If you teach or are a student in Russia, studying the country’s history, you’d have to be very very careful in discussing the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, aka the Nazi-Soviet Pact. Russians students learn about the Great Patriotic War (1941-45) against the Nazis, and the idea that Soviet premier Josef Stalin was initially a collaborator with Adolph Hitler is hard to explain or accept. This was ostensibly a “non-aggression” treaty between Russia and Germany, yet in secret protocols recognized each country’s spheres of influence. It allowed the Soviets to invade and dominate Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, and parts of Romania. Shortly after the treaty was signed, Germany invaded Poland. The Soviets entered Poland a few weeks later to claim parts of it that later became parts of Ukraine.
Essentially the treaty helped start WWII by appeasing Hitler in a similar way that the Munich agreement of 1938 between British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and Hitler did. The British, of course, later recognized Munich as a terrible mistake and Chamberlain’s action as a great shame and misjudgment. He was replaced in the 1940 election by Winston Churchill. The Soviets, however, simply downplayed their mistake and to this day Stalin is revered.
This history remains extraordinarily sensitive in Russia. Teachers have faced harsh fines for discussing it. “Lying about history” on social media or elsewhere is a crime subject to imprisonment in Russia.
Belfast High School History: “This short video covers the treaty between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939 on the eve of World War two. An improbable treaty between two implacable enemies – each devoted to the others destruction. It describes the background; why each would make such a pact and what were the consequences for war.”
British students preparing for their high school exams are encouraged to check out I’m Stuck – GCSE and A-Level Revision.