Russia manipulates history to cover up its own failures: leading historian

WWII expert and author of “The Devils' Alliance: Hitler's Pact with Stalin, 1939-1941” Roger Moorhouse said that the recent campaign of historical manipulation carried out by the Kremlin and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin serve one purpose, and that is to shift attention away from his country’s ongoing grievances.

Doping controversies in sport and recent unfavourable developments in Ukraine are just some of the scandals that Russia has been involved in - scandals that Mr Moorhouse believes are damaging for the Kremlin. The vicious campaign of historical slur is to draw the public’s attention away from these scandals.

However, the historian feels that Putin’s ploy may backfire as it has generated a greater worldwide interest in the events of 1939 that initiated WWII, namely the German and Soviet invasion of Poland.

According to Mr Moorhouse, the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which even a decade ago was little known in the West, is now becoming more present in global consciousness, just like the fact that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were allies from 1939 to 1941.

While public awareness has broadened in the West, it may prove far more difficult to change it in this respect within Russia, the historian noted, adding that it was due to the fact that Russian citizens knew only their official version of the war's history. Poland and the West should consistently and patiently counter Russia's historical manipulation with the truth, Mr Moorhouse said. And the Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki’s response to Putin’s unfounded claims of Polish complicity in the outbreak of the war was very appropriate, the historian felt. It is crucial for Western politicians to avoid falling prey of Putin’s manipulation, Mr Moorhouse said, suggesting that they should steer clear of this year's Victory Day celebrations in Moscow in May to prevent the Russian leader from exploiting their presence to spread his false, post-Soviet narrative about WWII.