Saturday, August 1, 2009

RE: Russian Ambassador Stigniy on some of our subjects

Michael Kuznetsov has left the following response to my post "Russian Ambassador Stigniy on some of our subjects" ( )


The Russia's Ambassador to Israel, Mr Piotr Stegniy, is a very good diplomat, and a patriot of Russia, disregarding what exactly name our country may bear: either the Russian Empire, or the Soviet Union, or the Russian Federation.
One should remember that our Holy Russia has been and is always one and the same country for the last 1021 years.
No particular difference: Russia is our beloved Motherland.

As a diplomat, our Ambassador cannot afford to articulate loudly everything which might come in his mind. He has been bounded to constrain within prescribed diplomatic limits and conventional manners. And he is right in acting this way.

I am not a diplomat, but a free person. So, I can easily explain to you what a diplomat cannot say openly.

There is no doubt that the comparison of the Nazis with the Soviet Union is a strategic error committed by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which error will lead to unexpected consequences in the future.

This means that it is a very stupid policy of the OSCE in particular, and of the West in general, to struggle so persistently to transform the already angry Russian Bear into an utterly infuriated Bear.

A very stupid and dangerous policy, indeed!

As you may have known from my
website, 8 out of 12 members of my own family were killed by the German invaders during the Great Patriotic War, while only 4 of them saw the Great Victory Day in May 1945, and returned home heroes from the Front.
To equate my heroic forebears with the murderous Nazi pigs is highly insulting.

It is sheer blasphemy! It can hardly ever be forgotten or forgiven by us Russians!

A few words about Stalin. His role in the creation of the State of Israel was absolutely pivotal and really indispensable. Especially taking into account the fierce resistance of the British who did not want to permit the Jewish people to create a state of their own in the Promised Land.

If it weren't for Stalin's strong support, I do believe, the very nascence of Israel at that time could hardly occur.
It's a pity that the present Israel's leadership seem to forget this. Let it be left on their conscience.

You, Lawrence, say, I quote: "Stalin wished to export Communism."
You are wrong.
It was not Stalin, but Trotsky who struggled for the "Permanent Revolution all over the World."
The great Russia's leader Joseph Stalin wanted only one thing: that Russia be strong, free, and independent.
And he succeded in that. Which is why the Russian people remember and esteem him.
No great secret.

COMMENT (by Lawrence)

There is an old joke about a drunk on his hands and knees by a street lamp. A friend stops by and asks "what he is looking for." "My car keys," the drink answers.

"I'll help you look," the friend says, getting down on his hands and knees as well. "Can you remember where you dropped them."

"Yes, back there at the other end of the street."

The friend is surprised. "But why are you looking for them here?"

"Because the light is better," replies the explains.

It seems that you and Stigniy think the light is better if you talk about the Russian people rather than Stalin. But the actual issue was the comparison of Stalin to Hitler and not the Russian people to the German Nazis. Let me quote what was written,

Galili comments about Stigniy, ". . . he also completed a Ph.D in history and is the proud author of 11 books. Some of them are about the empress Catherine the Great, whom he venerates; the latest, recently published, deals with the three partitions of Poland. This connection between his personal biography and the historian within him leads the conversation to the resolution passed about three weeks ago by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which likens Stalin to Hitler and imputes to both of them responsibility for the outbreak of World War II. For Stigniy this is not only a resolution which offends him as a Russian diplomat, but also a personal affront to the son of a Soviet pilot.

"'That comparison is not even worthy of comment,' Stigniy said. 'Any attempt to rewrite history is dangerous. After all, if we do not learn the lessons of history, we will repeat the same mistakes. The attempt to compare Stalin and Hitler is particularly dangerous, because we thereby blur the line between good and bad." When I point out that many people will find it difficult to think of Stalin as 'good,' he replies, 'we Russians have our own story with Stalinism, and I will not justify it. But at the same time, the comparison of the Nazis with the Soviet Union is a strategic error that will lead to unexpected consequences in the future."

Let me say up front that I don't agree with the OSCE resolution which states that Stalin approved the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact in order to ensure that Hitler would launch his war in Europe. That is a twisting of the evidence as I understand it. Certainly Stalin hoped that Hitler would attack Western Europe rather than Russia, but that hope is entirely reasonable. That doesn't mean that Stalin "goaded" Hitler into war with Europe. Hitler needed no goading to do anything. So the OSCE resolution seems silly. Had Stigniy become specific as I just have, I probably wouldn't disagree with him, but he kept it general and on top of that transformed it into something else.

