In May, the world will mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. But instead of happily preparing for that occasion, the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – which scarcely 15 years ago regained the independence they lost in WWII – are uneasy.
The heads of state of all three countries have been invited to participate in the parades to be held in Moscow to celebrate the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany. But the host of the celebration, Russia, in the guise of the Soviet Union, itself caused the war – the bloodiest in European history – whose end is being commemorated. Of course, the USSR instigated the war in tandem with Adolf Hitler, but its responsibility is undeniable.
By holding these celebrations in Red Square, and thus highlighting the Soviet victory, today’s Russia is also celebrating its gains in that war. One of those gains was my country, Lithuania, whose incorporation into Stalin’s empire was accompanied by countless tragedies. Unlike Germany, Russia has never recognized its responsibility for the war and the mass graves of the innocent.
Thus, a former captive nation is now being invited to celebrate its captivity. This is why almost all Lithuanians – indeed, most residents of the Baltic countries – feel queasy at the prospect of their leaders marking this anniversary in Moscow. But Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians are not the only Europeans who should feel this way.