By Ted Lipien

I would like to thank Bill Coe for bringing Victor Suvorov’s book to my attention.

Journalists reporting on Vladimir Putin’s latest attempt to re-write history with his propaganda and disinformation blaming the start of World War II on Poland–the first victim of the war and the first country to resist militarily Hitler’s Nazi Germany–should read The Chief Culprit: Stalin’s Grand Design to Start World War II by Victor Suvorov. He is a former Soviet military intelligence officer who had defected in 1978 to the United Kingdom and wrote about a dozen books on the Soviet Union and the history of World War II.

Suvorov’s main thesis is that after the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939 (Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) and the division of Poland by Germany and Soviet Russia, Stalin was secretly preparing a massive military attack on Germany. This theory is disputed by most historians who believe that Stalin was not planning an immediate attack on Hitler’s armies and in fact provided Germany with industrial and military aid, although Stalin undoubtedly had hoped that eventually he would be able to launch an attack and occupy Eastern Europe, including Germany, if Germany exhausted itself fighting the Western allies.

On one point, however, Suvorov is right. Stalin enabled Hitler to start World War II on September 1, 1939 and joined the war against Poland on September 17, 1939. Most Western historians agree with this assessment.

Suvorov is also right that some Western historians treat the Soviet Union as “a regular country, just like any other” and still repeat some of Soviet propaganda claims without questioning and further analysis. 1 The same could be said about some Western journalists–those who had reported about the Soviet Union in the past and those who now cover Vladimir Putin.

Victor Suvorov described in his book the Soviet Union as “a criminal conglomerate” headed by Stalin. The same approach is useful in reporting on Putin and his pronouncements. Most journalists do not treat seriously arguments by Holocaust deniers. They should treat Putin the same way since he is the prime denier of Stalin’s genocidal crimes. His denial of Stalin’s co-responsibility for launching World War II falls into this category.

Many journalists simply cannot understand Putin’s motives. They get hung up on reporting in depth what he says and trying to analyze it as disputes between nations over history and international politics. Even Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), which during the Cold War was known and valued for not being fooled by Soviet and communist propaganda, now occasionally uses the “on-the-one hand, on-on-the-other hand” style of reporting, as in its recent report, “Poland, Russia Again In War Of Words Over World War II.”

When reporting on Putin’s statements, this opening paragraph of the RFE/RL report is not particularly helpful in signaling that Putin is engaged in denying genocidal actions by one of his predecessors in the Kremlin.

RFE/RL: A war of words has intensified between Poland and Russia over who is to blame for starting World War II, with each accusing the other of distorting history. 2

While the RFE/RL report includes balancing material, it lacks sufficient context and analysis. It treats Putin’s obvious lies as an alternative view of history. Such reporting helps to advance the Kremlin’s current propaganda and disinformation narrative, although most of RFE/RL online content thankfully does not. RFE/RL has been in fact improving its reporting on Russia in recent months under a new management. The Voice of America (VOA) English News Service, however, simply failed to report at all initially on Putin’s latest series of historical lies, while the VOA Russian Service waited several days and then translated and posted on its website the very inadequate RFE/RL news report.

Victor Suvorov, the former Soviet spy, defector and amateur historian, studied the history of the Soviet Union using what he describes as “methods of intelligence.” His advice is: “do not believe what is officiously demonstrated to you; seek what is hidden.” 3 An extensive knowledge of Soviet propaganda techniques and how they were used in the past to dupe many Western journalists, intellectuals and political leaders is absolutely necessary for objective reporting on Putin and any of his statements.

Vladimir Putin is an ex-KGB officer and a master of manipulating journalists and public opinion. One of Suvorov’s observations in his book, although not about Putin but about Stalin, describes exactly what Putin is doing to confuse and divide foreign public opinion: “one who wins the war is the one who prepares for war by dividing his enemies and making them fight each other, not the one who makes loud pronouncements.” 4

While Putin relies on his propagandists to do most of the disinformation work, and makes loud pronouncements only from time to time, his statements also cannot be taken at face value and reported simply as news, even with the usual balancing responses from those whom he attacks. Many Western journalists initially made the mistake in reporting on Hitler and Stalin by focusing on what they said rather than on what was not being said or widely reported.

