By Patricia H. Kushlis
“The Baltic Way was an
uninterrupted 600 kilometre human chain uniting the Baltic capitals of Tallinn,
Riga and Vilnius, in which two million indigenous people of Estonia, Latvia and
Lithuania, then still occupied by the Soviet Union, joined hands to demand
freedom and independence. The
Did Natalia Narochnitskaya, the historian who heads the
Foundation for Historical Perspective, a Russian think tank in
That’s what he said she said in his September 9, 2009 column entitled “Putin’s Polish room reignites battle over war memories.”
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact a Non-Issue during the Cold War? Oh, really.
If that’s so, then I wonder where Narochnitskaya was when I
was Press Attache at the American Embassy in
Did Ms. Narochnitskaya not remember the
Perhaps she should apply for a grant to conduct research in
the West where the documents she has apparently not found in
In fact, there should also be a copy of a German language translation of the original Russian language text (as opposed to the German text) of the pact – signed by Foreign Ministers Molotov and Ribbentrop – in US government archives. Yes, it exists and I'll bet there's at least one copy here in these United States.
Although the copy of the Russian text of the once secret document
would have come from Soviet archives, the German text of the document had been openly
available for years. The contents of that pact were also important to the
Or maybe from Ms. Narotchinskaya's historical perspective, Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians were nobodies?
The Baltic argument for secession from the Soviet Union was
based on the fact that this secret Pact between Nazi Germany and Stalin’s
So if Yeltsin spoke openly about the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1990 in the Russian Duma and the terms of the Pact formed the legal basis for the Baltic Republics’ declarations of sovereignty and independence before the end of the Cold War, I have to wonder about Ms. Narochnitskaya’s memory.
Perhaps had Gorbachev not been so poorly informed and made
such a botched decision on the Baltics just a couple of years before – a
If, therefore, the Kremlin is drawing “on Soviet imperial glory to
buttress its own legitimacy” as Clover suggests, it also needs to take heed
from a lesson that Gorbachev learned the hard way. Rewriting history to suit the needs of a
leader or a government may be popular or even expedient – but it’s not always
Particularly if countervailing sources are available to dispute the claims as is clearly the case for the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Baltics and the Molotov- Ribbentrop Pact.