My sources in the Kremlin have slipped me what appears to be a true copy of the English translation of the draft of the speech Vladimir Putin might give at the forthcoming commemoration parade in Moscow to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the ‘Great Patriotic War’
Its key passages are reproduced here
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Cherished hero veterans!
Dear distinguished foreign guests!
This is an historic, momentous day. We are gathered here in Moscow to recall with pride, even astonishment, the sacrifice and patriotism of the millions of Russian soldiers and citizens who died during the Great Patriotic War
We honour their everlasting memory! We honour their shining victory![Passages rehearsing numbers/scale of Russian/Soviet casualties during the war] [Passages recalling individual veterans, stories of heroism]
What do we make of all this now? How to assess these events as they move back into history, yet still affect us all?
I cannot but notice that many foreign leaders who joined us here in Moscow for the 60th anniversary commemorations of our shared Allied struggle against the Nazi monster are not here today
So much the worse for them. They belittle themselves by their ungrateful absence!
Nonetheless, that absence gives us food for thought
When we do not commemorate together our shared past, what are we saying to each other about the present, and the prospects for a shared peaceful future?
If ever there is a day for facing reality head-on, it is this day of days.
And in that spirit I want to make important proposals about how we look backwards and forwards
It has to be acknowledged that other countries recall the very dates of the War differently
Traditionally we have taken the Great Patriotic War as starting in June 1941 when Hitler attacked the Soviet Union
This is no longer good enough. It relativizes the historic crime committed by Stalin when he connived with Hitler to attack and dismantle Poland
We must face several bitter truths
First and foremost, those Stalin conspiracies with Hitler directly and unambiguously caused the Second War.
Other options were available to Stalin in dealing with the complex and unhappy diplomacy of the late 1930s.
He chose by far the worst one
He chose to side with Hitler and Nazism against civilisation. I don’t know which was worse. His cynicism, or his stupidity
Thousands of Soviet soldiers quickly died in the USSR’s unprovoked invasions of Poland, then Finland. Their heroic memory must be honoured today
Second, Soviet forces committed war crimes, most notably the Katyn and associated massacres of thousands of Polish POWs. The Soviet regime then lied about these crimes for decades afterwards, blaming the Nazis
Our own official equivocation on this painful issue has to stop
We have avoided calling these massacres ‘war crimes’, and even tried to promote the claim that these prisoners were executed after some sort of formal and respectable legal process
This avoidance of the obvious truth shames us. It shames our military record.
The heroic Polish and wider victims of Katyn and other Stalin war crimes must be honoured today
Third, the scale of the Russian and wider Soviet casualties suffered during the war was magnified many times by the policies of Stalin before and during the war
The purges and murders of top officers before the war had left the Soviet Army weakened. His insane killing of many of our top soldiers continued into the war
The memory of these heroic victims of Stalin must be honoured today
Fourth, thousands of Russian soldiers were summarily shot or cruelly punished by their own army comrades for alleged desertion. Their memory must be honoured today
Fifth, the Soviet Union’s position on international protocols for the treatment of prisoners of war was at best highly ambiguous
This did not cause the bestial Nazi persecution of our POWs, but it surely created a context in which that behaviour was easier to justify on the grounds that the USSR was not going to treat POWs properly
We cannot count how many prisoners on all sides died thanks to Nazi abuse or Stalin’s abuse. But their heroic memory must be honoured today
Sixth, we need to remember that tens if not hundreds of thousands of Soviet citizens perished needlessly during the war. Not because of enemy action or the normal horrors of war. But because of Stalin’s unrelenting persecution of his own people
In the shining year in which Crimea has been restored to its rightful place within Russia, it is only fitting that we recall the sacrifices made by the Tartar population of Crimea who were summarily deported far from their homes on Stalin’s orders.
Thousands died in misery. Their memory too must be honoured today
Finally, we need to honour the millions of civilians who died from famine or otherwise as a direct result of Stalin’s economic policies that made it far harder for the Soviet Union to defend itself against the Nazi onslaught
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Cherished hero veterans!