One of the hushed up episodes of propaganda history is how easily Stalin working through his ideological agents of influence, both the so-called fellow travelers and a few actual agents of Soviet intelligence services, manipulated various U.S. government departments during World War II. A large number of Soviet sympathizers who were employed by the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration during the war at the Voice of America, helped to cover up Stalin’s atrocities and spread his propaganda. The early VOA chief news writer was Howard Fast, an American Communist, best-selling author and later the winner of the 1953 Stalin Peace Prize. A few of his colleagues employed by VOA’s foreign language desks left the United States after the war and worked for communist regimes in East-Central Europe.One of them was his Polish translator Mira Złotowska, later known as Mira Michałowska or Mira Michal. Another one was Stefan Arski, aka Artur Salman, who after leaving VOA was a chief anti-U.S.propagandist in Poland. 5

After World War II, the Voice of America was reformed and security background checks for its officials and journalists were considerably strengthened. Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty were created to counter Soviet propaganda more effectively through in-depth analysis and commentary by competent experts and news reporters.

This kind of journalism is again necessary when dealing with master propagandists like Putin, but unfortunately it is still currently largely missing in U.S.-funded media outreach by the Voice of America and to some degree by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Until very recently, the Voice of America Russian Service employed as a freelancer a TV journalist who prior to his work for the U.S. government media agency produced for Russian television anti-American propaganda videos filled with conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic themes.

In the past, RFE and RL were much better by being different from the more official and federal Voice of America. This managerial and journalistic advantage has largely disappeared when both organizations were placed in the same federal agency, although RFE/RL technically still maintains its non-profit NGO status. The officials in U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), who now manage both VOA and RFE/RL, are mainly responsible for America’s current inability to stand up to Putin. They lack an in-depth knowledge of the history of Soviet and Russian propaganda and disinformation.

After I alerted the USAGM Board of Governors, VOA posted a few new news agency reports on some of the international responses to Putin’s latest propaganda offensive against Poland, but it was too late and too little. VOA did not even bother to do its own original reporting in English on this topic to offer an alternative to reporting by RT and other Kremlin media.

Perhaps of all the responses, the best rebuke to Putin’s propaganda came from the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. In a relatively short document, he presented how World War II was started by Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Russia.

Statement by the Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki

Unfortunately, the more time passes since these tragic events, the less our children and grandchildren know about them. That is why it is so important that we continue to speak out loud, telling the truth about World War II, its perpetrators and victims – and object to any attempts at distorting history.

The memory about this evil is particularly important for Poland – the war’s first victim. Our country was the first to experience the armed aggression of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Poland was the first country that fought to defend free Europe.

However, resistance to these evil powers is not only the memory of Polish heroism – it is something much more important. This resistance is the legacy of the entire now free and democratic Europe that fought against two totalitarian regimes. Today, when some want to trample the memory of these events in the name of their political goals, Poland must stand up for the truth. Not for its own interest, but for the sake of what Europe means.

Signed on 23 August 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was not a “non-aggression pact.” It was a political and military alliance, dividing Europe into two spheres of influence – along the line formed by three Polish rivers: the Narew, Vistula, and San. A month later it was moved to the line of the Bug river, as a result of the “German-Soviet Boundary and Friendship Treaty” of 28 September 1939. It was a prologue to unspeakable crimes that over the next years were committed on both sides of the line.

The pact between Hitler and Stalin was immediately put into effect: on 1 September 1939 Nazi Germany invaded Poland from the west, south and north, and on 17 September 1939 the USSR joined in, attacking Poland from the east.

On 22 September 1939 a great military parade was held in Brest-Litovsk – a celebration of Nazi Germany’s and Soviet Russia’s joint defeat of independent Poland. Such parades are not organised by parties to non-aggression pacts – they are organised by allies and friends.

This is exactly what Hitler and Stalin were – for a long time they were not only allies but in fact friends. Their friendship flourished so much that, when a group of 150 German communists fled the Third Reich to the USSR before World War II broke out, in November 1939 Stalin handed them over to Hitler as “a gift” – thus condemning them to a certain death.

The USSR and the Third Reich cooperated closely all the time. At a conference in Brest on 27 November 1939, representatives of both countries’ security services discussed the methods and principles of cooperation to fight Polish independence organisations on the occupied territories. Other conferences of the NKVD and SS officers on their cooperation were held inter alia in Zakopane and Krakow (in March 1940). These were not talks on non-aggression – but on liquidating (that is murdering) people, Polish citizens, and on joint, allied actions to bring about a total destruction of Poland.

Without Stalin’s complicity in the partition of Poland, and without the natural resources that Stalin supplied to Hitler, the Nazi German crime machine would not have taken control of Europe. The last trains with supplies left the USSR and headed for Germany on 21 June 1941 – just one day before Nazi Germany attacked its ally. Thanks to Stalin, Hitler could conquer new countries with impunity, lock Jews from all over the continent in ghettos, and prepare Holocaust – one of the worst crimes in the history of humankind.

