Russian propaganda uses Europe’s fears of a world war for its purposes. In particular, Moscow whips up the German collective guilt for the Nazi crimes, pretending to be the greatest victim of the Third Reich.
Russian propaganda in Europe and within Russia itself is simple: Nazism is an indisputable evil, and victory over it is monopolized by Russia. Other allies and even the republics of the Soviet Union played a secondary role, and now they have even “lost their memory” and became Nazis themselves. In general, anyone who speaks of the Soviet Union’s role in resolving World War II (the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact and subsequent aggression against Poland, Finland, and the Baltic states) is automatically either a Nazi or are trying to “rehabilitate Hitler’s regime.”
The Kremlin is manipulating the guilt of Germany, the region’s economic leader, to bind Berlin’s geopolitics. Moscow focuses this guilt specifically on the Soviet Union. However, the Kremlin emphasizes that Russia is the successor to the USSR, and therefore Germany should feel guilty only about Russia and not about anyone else. Such messages have repeatedly been heard from Vladimir Putin.
However, the Kremlin’s concept that Germans should repent to Russia suggests that Berlin should also turn a blind eye to Russia’s crimes. It is the baseless accusations of Nazism that justify the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine. Moscow and all those who help Kyiv accuse Nazism.
We will not comment here on Lavrov’s phantasmagoria about Nazism in Ukraine and the EU, so as not to fall into the realm of crooked mirrors of Russian propaganda. Let’s just analyze the losses of Ukraine, not the USSR, in the Second World War.
According to Soviet scientists, in 1945 Ukrainian industry produced only a quarter of its pre-war production, and agriculture – only 40%. More than 714 cities and towns, more than 28,000 villages were completely or partially destroyed, and 200,000 industrial buildings and 40% of residential buildings were destroyed, leaving at least 10 million people homeless.
The war wreaked more havoc on Ukraine than on any other European country, and economic losses were staggering. The complete or partial destruction of more than 16,000 industrial enterprises meant the loss of much of what Ukraine had gained at great cost during the years of forced industrialization, comprehensive collectivization, and mass repression.
9 main railways, 5,600 railway bridges, 50,000 km of highways, and 132 port facilities were destroyed. It is estimated that the total damage to Ukraine’s economy reached 40%.
About 30,000 collective and state farms, 1,300 machine-tractor stations were broken into and looted, 56,000 tractors, 24,000 harvesters, 7.6 million head of cattle, 9.3 million pigs, 7.3 million sheep, and goats, 3.3 million horses were exported to Germany. Tens of thousands of medical and educational institutions, libraries, etc. were destroyed.
There was no energy base due to the destruction of Dnieper HES and many power plants. At least 5 million civilians, or one in six Ukrainians, died in the war, 2.3 million were deported to Germany for forced labor, and another 3.5 million were deported to the eastern regions of the USSR, although some returned.
In terms of absolute and relative casualties in this war, Ukraine is in second place: 8 million people (this includes 3 million militaries) died in the war, which is 19.1% of the total prewar population, or one in five Ukrainians. Ukraine is behind Russia in absolute terms and Poland in relative terms (19.6%). In general, Ukraine was under German occupation for more than 3 years (from mid-1941 to late 1944).
That is, Ukraine suffered losses similar to Russia in terms of the number of victims, and in terms of percentage, it has suffered more. Most of modern Russia was not under occupation, and a large number of enterprises were exported to Russia from Ukraine, which was an industrial boost to the Ural region.
As for the Red Army, one in four soldiers was Ukrainian. Again, this is the highest percentage. However, the Kremlin blames Germany for specifically Russian losses.
However, right now Ukraine is again losing industrial facilities, farms, and soldiers, losing the population that is deported to Russia or emigrates to the West. Cities (Mariupol, Volnovakha, Severodonetsk, Rubizhne, and others) are being destroyed.
Germany has a historic chance to atone for the guilt against those who already suffered from Nazi aggression. To do this, Berlin must abandon the imperial idea that Ukraine is a part of Russia, and therefore Ukraine’s losses in World War II are Russia’s losses, and the current war is the Kremlin’s personal affairs.