti-Hitler coalition won the Second World War. It was our common Victory. But no one has the right to detract from the price which our country and our people paid in the course of the war, play down the enormity of the Nazis' crimes and even less so heroize them.

"We must not forget either about the horrors of the war or the results of that war or about what united us during that war in order to better use all this knowledge today and unite our efforts in the fight against contemporary threats and act more effectively in the future," the Russian President V.Putin said in one of his interviews.

"The war against Nazism, the war against absolute evil, and Nazism was undoubtedly absolute evil, united the overwhelming majority of the countries and peoples of the world. This was a very good experience of cooperation," V.Putin said.

The main outcome of the war was not just the victory of one coalition of states against the other.

In essence, it was the Victory of the forces of construction and civilization over the forces of destruction and barbarity, the Victory of life over death. We must also remember that the defeat of Nazim came at the cost of millions of human lives lost, cities devastated and entire countries destroyed. This cost was the consequence of the lack of unity between countries who were unable to unite in time and see the full danger facing the entire world.

The solid coalition of allies dealt the final blow to fascism. The Second World War brought people of different nationalities and religions together in the common fight. Representatives of different countries, different political views and convictions, joined forces in the face of a common threat. Today, 70 years on, we can fully appreciate the success of the anti-fascist coalition and see once again the danger of new threats emerging.

Falsification of the history of the war is inadmissible

The war turned into the greatest tragedy for the peoples of the world, regardless of whose side their states fought on. Not a single family, not a single life story was untouched by its consequences. It is the duty of historians to tell the truth about this tragedy, but it should not serve as an object of political speculations. Russian Federation will continue to firmly counter any attempts to falsify the history of the war, revise its outcomes, make heroes of the Nazis and blasphemously treat the memory of the fallen.

We draw attention to the inadmissibility of cynical attempts to ignore the lessons of war and to make the distorted moral and legal assessment of its results. Glorification of Nazism and revival of ideology are fuelling intolerance, discrimination, extremism and hatred on ethnic, racial and religious grounds. All countries and peoples of the world should fight these threats to prevent new tragedies and preserve peace and security for coming generations.

We firmly denounce attempts to rewrite World War II history, their authors seek only to sow strife between peoples and nations for their own geopolitical purposes. The cynical lies about the Great Patriotic War and the attempts to blacken the reputation of the Soviet people and the Red Army have nothing to do with the truth.

International cooperation during war and new global challenges

Together with the entire people, our diplomacy traveled its road to Victory. The creation of the anti-Hitler coalition may rightfully be called the biggest diplomatic breakthrough of its time. The coalition became an example of the rallying of states of different ideologies and political systems in the face of a common mortal danger.

Today, 70 years on, there is no need to simplify or embellish history. Each of the anti-Hitler coalition states pursued its aims, had its own national interests. The achievement of mutual trust did not come easy. But still, the participants of the coalition succeeded in rising above their differences and putting aside all that was secondary for the sake of achieving a common Victory as their principal task. The opponents of fascism were united by a common understanding of the fact that evil had to be resisted together, sparing no effort for that, allowing no compromises, no concessions or separate deals. This lesson in full measure retains its relevance in our days as well.

The experience of the international brotherhood in arms during the war years is assuming particular significance in the conditions when global challenges and contemporary threats had again been thrown down to humanity, this time mainly by international terrorism, which is no less dangerous and cunning than fascism. And no less merciless: thousands of innocent people have already become its victims.

The foundations of civilization have again turned out to be in jeopardy. To cope with this kind of threat, just as 70 years ago, is only possible on the basis of solidarity and mutual trust. "Double standards" are as inadmissible as attempts to rehabilitate the fascists' accomplices. Harmonious development of relations between various nationalities and confessions, tolerance and mutual respect, the preservation of cultural diversity, an open, constructive dialogue of civilizations - these are the main conditions for victory over the forces of hatred and extremism.

The striving to deliver humanity from the scourge of war for good inspired the nations of the anti-Hitler coalition to establish a global mechanism for safeguarding peace and security - the United Nations Organization. Its Charter became a generally recognized basis of contemporary international law, and a fundamental code of conduct for states and international organizations.

The principles and standards of the UN Charter, which stood the test of the Cold War, are today an un alternative basis for shaping a new, secure and equitable world pattern of the era of globalization. he memory of those events is absolutely sacred. To this day it inspires the spirit of the post-war generations and it gives special meaning to our modern life, enabling us to gain a deeper understanding of what patriotism truly means. We will keep forever the memory and the truth of the Great Patriotic War. We will protect it from any attempts to pervert it, from any attempts to justify genocide, inhumanity and the barbarism of criminals.

The writer is the Russian ambassador to Rwanda