Stalin engaged in criminal activities in the east, subduing one country after another, and developing a network of camps that the Russian Alexander Solzhenitsyn called “the Gulag Archipelago.” These were camps in which a slave, murderous torture was inflicted on millions of opponents of the communist authorities.

The crimes of the communist regime started even before the outbreak of World War II –the starvation of millions of Russians at the beginning of the1920s, the Great Famine which led to the death of many millions of inhabitants of Ukraine and Kazakhstan, the Great Purge during which nearly 700 thousand political opponents and ordinary citizens of the USSR, mostly Russians, were murdered, and the so-called “Polish Operation” of the NKVD in which mainly the USSR citizens of Polish descent were shot to death. Children, women and men were destined to die. In the “Polish Operation” alone, according to the NKVD data, over 111 thousand people were shot to death deliberately by Soviet communists. Being a Pole in the USSR at that time meant a death sentence or many years of exile.

This policy was continued with crimes committed after the Soviet Union invaded Poland on 17 September 1939 – the crime of  murdering over 22 thousand Polish officers and representatives of elites in places such as Katyn, Kharkiv, Tver, Kyiv, and Minsk, the crimes committed in the NKVD torture cells and in forced labour-camps in the most remote parts of the Soviet empire.

The greatest victims of communism were Russian citizens. Historians estimate that between 20 and 30 million people were killed in the USSR alone. Death and forced labour-camps awaited even those that every civilised country provides care for – prisoners of war that returned to their homeland. The USSR did not treat them as war heroes but as traitors. That was the Soviet Russia’s “gratitude” for prisoners of war – soldiers of the Red Army: death, forced-labour camps, concentration camps. 

Communist leaders, Joseph Stalin in the first place, are responsible for all these crimes. Eighty years after World War II started, attempts are made to rehabilitate Stalin for political goals of today’s President of Russia. These attempts must be met with strong opposition from every person who has at least basic knowledge about the history of the 20th century.

President Putin has lied about Poland on numerous occasions, and he has always done it deliberately. This usually happens when Russian authorities feel international pressure related to their activities – and the pressure is exerted not on historical but contemporary geopolitical scene. In recent weeks Russia has suffered several significant defeats – it failed in its attempt to take complete control over Belarus, the EU once again prolonged sanctions imposed on it for illegal annexation of Crimea, the so-called “Normandy Format” talks did not result in lifting these sanctions and simultaneously further restrictions were introduced – this time by the US, significantly hindering the implementation of the Nord Stream 2 project. At the same time Russian athletes have just been suspended for four years for using doping.

I consider President Putin’s words as an attempt to cover up these problems. The Russian leader is well aware that his accusations have nothing to do with reality – and that in Poland there are no monuments of Hitler or Stalin. Such monuments stood here only when they were erected by the aggressors and perpetrators – the Third Reich and the Soviet Russia.

The Russian people – the greatest victim of Stalin, one of the cruellest criminals in the history of the world – deserve the truth. I believe that Russians are a nation of free people – and that they reject Stalinism, even when President Putin’s government is trying to rehabilitate it.

There can be no consent to turning perpetrators into victims, those responsible for cruel crimes into innocent people and attacked countries. Together we must preserve the truth – in the name of the memory about the victims and for the good of our common future.

Notes:

  1. Victor Suvorov, The Chief Culprit: Stalin’s Grand Design to Start World War II (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2008), xxi.
  2. RFE/RL, “Poland, Russia Again In War Of Words Over World War II,” December 23, 2019, https://www.rferl.org/a/poland-russia-world-war-molotov-ribbentrop-soviet-nazi-pact/30339545.html.
  3. Victor Suvorov, The Chief Culprit: Stalin’s Grand Design to Start World War II (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2008), xxii.
  4. Victor Suvorov, The Chief Culprit: Stalin’s Grand Design to Start World War II (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2008),113.
  5. Ted Lipien, “Mira Złotowska – Michałowska — a VOA friend of Stalin Peace Prize winner,” Cold War Radio Museum, December 10, 2019, https://www.coldwarradiomuseum.com/mira-zlotowska—michalowska—-a-voa-friend-of-stalin-peace-prize-winner/.
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I.