In general, I don't agree that history is fixed by earlier writings. Historians, at least here in the West, are making a good living scouring original sources, looking for materials for new books. This seems especially true of Russia. We have had historians from the West go to Russia and review archives pertaining to Russian history during the Cold War. Three books I read that are in this category are Venona, Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, by Haynes and Klehr; In Denial, Historians, Communism & Espionage by Haynes and Klehr; and Joseph McCarthy, Reexamining the Life and Legacy of America's Most Hated Senator by Arthur Herman. These three books are of interest because they make use of new information gleaned from the KGB archives about Soviet espionage in America.

The period referred to in the books is known in America as the McCarthy era. He made accusations about Russian spies working in our State Department, Army and elsewhere. He was ridiculed and hounded out of the Senate and probably into death because he had no hard evidence for his accusations. We learned later that the head of our FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, was supplying him information gleaned from the "Venona project." The secret code used by the Russians for transmitting diplomatic information had been broken by the Venona project and many of these messages referred to spies at work in Washington and elsewhere. Hoover fed some of this information to McCarthy but wouldn't tell him where it came from and forbade him from telling anyone Hoover had provided this information to him. The FBI didn't want the Soviets to change their code. It was fascinating to read the books I mentioned. It puts the McCarthy era in a whole new light. McCarthy's accusations were legitimate, but only now is the evidence backing them coming to light.

It is an interesting phenomenon, and it reminds me of the positions that you and Stigniy are taking, that most of those who opposed McCarthy in the 50's aren't willing to change their minds because of this new evidence. They hated him then and hate him now. It makes no difference that new historical evidence has been produced to show that he was right in what he said.

It seems to me that what has occurred in regard to McCarthy includes the sort of rewriting of history that Stigniy objects to. I might be wrong in assessing Stigniy's words, but sense he made a few general statements and then cut off further debate, it is difficult to be sure. But my belief is that we want the truth wherever it leads, and I don't know whether Stigniy would accept my belief or not. I have no wish to read partisan rants or to read the "party line" of anyone's party.

There is a sense in which the criticism of Stalin can be expanded. It can't be expanded to the whole Russian people as you suggest. That's absurd, but it can be expanded to the Cheka. Well, sure, you might say, but the Cheka of 1917 derived from the Tsarist Okhrana and is a Russian tradition. Well, maybe, but the Cheka which became the NKGB during World War II, and which was roundly condemned or ridiculed by those who actually fought the war, has similarities to the German SD. Consider the following quote from Wikipedia:

"The SD was tasked with the detection of actual or potential enemies of the Nazi leadership and the neutralization of this opposition. To fulfill this task, the SD created an organization of agents and informants throughout the Reich and later throughout the occupied territories."

I don't feel critical of the Russian people or the Russian Army, but of Stalin himself and the political agencies such as the NKGB established for the "detection of actual or potential enemies" of the Soviet State. In Germany as well as Soviet Russia these "enemies" were killed or sent off to prison.

But to back up and gain some perspective, I see both the German Nazis and the Russian Soviets as engaged in experiments. They believed strongly that their ideologies embodied the truth. Each of these ideologies captured the imagination of a people; which gave the practitioners, that is the leaders and their political arms such as the SD and the NKVD ample scope to do their best. Both experiments failed. The first to fail was the Nazi. It was based upon the idea that the German people were ethnically superior to all other ethnicities. They, believing they hadn't been defeated in World War I, set about conquering the European and Asiatic land mass. They failed.

The second experiment, that of the Communists, had an ideology that was more sophisticated than the Nazi. They utilized the teachings of Karl Marx, Engels and Lenin – all three of these men were first-class thinkers. I read the Nazi thinkers and could throughout find failures in their evidence and arguments, but the task was not so easy when it came to the Communists. It almost took the playing of the experiment for most of us to see that what Marx and Lenin argued didn't work.

And even today, at least in the US, there are people who argue that Marx, Engels and Lenin were right but Stalin didn't perform according to their teachings and that therefore Marxism-Leninism hasn't had a fair test. I hope that idea doesn't catch on. I hope most people have had quite enough of the Communist experiment.

