Ukraine and Poland’s parliaments have approved a resolution, considering moves by both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany as the reason for the start of World War II.
The resolution, called the Declaration of Remembrance and Solidarity, states that the non-aggression pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany was what led to the two militaries invading Poland and then the Baltics.
“We point to the fact that the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, signed August 23, 1939, struck between the two totalitarian regimes—the Communist Soviet Union and Nazi Germany—led to the ignition of World War II, prompted by German aggression, which the Soviet Union adopted on 17 September,” the document reads.
The German invasion of Poland caused Warsaw’s Western allies to formally declare war on Germany, with little practical support for Poland. When Polish forces retreated to the southeast they found themselves in a pincer, as the Soviet Union unexpectedly entered eastern Poland, effectively splitting the country’s territory between Berlin and Moscow’s control.
The document also blames “the weakness of the international reaction to the escalation in totalitarian and chauvinistic ideologies ahead of World War II” as being what “encouraged the Communist and Nazi regimes”.
The declaration was approved with 367 votes for in Poland’s 460-seat lower house of parliament and 243 votes for in Ukraine’s 450-seat parliament.
The resolution is symbolically significant in Ukraine, as it not only highlights Moscow’s once-secret pact with the Nazis, but also refers to World War II in the Western style, as opposed to “the Great Fatherland War,” which is the name used by Russia and its allies.
According to Andriy Parubiy, the speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, the document has modern significance because of the Russian-backed insurgency in east Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea.
“The aggressor that unleashed the war on our lands in 1939 is currently attacking Ukraine,” he said after the vote. He later wrote on his Facebook page that his own family, who lived in Poland at the start of World War II, were persecuted by Soviets and helped by Poles.
The declaration has caused a stir in Moscow, where the the Soviet Union’s early deal with the Nazis is still seldom mentioned, though the ultimate Soviet triumph over Nazi Germany is a sense of great national pride.
Russia’s Modern History Museum called the declaration a “blatant, blasphemous campaign, which aims to rebrand memory of history.”
The museum’s director noted that the Soviet Union’s Red Army was instrumental in pushing the Nazis back from eastern Europe and said Western allies also struck a peace deal with the Nazi regime first, during the Nazi incursion into Czechoslovakia. However, she failed to mention that, unlike the pact with Moscow, the Western accord was never a secret and also involved no agreement to part Czechoslovak territory among Western states, as Moscow did with Poland.
The declaration prompted some criticism in Poland among the 44 lawmakers that voted against it as it contained to mention of the Volyn massacre , Polish news magazine Rzeczpospolita reports. The killing of as many as 60,000 Polish civilians between 1943 and 1945 by Ukrainian nationalist groups is one of the biggest historical sticking points between Ukraine and Poland. Some 20,000 Ukrainians were killed in revenge attacks.
Lithuania was also set to vote on the resolution, alongside Poland and Ukrainian. However, this vote will likely be carried out in December.