April 23, 2022 by By Ambassador Oleg V. Stepanov

We at the Embassy of Russia in Canada respect and love to read The Hill Times. However, the other day, I came across the piece “Ukraine: the impact of the atrocities” by Gwynne Dyer published in April 11, 2022 edition. In the beginning, I was eager to write a commentary in response due to the outrageous nature of the article. But, having given it a thought, decided to bring to the attention of the readers and the editorial team a broader perspective.

As everyone knows, the Second World War was won mostly by the enormous sacrifice of the Soviet Union (hereinafter I would refer to it as Russia – the colloquial name used in the West). The story served by Mr. Dyer in his op-ed denigrating the Red Army is based on the false narrative invented on the terminal stage of the War in Europe by the Nazi Goebbels propaganda machine. And after the fall of Nazi Germany the story was re-launched with a doubled effort by the U.S. military intelligence and the CIA in coordination with the notorious Gehlen Organization (comprised of ‘rehabilitated’ Nazis, RHSA, Abwehr and SS officers) to confront Russia/Soviet Union.

Such fictitious stories became a part of the psychological information operations and propaganda policy aimed at dehumanizing and demonizing Russia and Russians in the unfolding Cold war.

My country lost to the WWII 27 million lives including about 15 million non-military toll – all civilian victims of the genocide unleashed by the German occupants supported by practically all of continental Europe that either joined the Nazis on the battlefields or economically sustained their fight. No other country in the world, with the exception of China, suffered on such a large scale during the war.

Not even did the Russian soldier manage to defeat Nazism. But having achieved the victory he stayed human and humane. He found inner strength to forgive the unforgivable crimes committed by Germany and other nations that had sided with it, to reconcile in a noble pursuit that no global wars were fought ever again. After the Victory, despite our country from Leningrad in the north to the Caucasus in the south was in ruins, the same Russian soldier – sometimes at the expense of the interests of his own people – was feeding and caring for the former enemy and helping to rebuild.

The Russian soldier is kind and will always lend a hand to the sincerely penitent foe. So is the story behind the memorial in Treptower Park in Berlin. The Soldier Liberator holding in his arm a little girl has real prototypes – sergeants Nikolay Masalov and Trifon Lukyanovich who both saved German kids during the Berlin operation in April 1945.

There are veterans of that war in my country and in the former allied nations, Canada among them, who are still alive and know this unvarnished truth. Ask them. But this article is also about broader picture.

Let me be clear. I am personally against sweeping generalizations, but here providing a snap picture of the historical perception within Russian society. We understand that on a philosophical level the denigration of Russia emanates not simply from the strategic need of propaganda and information warfare. It is deeply rooted in the farthest corner of the Western soul. Every time it alleges Russia is committing atrocities, the West attempts to conceal in a secret room its own sins and liberate itself from guilt for its dark past. By demonizing us the West is trying to escape the shame it feels looking at its own reflection in the mirror.

What is the ‘dark past’, you’ll ask? The total genocide of the indigenous peoples of what now is known as the United States. The disgraceful and bloody history of colonialism by the British Empire (of which Canada was a part) – as a result millions and millions of dead, enslaved, tortured, harassed, traumatized. The list of others is long and well documented.

As a matter of fact, there is the most vivid example that is given little thought in this country, Canada, at the end of the first quarter of the 21st century. The nation advertising itself as the beacon of democracy is still having trouble coping with the need to seek national reconciliation and bear responsibility for horrendous crimes of genocide and cultural extirpation against the First Nations.

We all support the modern effort by Canadian society to find inner peace. But everyone has to remember that while Canada was lecturing others on human rights and democracy in the second half of the 20th century the First Nations’ children in residential schools were subject to horrendous abuse and ‘cultural cleansing’ until 1996.

Russia and Russians won’t be hurt by the allegations in fake atrocities. We know those are lies. We also know that this article won’t change the views of those who on purpose or unwillingly in ignorance against the backdrop of the current historic moment are pouring on the Ukrainian propagandist mill to retrospectively reproduce the historical fakes.

However, our chief concern is that such narrative warfare is targeting Canadian audience in attempt to distort the real picture by intentionally falsifying history.

On the other hand, we also know that people of Canada whose grandfathers fought alongside my compatriots to liberate the world from Nazism are thoughtful and in terms of critical analysis can tell the truth from the lie. That is of high value especially on the eve of commemorating the upcoming anniversary of the Victory in the war in Europe celebrated on May 8th in Canada and on May 9th in Russia.