Commemoration of the 1939
Soviet Invasion of Poland
Remarks made by Oleg Kozlovsky
during the Commemoration at the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, D.C.
September 17, 2016
We have Duma election tomorrow. Both Communist parties used the image of Stalin in their campaigns. Stalin’s face looked at Russians from buses, placards and TV screens. But make no mistake: the main practitioner of Stalinism today is the government.
Stalinism is rehabilitated on many levels. Memorials to the tyrant are being erected in Russian cities. Volgograd’s airport may be renamed after Stalingrad. The new education minister is a researcher of Stalin and, not coincidentally, the Orthodox Church. New history textbooks dedicate merely two pages to Stalin’s purges and dozens to his “achievements.” As you may know, the Russian Supreme Court has recently approved a criminal sentence for a person who said that the Communists had attacked Poland together with Hitler.
This creeping re-stalinization can be in part attributed to Putin’s origins in the KGB. But more importantly, it is an inevitable outcome of the building of dictatorship during the last 16 years. Democratic freedoms were gradually taken away from Russians. In their place we were fed a mix of Soviet-styled imperialism, nationalism, anti-Western propaganda, and paternalism. All problems are now attributed to internal and external enemies; all achievements are thanks to the “Great Leader”; the citizen’s duty is to fear and obey.
It was only a matter of time until this ideology became a problem for other countries too. In 2014, Putin annexed Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine in the same manner as Stalin took over eastern Poland or the Baltic States. Even the rationale for this intervention was almost word-by-word similar to the Soviet government statement in September 1939. Putin could not allow Ukraine’s successful transition to democracy and he needed to legitimize his rule with the increasingly unhappy citizens at home. This Soviet-styled imperialism always strives to influence, subjugate and, when possible, take over other nations. It needs no excuses; it knows no limits for its expansion. It will not stop until it’s stopped.
Now, the free world is beginning to see the problem. Alarmed governments are discussing how to contain the Kremlin while struggling with its influence in their own countries. The solution, I believe, is both simple and very hard. There is no other way to stop this imperialism for good but to let Russian people themselves deal with it.
There are many more Russians who want a free, peaceful and prosperous Russia in a free, peaceful and prosperous world than you would think. Tens of thousands take to the streets of Moscow and other cities to protest, risking their freedom and well-being. Hundreds of thousands participate in NGOs and build a parallel civil society. Millions vote against autocrats and have made the Internet a platform of free speech–relatively free, of course. However, tens of millions of others are too pessimistic or too afraid to speak up. It is our main task to reach out to them and to encourage them to take active part in the political and social life of Russia.
I am an optimist. Russians will rise up one day, demand their rights and take them. It is in the very nature of man to strive for freedom and justice. Like the Poles who eventually won their independence from the Soviet Union after decades of misery, like the Ukrainians who shrugged off their own kleptocrats, like every other free nation in the world that used to live under some form of tyranny in the past, Russians will find their own place in peace with Europe and with the world. That will be the time to redress injustice–done against the Russians and done by the Russians. I don’t know when it happens, but I have no doubt that it will.