Independent US Bloggers Beat Voice of America and Radio Liberty in Delivering Uncensored News to Russia

FreeMediaOnline.org Logo. FreeMediaOnline.org, Free Media Online Blog, GovoritAmerika.us, September 6, 2009, San Francisco — Neither the Voice of America nor Radio Liberty, both US government-funded international broadcasters, provided Internet users and radio listeners with a Russian translation of an article about Vladimir Putin which sparked a major controversy over censorship both in Russia and in the US. Conde Nast, the publisher of “GQ” magazine, reportedly banned the article from being printed in Russia because it is highly critical of Prime Minister Putin and suggests that Russian security services engaged in criminal activities to help him become an authoritarian ruler. The article was published only in the US edition of “GQ.”

While the two radio stations funded by US taxpayers to broadcast news for audiences abroad largely ignored the story, independent bloggers in the US volunteered to translate the article into Russian in a grass-root effort to combat press censorship. A popular New York news site Gawker posted their translations under the Russian title: “Вы можете прочитать запрещенную статью GQ про Путина здесь” (“Hey, you can read the forbidden GQ article about Putin here”)

Gawker Вы можете прочитать запрещенную статью GQ про Путина здесь Hey, you can read the forbidden GQ article about Putin here

US public broadcaster National Public Radio (NPR) reported Friday that Condé Nast prohibited republishing of the article, “Vladimir Putin’s Dark Rise to Power” by veteran war correspondent Scott Anderson, in any of its magazines outside of the US, including Russia. According to NPR reporter David Folkenflik, Condé Nast also prevented the article from being posted on the “GQ” website in the U.S. The NPR report “Why ‘GQ’ Doesn’t Want Russians To Read Its Story,” quotes from a July 23 e-mail sent by one of the company’s top lawyers.

“Condé Nast management has decided that the September issue of U.S. GQ magazine containing Scott Anderson’s article ‘Vladimir Putin’s Dark Rise to Power’ should not be distributed in Russia,” the lawyer wrote.

According to NPR, Condé Nast “ordered that the article could not be posted to the magazine’s Web site. No copies of the American edition of the magazine could be sent to Russia or shown in any country to Russian government officials, journalists or advertisers. Additionally, the piece could not be published in other Condé Nast magazines abroad, nor publicized in any way,” NPR correspondent David Folkenflik reported.

Gawker has called the actions of Condé Nast executives “an act of publishing cowardice.” In addition to protecting their business interests in Russia, Condé Nast executives may have also been concerned about the safety of their Russian employees. Journalists who had written articles critical of the Kremlin have been murdered in recent years by unknown assailants. Most journalists in Russia practice self-censorship and because of the atmosphere of fear would not dare to write articles highly critical of Prime Minister Putin. Russian and Western-owned media outlets are also concerned that cyber attacks will disable their websites if their reporting displeases the Kremlin and its security services, which are known for being able to launch such attacks.

The censored “GQ” article deals with a series of bombings at apartment buildings that killed hundreds of people in Russia in 1999. The anti-terrorist campaign that followed the attacks helped Vladimir Putin to consolidate his power. In writing his article, Scott Anderson relied on information from Mikhail Trepashkin, a former Russian intelligence officer who investigated the bombings. Trepashkin suggests a possible link between the bombings and Russian officials who were interested in increasing Mr. Putin’s powers in running the country. Russian officials have always denied these charges as a complete fabrication and blame the bombings on Chechen terrorists.

After issuing its appeal for help, Gawker was posting parts of the Russian translation of the article as soon as they received them from volunteer translators. Gawker reported that the translation was completed by Sunday afternoon.

The speed with which independent bloggers in the US responded in making the text of the censored article available to Internet users in Russia was in stark contrast to how this story was handled by the two main US-government funded broadcasters responsible for delivering news in Russian. The Russian-language websites of Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and the Voice of America (VOA) did not post any in-depth reports about the censorship controversy and neither provided any online excerpts from the article.

This has been the latest example of serious problems at the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which manages both VOA and RFE/RL. The BBG terminated Voice of America Russian radio broadcasts in July 2008, just 12 days before the Russian military launched an attack on Georgia over a territorial dispute. The BBG has also cut funding for the VOA Russian Service staff still assigned to maintain a news website. Largely as a result of these moves, VOA’s annual audience reach in Russia has registered a 98% decline and is now estimated to be only 0.2%.

A Russian Service journalist, who wants to remain anonymous because VOA broadcasters are not authorized to speak to outside media, told FreeMediaOnline.org, a San Francisco-based media freedom nonprofit, that many experienced journalists have left or have been forced out. The source said that there was nobody available Friday who would have been capable of producing an in-depth report on this story. According to the same source, none of the managers was able to write a report since they don’t speak Russian at all or not well enough to be able to post to the web. The management, according to this source, has hired some private contractors to maintain the Russian Service website and produce video clips, but they are incapable of professional reporting in Russian. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has rated the Broadcasting Board of Governors as one of the worst-managed Federal agencies. The broadcaster said that the few remaining Russian-speaking professional journalists at VOA are completely demoralized.

