Speed Reads

History 101

Vladimir Putin: Nazi-Soviet pact was no big deal

The Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact of 1939, formally known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, is widely considered to be the ignominious stage-setter that allowed Nazi Germany and the USSR to invade and divvy up Poland, which finally led Western powers to declare war on Germany after a series of brazen annexations.

But to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the pact was totally innocent.

"Serious research must show that those were the foreign policy methods then," he recently told a group of young historians in Moscow. "The Soviet Union signed a non-aggression treaty with Germany. People say: 'Ach, that's bad.' But what's bad about that if the Soviet Union didn't want to fight, what's bad about it?"

The Soviet Union had long denied that it had secretly made a deal with the Nazis to split Eastern Europe into spheres of influence, but came clean in 1989. Putin's bit of revisionist history is seen as an attempt to legitimize his own autocratic regime, which earlier this year annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.