Its a relief to read that Vladimir Putin is backing away from a neo-Stalinist line for the commemoration of the outbreak of the Second World War at Westerplatte near Gdansk, the former Danzig. By describing as immoral the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact which paved the way to the immediate Nazi-Soviet carve-up of Poland and made war inevitable, and repeating Gorbachevs admission of Soviet responsibility for the Katyn massacre, he moderates the threat of rougher relations with the former members of the Warsaw Pact, as former minister Denis McShane hopes ( born Denis Matyjascek, the son of a Polish war veteran). The Russians though cling to a shred of blame- sharing with the Poles who acquired a sliver of Czech territory, the Polish speaking Tesin area under the climax of appeasment, the Munich Agreement of 1938. Official Russian historians (yes, they still have such creatures) are arguing that Britain’s appeasement was actually designed to support Germany ( and by implication to squeeze the Soviet Union) and so the UK should share the blame for starting the war. The Poles under Pilsudski had waged war against the Bolsheviks in 1920s, so revenge was never far away. Their terrible victimhood in the war is uncontestable. The best account of todays historical wrangles Ive read is by Norman Davies, historian of Europe and Poland, in the last Saturdays Independent.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London