Radio Liberty, based in Prague, the Czech Republic, and in Moscow, has many more reporters and still receives much greater funding than the Russian Service of the Voice of America, which is based in Washington, D.C. FreeMediaOnline.org contacts familiar with RFE/RL believe that Radio Liberty reporters and managers are also practicing self-censorship because of justifiable fear that they or their family members might become targets of reprisals from the Kremlin’s secret police. Many RFE/RL reporters are Russian citizens living in Russia and those working at RFE/RL headquarters in Prague have family members in Russia and travel there frequently. The RFE/RL English-language website did carry an extensive report on the “GQ” story and issues of censorship, but the English site is not widely read in Russia and its main purpose is to help generate more Congressional support and funding for RFE/RL. What matters in Russia, FreeMediaOnline.org analysts said, is what appears on the Russian-language Radio Liberty website.

Not unlike the management’s interference with journalistic freedom at Condé Nast, both RFE/RL and VOA have been pressured by BBG strategic planners and private consultants, some of whom had business operations in Russia and links to BBG members (some of the BBG members involved in these decisions also had business interests in Russia) to make their reporting less critical of the Kremlin (the phrased used by the consultants was “anti-Russian”) in an effort to gain a wider audience among those Russians who are anti-Western and pro-Putin. A former director of Radio Liberty’s Russian Service Mario Corti, Italian journalist, management consultant for a major electronic media outlet in Russia and author of books about Russian culture, was forced out for resisting these pressures. Radio Liberty’s audience in Russia has declined significantly since his departure and the change of programming philosophy.

The non-Russian management’s editorial pressure on the Voice of America Russian Service journalistic staff to offer more popular culture programming was also evident in the web content produced over the Labor Day weekend. While the “GQ” censorship story was barely mentioned, VOA website had more than one story about Michael Jackson, a story about US Open tennis matches, and even a story about retirement reforms in the US.

Only a few years ago, it would have been highly unusual for Voice of America and Radio Liberty not to broadcast in-depth reports about such a significant case of press censorship and not to offer extensive excerpts from the banned article. Media freedom activists familiar with the BBG’s strategy and management in recent years are not surprised, however, that independent bloggers and other volunteers are now having to do the work previously done by US government-funded broadcasters who still receive millions of US taxpayers money every year.

Largely in response to the BBG-ordered program cuts and restrictions in news coverage for Russian-speaking audiences, FreeMediaOnline.org volunteers have launched a Russian-language multi-source news analysis website GovoritAmerika.us. The website, which receives no public funding, has provided links to the Russian translation of the “GQ” article banned in Russia.

Z.

Zofia Korbonska Funeral Arrangements

The following announcement from the Stefan Korbonski Foundation includes information about the funeral arrangements for Zofia Korbonska, a World War II Polish Underground Armia Krajowa (AK) writer and coder of radio messages sent from Nazi-occupied Poland to the Polish Government-in-Exile in London and a former longtime editor at the Polish Service of the Voice of America in New York and Washington, DC. She passed away on August 16 in her home in Washington at the age of 95.

The Announcement from the Stefan Korbonski Foundation

Zofia Korbonska, heroine of the Polish Underground Resistance against German occupation, participant in the Warsaw Rising of 1944 and political activist against Communist rule after WWII, died in Washington on August 16. She was 95 years old.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at Our Lady Queen of Poland Parish on

Friday, September 10, 2010 at 6:00 PM.
9700 Rosensteel Ave.
Silver Spring MD

Interment will be at the Cemetery at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Saturday Sept. 11 at 10:00 AM.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Stefan Korbonski Foundation which Zofia founded, which sponsors publications giving a true picture of Poland’s wartime and postwar history.

Stefan Korbonski Foundation
c/o Ted Mirecki, Treasurer
4041 41st St. N.
McLean, VA, 22101

###

From Ted Lipien’s book Wojtyla’s Women:

“I also want to pay tribute to […], Ms. Zofia Korbońska, a remarkable woman who was my colleague at VOA and […] a great admirer of John Paul II and his message in defense of human rights and families. During WWII she risked her life on a daily basis broadcasting news and information from an underground radio station in Nazi-occupied Poland. Her late husband, Stefan Korboński, was the last civilian head of the underground wartime government in Poland. After the war, both of them had to flee their country to avoid arrest by the communist secret police.” — Ted Lipien