Kremlin propaganda relies on distorting past, says Edward Lucas

Fireworks over Moscow welcome in 2019. However, the Kremlin also wants similar displays to mark the 75th anniversaries of the fall of 17 European capitals to Soviet Forces near the end of World War II - including Tallinn. Source: TATYANA MAKEYEVA/REUTERS/SCANPIX

Recent announcements that Russia is to this year mark the 75th anniversary of the "liberation" of Tallinn by Soviet forces, as well as the same in Riga, Vilnius, and over a dozen more European capitals in the coming months, despite protests in Estonia and elsewhere, highlight the circular logic in that country's use of its past to strengthen its relative position, by attempting to weaken Europe and the west, according to British journalist Edward Lucas.

In an opinion piece which appeared in daily Postimees on Tuesday, Lucas argues that rewriting history to augment the propaganda of the present seems to be Russia's strategy, albeit a self-contradictory one in which around 60 nations, including Poland, with reference to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising commemoration (which of course was aimed at the Nazi occupiers-ed.), are chastised by Russia's foreign ministry for "glorifying Nazism", while at the same time the Kremlin courts the present-day far right in Germany, Greece, Italy, France and other European nations.

Lucas points towards both recent revelations from media site Buzzfeed, where a Moscow meeting saw representatives of Italian far-right Lega Nord party discuss a 65 million US dollar oil deal which would help their funding, as well as earlier reports of the leader of Austria's Freedom Party engaging in potential tender corruption with a putative Russian oligarch.

The incongruity takes a further twist, Lucas argues, given the Kremlin has also been forging links with the European far left, both old school communists in, for instance, the Czech Republic, and more contemporary-style socialists elsewhere, receiving plaudits from both in the supposed fight against fascism.

This still leaves open the question why Russia has such close ties with the European far right of today, if it is so concerned with fascism, Lucas finds, noting that this symbiotic relationship, where European right-wingers admire aspects of the Putin regime while the latter eggs on critics of the EU and other trans-national organizations, is as a policy deeply unhealthy and likely to be counter-productive.

The answer lies in the need the Kremlin has to show up western failings in the light of its own parlous state going forward, while overlooking the inconsistency in not having a fireworks celebration marking, say, the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact (80th anniversary – Sept. 20-ed.), by which the Soviet Union handed over large swathes of central and eastern Europe to the Nazis, helping to facilitate the holocaust and the very atrocities which contemporary Russian narrative would seek to decry, Lucas writes.

The Postimees piece (in Estonian) is here.


Edward Lucas is Senior Vice President at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), a non-profit, non-partisan, public policy research institute which aims to promote an economically vibrant, strategically secure, and politically free Europe, while retaining close ties to the U.S., according to its website.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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