Lasīšanas ilgums: 6 minūtes
Must European History be Rewritten after Collapse of Communism?
I am deeply convinced that Europe’s history after communism needs to be rewritten. This must be done because the current narrative is incomplete and tells almost nothing about what actually happened behind the Iron Curtain, in Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe and the Baltic nations. Almost 20 years have passed since the fall of communism yet Europeans still don’t understand that the bloodiest pages of the 20th century were written by two totalitarian regimes – Nazism and communism. In the name of both of these ideologies the most heinous crimes were committed against mankind.
Why must history be understood and made known? Because both parts of Europe, that were once divided by the Iron Curtain, must be able to speak in one language about values that unite us, values that help us understand each other, and values that we consider to be of the utmost importance. Currently far too often we, Europeans, still find ourselves unable to understand each other.
This misunderstanding must be addressed and the examples I give you here today are only a few of many others. Europeans would all agree that the Nazi regimes repressive service agents have absolutely no place in the European institutions. Yet, unfortunately, this same yardstick is still not used on the repressive communist regimes service operatives. On the 25th of March the European Parliament nominated Mr. Szabolcs Fazakas to the European Court of Auditors, despite the fact that he voluntarily joined the Hungarian Secret Service during the communist dictatorship and worked for more than 13 years as a secret agent.
Analyzing the tragically deceased Polish President Kaczynski’s political legacy, many Western journalists continue to be critical of his attempts to clear the countries power structures of the former high-Communist nomenclature and the former repressive services staff. They have likened the Presidents efforts to a witch-hunt and McCarthyism, yet it is questionable whether the same terminology would be used by journalists when it comes to the process of denazification.
In 2003, the Latvian Saeima experienced strong pressure for the elections law to the European Parliament to allow persons to candidate who collaborated with the KGB or who after the declaration of Latvia’s independence continued to operate in the Communist party. European officials failed to understand our arguments for why this restriction is historically justified. And so today I am elected to the European Parliament together with the Latvian Communist Party’s last Secretary-General, who in August 1991 supported the coup against Gorbachev. If the coup had been successful, then any independence movement leaders, such as me, would be sitting in jail, or worst would have been executed.
These examples show us how great the confusion on the issues of European history can be. This confusion is in the most direct way connected to the consequences of our Iron Curtain in European consciousness. We, Europeans must understand that the unification of Europe will be complete and final only when people no longer have to deal with the consequences of 50 years of European separation.
Until reunification began, most Europeans had no confusion about their continent’s post-war history. To put it in simplified terms, there were two pillars to this understanding. One was World War II, in which the winners were the good guys, and the losers were the bad guys. The other was the grand project of Franco-German reconciliation, which can be described as the construction of the common European home.
The true history of the Iron Curtain shakes up the truths which lie behind these two pillars. That is because 1945 did not mark out any magical boundary for Eastern Europe and the Baltic States. For us it was the beginning of a new period of captivity, when the totalitarian Nazi regime was replaced by the equally totalitarian Soviet regime. Europe built its common home without us, because the victorious allies, when they met at Teheran in 1943 and at Yalta in 1945, sacrificed the freedom of Eastern Europe and the Baltic States to the Soviet Union. The authorised version of post-war history in Europe contains virtually nothing about how these decisions affected the lives of millions of innocent people for many decades to come.
The enlargement of the EU is now challenging the unilateral image of European history, and Europeans have to deal with the fact that the two totalitarian regimes – Nazism and Communism – were equally criminal. The archived documents and the life stories of the victims confirm this truth. We, Europeans must never see these ideologies as holding different positions on the scale of good and bad just because one of them was victorious over the other.
People have been studying and documenting the crimes of Nazism for several generations now. Today every Western European schoolchild knows that Nazism is evil. That is because there was hard work on denazification in the period after the war and a political, legal and social framework was created to prevent the emergence of new forms of totalitarian ideology in Europe.
I am deeply convinced that Europeans must have an equal understanding about the crimes of totalitarian Soviet Communism because these, too, are a part of our Continent’s history. In 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, it seemed so very self-evident that there would be no more obstacles against the world learning the truth about the crimes of Communism so that those crimes could be denounced. However, the nations of Eastern Europe and the Baltic States were bitterly disappointed that the demand for historical justice and a denunciation of totalitarian Communism faced resistance in the corridors of power, the academic environment and society at large in the West.
Under the pressure of Eastern Europe and Baltic States the attitudes which European politicians take vis-à-vis Communist totalitarianism are slowly changing. During the 6th Legislature, the European Parliament decided to support the establishment of the “House of European History”. It proclaimed the 23rd of August as the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism and adopted Resolutions on the end of the Second World War in Europe, on European Conscience and Totalitarianism and on the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and its historical meaning for Europe. In the European Parliament and under the auspices of the Presidency and the European Commission public hearings were held on crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by totalitarian regimes. Additionally in other institutions such as the Council of Europe and the Organisation of Security and Cooperation resolutions and declarations on the Crimes of totalitarian Communism have been adopted.
While the crimes committed by totalitarian communism in Europe have been recognised by European politicians and more or less known in the academic environment, this understanding has not sunk into Western consciousness.
We also have to be aware about the leadership change which is coming in Western and Eastern European politics. The generation of political leaders who experienced the end of the Cold War and who lived the joy of reunification of Europe are gradually leaving the European political scene. By their own experience they knew how dangerous the consequences are when in the name of realpolitik values are sacrificed.
The European leaders of the new generation are different. They have come into active politics in the age when the spirit of international co-operation is prevailing. They to have no experience of ideological confrontation and power politics to which Russia is increasingly returning. They have to be aware that Russia is turning into an authoritarian state in which leaders base the identity of the Russian nation and people on three concepts – the territorial heritage of the tsarist empire, the military might of Stalinism, and the status of an oil and gas superpower. In the name of Europe’s long term interests the new generation of European politicians have no right to yield to the temptations of pragmatism if that means that values must be sacrificed. The history of the European continent in the 20th century laid bare the consequences of “policy at any price”. There have been calamitous consequences in each and every instance in which European politicians have forgotten about fundamental values in the name of so called pragmatism.
The memory of the victims of the Gulag, of Budapest, Timişoara, Prague and Gdansk – that is something which deserves the attention of all European leaders. The victims deserve nothing less than a thorough investigation of the political, historical and legal aspects of totalitarian Soviet Communism. Europeans must never be naïve enough to think that this can never happen again. We must all be aware of the fact that if it happened once, then it can happen again. That is why the knowledge of history and the reconciliation of memories are so very important, indeed.