Russia’s fixation on the Second World War helps explain its Ukraine invasion

Russian media references to the “de-Nazification” of Ukraine to justify its invasion have placed Russia’a fascination with the Second World War in the public eye.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government say they’re fighting a threat equal to Nazi Germany. While this perspective is absurd to the global community, it may draw upon Russian memories of the Second World War.

These memories regard Soviet sacrifices as Russian sacrifice, and the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazism one of the great triumphs of the Russian people.

Actions and statements by Russian leaders and its military suggest the Soviet experience in the Second World War is inspiring their current approach.

In June 2020, Putin wrote an article detailing his interpretation of the causes and key events of the Second World War. He emphasized Soviet sacrifice, but also the supposedly legitimate aims of the Soviet Union. He argued the West deserved more blame for failing to stop Adolf Hitler’s aggression, foreshadowing his current rhetoric regarding the West’s relationship with Ukraine.

Putin argued the Soviets acted in the best interests of the people of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine through the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact that pledged neither country would take any military action against the other for 10 years.

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