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The Daily Vertical: The Baltics Remember, Russia Forgets (Transcript)

  • Brian Whitmore

Seventy-five years ago this week, an ethnic cleansing campaign began.

Seventy-five years ago this week, tens of thousands of people were uprooted from their homes, from their lives, and from their families.

Seventy-five years ago this week -- when the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were allies -- the mass deportations of Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians from their homelands began.

More than 40,000 people, a quarter of them children, were rounded up at gunpoint, stuffed into cattle cars, and forcefully exiled to Siberia.

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Fewer than half of them ever returned home alive.

And while this anniversary is being solemnly marked in Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius, it's being studiously ignored in Moscow.

The Kremlin has tossed this part of World War II into the historical memory hole.

For Vladimir Putin's regime, the war started not when Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin signed a secret pact to carve up Europe, but instead when Hitler broke that pact and invaded the Soviet Union.

And to suggest otherwise is to commit heresy.

But while Moscow chooses to forget, others are remembering.

The justice ministers of Ukraine and Poland joined their three Baltic counterparts in a statement declaring that "such crimes against humanity cannot destroy the spirits that are striving for freedom."

And the Crimean Tatar singer Jamala -- whose stirring song 1944 about the deportation of her people won this year's Eurovision song contest -- paid a visit to Vilnius to express solidarity.

But until Moscow chooses to remember this dark chapter in its history, it will be doomed to endlessly repeat it.

And Russia's neighbors will continue to eye it warily.

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