Coming to Grips with History

May 9th will be the mother of all celebrations in Moscow. The victory over Nazi-Germany 60 years ago will be commemorated and the human sacrifices to this end honoured. So far, so good. But some nations will be missing from the party. Two Baltic presidents have decided to stay home, because their hosts are not willing to concede that there is more to the history of WWII’s end than the victory over Hitler. Their peoples had to face half a century of occupation because of a deal struck before the war’s onset by Hitler and Stalin, the so-called Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 that divided Eastern Europe between Nazi-Germany and the Soviet Union.

I have to admire the third Baltic president – Vaira Vike-Freiberga from Latvia – who decided to go to Moscow, honouring what should be honoured, and speaking aloud about what should not be hidden. By doing so she demonstrates the strong position her country has obtained as a member of NATO and the EU, and she will be the one riding the high moral ground.

It is a pity that the Russian leadership of today has chosen not to condemn the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that damaged the development of the whole Baltic Sea region for so many years – and still is a source of political pollution threatening to poison relations between neighbors around the Baltic Sea. I find it difficult to accept those who tend to describe the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact as only a measure to build up Soviet national security.

In the Baltic Sea Region we have a particularly difficult history to deal with, if we look at the last 90 years. After the end of WWI and the old order – “Die Welt von Gestern” – the Baltic region saw bloody revolutions, terrible civil wars, fascism, communism, genocide, occupations, oppression, terrorism, deportations – you name it, in our part of the world we have indeed had our share of all the horrors of the modern history. When the Cold War ended, it seemed clever to say that this was “the end of History.” But if we believe that – if we put a lid on history and leave it behind us – we run a risk that history will resurrect itself with all its horrors.