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History Is Made To Be Rewritten


Poland in 1939 -- "A lion among hyenas."

Poland in 1939 -- "A lion among hyenas."

Russia's Defense Ministry offered a novel reinterpretation of history on June 4, announcing in a paper published on its website that World War II was caused by none other than -- the Poles!

The research paper was not an official government statement, but the author, Colonel Sergei Kovalyov, is the director of the scientific-research department of military history in the ministry's Institute of Military History.

The Defense Ministry has now distanced itself from the piece, removing it from the site and telling journalists that it "must not be considered the official point of view of the Defense Ministry."

But "The Moscow Times" suggested that "many Russian historians" are sympathetic to the view, highlighting political scientist Sergei Lebedev's response to the piece: "Poland had conducted itself like a lion among hyenas."

The Associated Press has more:

The paper, titled "Fictions and Falsifications in Evaluating the USSR's Role On the Eve of World War II," recounts how in the run-up to Germany's invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, Hitler demanded that Poland turn over control of the city of Danzig as well as a land corridor between Germany and the territory now known as Kaliningrad.

"Everyone who has studied the history of World War II without bias knows that the war began because of Poland's refusal to satisfy Germany's claims," he writes.

Kovalyov called the demands "quite reasonable."

Last month, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced the creation of 28-member commission to investigate "the falsification of historical facts and events aimed to disparage the international prestige of the Russian Federation."

In another instance of creative historical interpretation, supporters of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi recently nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Italy's longest-serving prime minister is known for his colorful personal life and questionable, controversy-ridden political career.

But Berlusconi "saved human lives," Giammario Battaglia told "The New York Times" on June 4, pointing to his mediation with Russia during its war with Georgia last summer. Battaglia started the initiative and says his committee will "isolate the facts and look at them in a fixed historical context."

-- Kristin Deasy

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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