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Russian Lawmakers Take Aim At Germany

  • Tom Balmforth

A 1942 scene from Stalingrad, where Soviet forces waged iconic resistance against invading Nazi forces.

A 1942 scene from Stalingrad, where Soviet forces waged iconic resistance against invading Nazi forces.

MOSCOW -- A Russian lawmaker is calling for Germany to pay trillions of euros in reparations for World War II.

Mikhail Degtyaryov, a State Duma deputy with the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, told the pro-Kremlin daily Izvestia that he has called for a working group to determine how much Berlin should pay Moscow. He said the figure should be "no less than 3 trillion-4 trillion euros."

Degtyaryov's move comes less than a week after State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin asked a parliamentary committee to consider a resolution condemning what he called West Germany's "annexation" of East Germany when the two states unified in 1990.

The recent vitriol against Germany, not long ago Russia's closest ally in Europe, reflects a dramatic deterioration in relations between Berlin and Moscow due to the Ukraine crisis.

Moscow-based political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin said such "mad statements" were largely for domestic consumption but were also symptomatic of Russia’s dismal relations with Europe.

"These kinds of rhetorical exercises are aimed at worsening relations with Europe and the restoration of the Iron Curtain, at least in psychological terms," Oreshkin, who is often critical of the Kremlin and sympathetic to the opposition, said.

Speaking to Izvestia, Degtyaryov said that the Soviet Union forgave East Germany's reparation debt but added that no such agreement had been struck after Germany’s reunification in 1990.

“Effectively, Germany hasn’t paid the USSR any reparations for the destruction and brutality during the Great Patriotic War,” he said, using the common Russian name for World War II.

In fact, Germany paid reparations to the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union in the form of forced labor, dismantled industrial installations, and raw materials as agreed by the Allied forces at the Yalta and Potsdam conferences in 1945.

Postwar Germany was carved up into Allied occupation zones and Moscow was allowed to strip material reparations -- consisting of heavy industry, goods, and land -- from the country’s Soviet-controlled East. Moscow additionally received 10 percent of industrial equipment from the western zones.

The Soviet Union also used hundreds of thousands of German civilians and millions of prisoners of war as forced labor.

In 1953, Moscow terminated material reparations from East Germany, which by then was a Soviet satellite.

"Germany is unlikely to pay anything," Russian historian Sergei Fokin told Izvestia. "But we need to remember this history."

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    Tom Balmforth

    Tom Balmforth covers Russia and other former Soviet republics. He can be reached at