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‘Starting WWII’: Today's war of words between Russia and Poland over the history of the late 1930s

35 minutes
‘Starting WWII’: Today's war of words between Russia and Poland over the history of the late 1930s

Earlier this month, Meduza published an article by Andrey Pertsev about President Vladimir Putin's shifting rhetoric when discussing the 1939 Soviet-Nazi nonaggression pact, as well as his growing criticism of Polish foreign policy in the year before the USSR cut a deal with Adolf Hitler. Despite being many decades old, these events remain hotly debated in Eastern Europe for obvious reasons: millions died in the conflict, which ended with Poland in the Soviet bloc for more than 40 years, and questions about blame and who only did “what was necessary” are still issues that offend and excite. That is undoubtedly why political elites today in both Russia and Poland often talk about the war, defending their own country's legacy against allegations from abroad.

On this episode of “The Naked Pravda,” however, we turn not to political elites, but four historians. Can scholarly work establish blame? Is this something that drives academic work? What is whitewashed in the debate playing out in speeches and news headlines right now? Listen to the show and find out.

In this episode:

  • (4:26) Geoffrey Roberts, a professor of history at the University College Cork in Ireland, explains how Vladimir Putin apparently sees the history of the late 1930s.
  • (7:33) Tom Junes, a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow and a historian at the European University Institute in Florence, says the only country we can rationally blame for starting WWII is Nazi Germany.
  • (13:10) Arch Getty, a distinguished research professor of history at UCLA, says Putin gets more right about the history of the late 1930s than he gets wrong.
  • (21:48) Ivan Kurilla, a professor of history and international relations at European University at St. Petersburg, discusses the challenges now facing historians of the 20th century in Russia and Eastern Europe.

“The Naked Pravda” comes out on Fridays. Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: “The Naked Pravda.”

Producer, sound editing, and mixing — Kevin Rothrock

Executive producer — Alexandr Sadikov

Music — Victor Davydov

Send any questions or comments to [email protected]

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