Historians Say Secret Pact No Proof of Forced Annexation of Baltics
MOSCOW (AP) _ The Kremlin made it clear Tuesday that its acknowledgement of a secret pact with Nazi Germany dividing up Poland and the Baltic states does not mean it was admitting the Baltics were forced to join the Soviet Union.
The latest official view of history and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact came in a Foreign Ministry news conference with nine historians and a ministry spokesman. They said it was perfectly logical for the Baltics to invite the Red Army onto their territory after the Nazis invaded Poland.
The issue is at the heart of a drive by Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to gain more autonomy - if not outright independence - from the Soviet Union.
For decades, the Soviet Union denied the existence of the secret protocols to the non-aggression pact, which was signed by Germany’s Joachim von Ribbentrop and the Soviet Union’s Vyacheslav Molotov on Aug. 23, 1939, one week before the Nazis invaded Poland.
Microfilm copies in West German archives indicate the protocols allocated the majority of Poland to Germany’s sphere of influence, and the Baltic states and eastern Poland to the Soviet Union.
A commission set up by the Soviet parliament in June is expected to announce any day that it has determined the protocols were genuine. Members of the commission say the official report will condemn the protocols and declare them null and void.
″The secret protocols said the Baltics were in the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union,″ agreed historian Mikhail I. Semryaga at Tuesday’s news conference. ″But what does that mean? It does not mean they were obliged to become part of the Soviet Union.″
″I was in the western Ukraine in September 1939,″ said another historian, Valentin M. Berezhkov, referring to an area that had been part of Poland and was incorporated into the Soviet Ukraine that month. ″The population was friendly.″
Berezhkov also said he thought it was logical for the Baltics to agree to the establishment of Soviet military bases on their soil after the Nazis had invaded Poland.
The historians did show some signs of disagreement when asked if they were dismissing the testimony of Baltic witnesses to the events of 1939-40, who say their independent nations were forced to join the Soviet Union by the occupying Red Army.
Historian Alexander O. Chubarin said some members of his profession are reconsidering the standard view that the Baltics viewed their entrance to the Soviet Union ″with euphoria.″
Chubarin said he personally believes there were various opinions among Baltic citizens at the time, and ″the choice was very narrow in 1940, after the fall of France.″
″A lot of people saw the Soviet Union as a good partner,″ he said. ″They saw the Soviet Union as the embodiment of socialist principles″ but wound up with Stalinism instead of socialism.
″They suffered, as did many other peoples of the Soviet Union,″ Chubarin said.
On orders from Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, tens of thousands of Baltic citizens were deported to Siberia and the Far North.
But another member of the panel, Alexander S. Orlov, said the Red Army was moderate in its actions in the Baltic and even agreed to inform local authorities of impending military exercises.
″Occupying forces never behaved like that,″ Orlov said.
Several members of the panel blamed Stalin for the secret pact, and echoed the conclusion of the commission that the protocols were illegal because they never were approved by the nominal parliament of the time.
Maj. Gen. Viktor I. Filatov, editor of Military History Journal, argued the protocols ″were just prepared by clerks″ and never approved.
But Chubarin did not let that pass. ″Those were not minor clerks who signed it,″ he said. The German copies of the pact and accompanying maps show the signatures of Stalin as well as Molotov and Ribbentrop.
One member of the parliamentary commission, Latvian I.Y. Kezbers, said in the newspaper Arguments and Facts this weekend that the pact showed Stalin’s ″imperialist tendencies.″