Comparisons of Stalin and Hitler are apt to the extent that they apply to anyone who has assumed dictatorial control of a nation. But Hitler was no Wilhelm and Stalin was no Catherine the Great. They resorted to what seem to critics objectionable means for eliminating opposition. Throughout history kings and queens have put out "hits" (to use a modern expression) on enemies. Usually they attempted to disguise their involvement because they knew it was wrong and wanted to distance themselves from what they had ordered. Not so Stalin and Hitler. They made the elimination of enemies a state policy. They didn't hide from something they knew was wrong, they declared themselves to be beyond old definitions of good and evil. They gave good and evil new definitions. Whatever favors what I believe is good. Whatever opposes it is evil.

Also, we have the huge numbers of their victims to concern ourselves with. Hitler sent enormous numbers to concentration camps and Stalin sent even larger numbers to Gulags. They both justified their actions as being necessary for the survival of their states. In retrospect we should be able to condemn both of these experiments as reprehensible. Hanging on to parts of them as "good" should be done with great care. Shutting of discussion seems especially dangerous.

Germany was defeated militarily, and perhaps in consequence there are few in Germany willing to defend Hitler. Russia was not defeated militarily, and many, even among those who no longer hold to the Communist ideal, are unwilling to repudiate Stalin. Stigniy says this is a Russian thing and he doesn't want to talk about it with Galili, but that doesn't mean it is incomprehensible to those of us who aren't Russian. If we insist on discouraging new research, on the finding of new information, on maintain a "Party Line" of history which to a very large extent was created by Communists during the Cold War, then we may very well repeat some of the evils of history, because we won't have learned that the "truth will out."

Consider two examples. We all know that the Germans believed they were cheated in 1919. They were not defeated militarily. Instead, evil politicians and political enemies forced a political defeat upon Germany. Wilhelm and the cowardly German leaders kept the true nature of their defeat and their calculations secret from the people in order to avoid blame. As a consequence, Hitler was able to claim that Germany's enemies tricked Germany into defeat and into the egregious Treaty of Versailles. We can read modern histories of World War I and see that Germany was truly defeated. Perhaps Germany resigned before they lost their last chess piece, but they were defeated. We learned the history of keeping this matter secret: The German people could flatter themselves that they were unconquerable because there was no evidence to the contrary. Modern histories provide that evidence, but they didn't have it back in the 20's when Hitler came to power or in the 30s when they were preparing for war.

Something similar was true of Japan. In their war with Russia they won battle after battle. In truth, their army wasn't very large and while the Russian casualties were much larger than the Japanese, the Japanese could afford them less; so when Teddy Roosevelt offered to broker a peace, the Japanese agreed. Strangely, popular opinion in Japan blamed the United States for this. They could have thoroughly defeated the Russians, they could have kept all the land they conquered if only America hadn't interfered. So, years later, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt decided to impose sanctions on Japan, and Acheson imposed stronger sanctions than Roosevelt intended, the Japanese were able to tell each other, look, the Americans are doing it to us again. We are winning in China, but the Americans are now interfering. They thought about that interference which was real, but also about the earlier American interference during their war with Russia; which was not real.

The German and Japanese people would have been better served if they had been made privy to what actually happened at those pivotal times. The Germans really were defeated in World War I and the Japanese had run out of troops in their war with Russia. They lost 200,000 men and they didn't have enough left to continue. They didn't know it then, but at least we can know it now.

But are the Russians willing to seek truth about their own history? They weren't defeated; so why should they? I say they should seek the truth, wherever it leads. Basing future actions upon faulty premises from the past is almost always dangerous.

As to the exporting of Communism, yes I know Trotsky had his own views on that. Trotsky's approach was like Christian evangelism. He wanted to go out preaching the Communist gospel to all nations and making disciples of all those who would come to believe. Stalin didn't believe in Trotsky's approach but he hadn't given up a desire to spread Communism. He couldn't give that up without abandoning Marxism-Leninism which taught that the spread of Communism was inevitable. Stalin sought to make Russia an example to the nations. In the Protestant Christian world we call this "witnessing by example," and usually it doesn't work very well. But that wasn't all Stalin did. His approach was sort of like Mohammad's who sought to spread Islam militarily. Stalin spread Communism into eastern Europe through force of arms.

1 comment:

Michael Kuznetsov said...


I am pleased with this witty and sober response of yours, although, naturally enough, I cannot agree with all of your conclusions.
Anyway, thank you.