Dear distinguished foreign guests!
These and many more examples I could quote are the most painful of our national memories
The central point is as simple as it is appalling
Our losses – on a scale of suffering beyond the grasp of the human mind – were in good part caused by our own leaders and their insane, murderous, criminal policies
Yet here we stand, in Red Square itself, in front of the Kremlin Wall, where many of these same criminal leaders are buried in honour!
In front of the tomb of Lenin, perhaps the greatest villain of them all, who unleashed upon Russia the horror of communism and state terror!
The time has come to get our highest symbolism correct
Here is what I will be proposing to the Duma next month, as the basis for a thorough national heart-searching leading to a principled new national stance
That Russia formally joins the rest of the world in acknowledging that the Second World War started in 1939 when Hitler and Stalin ordered the invasion of Poland
That all remaining archives concerning Katyn and the crimes committed there and subsequent cover-ups (including all records on special operations by the Soviet intelligence agencies to place lies about Katyn in the world media) be opened with immediate effect to Polish and other scholars who want to find out what happened
That the remains of Stalin and all Soviet political leaders be removed from the Kremlin Wall and given a simple private family reburial in their home towns
That the Lenin Mausoleum be demolished, and Lenin’s remains be given a simple private family reburial in his hometown
That we set up a special place of honour in the Kremlin for the memory of the victims of the Katyn war crimes, to remind ourselves that war itself must be waged with honour and dignity towards those we take prisoner
That above all, in making these historic changes we mark inside and outside the Kremlin’s walls the individual names of all Soviet citizens who died during World War Two, for whatever reason
Millions and millions and millions of names.
That we show that we in today’s proud independent strong Russia finally and decisively turn our back on Stalinist nihilism, that proclaims that an individual death is a tragedy – millions of deaths are but a statistic
Let the many millions of true Russian heroes and patriots each find their name and place of honour here in our beloved Kremlin!
Each name! Each name!
Let them replace the tiny number of communist criminals whose malevolence created national catastrophe ended only by national sacrifice on a stupendous scale!
Let all this be accomplished by 2025, when we gather here to recall the 80th anniversary of the end of the war!
Let that ceremony bring together here in Moscow, in front of leaders from around the world, all the remaining heroic veterans from those years who are still with us, including veterans from all our Allies and from Germany and Japan!
Let us draw a line under division and crude ideological interpretations of history!
Let us come together in principled unity, based on freedom and democracy and truth and honour for all!
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Note: the text has the following manuscript comment in red ink in the margin (abbreviations in the original Russian):
Some vivid original touches! But not sure strikes quite right note in current circs. Let’s stick with tried/proven
Pl bring up this draft late 2024 when we start on text for 2025 commemoration.
Charles Crawford is a British former diplomat turned communication and negotiation specialist. His work for HM Diplomatic Service featured postings in communist Yugoslavia, South Africa, and Russia, then three ambassadorships: in Sarajevo after the conflict (1996-98); in Belgrade after the fall of Slobodan Milosevic (2001-03); and in Warsaw when Poland joined the European Union (2003-07). He served as FCO Speechwriter in the 1980s and has drafted or contributed to speeches by members of the British Royal Family, Prime Ministers and different Foreign Ministers and other senior figures.
Charles left the FCO in 2007 to start a new private career. He has given masterclasses in negotiation and public speaking and speechwriting to private sector clients as well as international organizations and foreign ministries. He is a founder member of The Ambassador Partnership LLP, an international corporate diplomacy consultancy panel. He appears frequently on the U.K. and international media to discuss international policy issues and diplomatic technique (CNN, Sky News, BBC, ITV, Voice of Russia) and is part of the Daily Telegraph (London) comment team. When pressed or bribed he can mutter in Serbian/Bosnian, Polish, French, Russian or Afrikaans. He is married with three children and lives near Oxford.
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