The scourge of tribal Europe

Celebrating victory.

WITH trepidation I watched Russians celebrate ‘their victory’ over Nazism. Once again the same tiresome exclusivity that fuelled the deaths of an estimated 100 million Europeans during the disastrous 20th Century.
Don’t be too quick to accuse Americans for taking the credit for winning the war single-handed. The Russians are as skilled at creating the myth that triumph was exclusively a Soviet victory.
Here we go again, I thought: triumphalist British Empire 1900, Germany in the 1930s. The writer, George Bernard Shaw, explained Europe’s fault-line in a few words: ‘Patriotism is your conviction that your country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.’
Russian President Vladimir Putin, keen to forge international partnerships on a base of peaceful co-existence, must have mixed feelings too. He must pay lip service to Russians nostalgic for the time when Bolshevik Occupied Russia shared world power status. He otherwise condemned Bolshevik socialism as unworkable. Are those who hanker after British Empire and Winston Churchill any better?
To Russian friends I point out that peoples of the West, especially Germans and Eastern Europeans, fear and detest hammer and sickle symbolism as much as Russians blanch at the sight of a Swastika. They don’t accept this and believe sincerely the Soviets liberated Europe. It is what they were taught.
I show photographs of the Reich forces greeted as liberators throughout German Occupied Europe. This is dismissed as propaganda.
I concede many Russians, having little choice anyway, resisted the Reich’s onslaught. “Why,” I asked, “don’t you salute the peoples of Finland, Eastern Europe, the Baltic States, who as heroically resisted Soviet aggression and occupation?”
A jackboot is a jackboot regardless of the nationality of the foot in it. Unless Europeans shrug off national tribalism history is doomed to repeat itself.

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