May 9 Victory Day

  • 2013-05-15
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

On May 8, Boris Berezovsky, the flamboyant and controversial former Russian oligarch, was buried in his place of exile in London. In the second half of the 1990s, he was the most influential adviser to Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Berezovsky will remain in history as one of the greatest political manipulators – some kind of Grigory Rasputin of modern times (although Berezovsky preferred to describe himself as “the czar’s Jew”), i.e. a man who could influence the ruler of Russia.

Berezovsky gave one really good piece of advice to his czar, but Yeltsin was afraid to implement it. If Yeltsin would have had the courage to follow it, Berezovsky’s proposal could have made Russia a more civilized and more European-style neighbor to the Baltics. Berezovsky tried to solve the Yeltsin camp’s domestic issues, not the grievances of the Baltics (they were especially felt in Latvia and Estonia which, due to ethnicity and citizenship-related demographic factors, were somewhat vulnerable to the winds from Russia before the Baltics joined NATO and the EU).

His proposal, if accepted by Yeltsin, could also have changed the world’s perception of WWII (the current world-wide accepted official legend about WWII suits the current Kremlin-promoted Stalinist nostalgia in modern Russia).
Berezovsky proposed to ban the Communist Party by announcing the Soviet communist past as equal to Nazism. Berezovsky, via his Russian TV6 channel, also promoted the WWII concept of Viktor Suvorov, the UK-based Russian historian. The ideas of the latter are now developed by another famous Russian historian, Mark Solonin.

According to these two historians, who are very popular among Russia’s intellectuals, Stalin, a decade before WWII, started to make plans regarding the conquest of Europe and Asia. In the 1930s he supported Hitler because the latter was useful in weakening the West. In 1939, they both started WWII by signing their cooperation deal, which is known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Stalin planned to attack the rest of Europe in 1941-1942, though this plan did not envisage Hitler as his ally anymore. Then, in 1941, a desperate Hitler decided to strike first.

Stalin considered the end of WWII as his failure because he conquered only half of Europe and, until his death in 1953, the holiday of May 9 (the official WWII Victory Day in Russia and, by the way, for some of the Latvian government’s opponents in Riga as well, although the rest of Europe marks the end of WWII on May 8) was not celebrated in Moscow in so pompous a style as it has been celebrated since the 1960s until now.

The official legend about WWII still remains the backbone of the state ideology in Russia. However, now, Berezovsky’s failure to convince Yeltsin on the communism issue is not so important for the Baltics anymore. Russia became a somewhat marginal theme for the Baltics due to the EU context. On May 9 (on Europe Day across the EU to mark the speech of May 9, 1950 by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman regarding Europe’s unification), Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite was awarded the 2013 Charlemagne Prize in Aachen, Germany. That was a real victory day for Lithuania and the rest of Baltics. The prize has been awarded since 1950 to personalities and institutions that have worked toward reinforcing European unity, such as Winston Churchill, Francois Mitterrand, Helmut Kohl, and Angela Merkel.

Actually, the prize may be an important sign about the plans of the EU’s elites. Grybauskaite is rumored to have a chance to replace Herman Van Rompuy in the post of president of the European Council at the end of 2014. In April, Henri Malosse, president of the European Economic and Social Committee, posted a message on Twitter describing Grybauskaite as “the future EU president.” In such case, by occupying the main EU post, the Balts could find some diplomatic means to civilize Russia, despite the above mentioned Berezovsky’s failure to do so in the 1990s.