Russia’s View of History: Aggressor’s Self-Righteous Interpretation of History Cannot be Ignored

The government of Russian President Vladimir Putin is propagandizing an interpretation of history that justifies its illegal occupation of the northern territories and its invasion of Ukraine. These imprudent, self-centered arguments are totally unacceptable.

Russia has changed its name for Sept. 3 from the “Day of the End of World War II” to the “Day of Victory over Militaristic Japan and the end of World War II.” This is the day after Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender on Sept. 2, 1945. Moscow said it will hold a memorial event on Sept. 3.

The addition of “Victory over Militaristic Japan” is believed to be an expression of the Russian side’s opposition to Japan’s support for Ukraine.

Putin’s government has argued that Japan, which is strengthening its alliance with the United States, is moving toward a new militarism. Russia is apparently ignoring the fact that Japan has taken a pacifist course in the postwar era, and it is trying to significantly tarnish Japan’s image.

However, it is Russia — which has invaded a neighbor and is threatening to use nuclear weapons — that embodies militarism.

Firstly, it is a historical fact that the former Soviet Union unilaterally violated the Japan-Soviet Neutrality Pact in the closing days of World War II and joined the war against Japan, and later illegally occupied the four northern islands. The Russian side’s claim that the occupation is a “result of the war” has no legitimacy whatsoever.

The Putin government’s rewriting of history is not limited to its relations with Japan; it extends to contemporary history as a whole.

Descriptions for the period from 1970 onward have been fully revised in the history textbook that Russian students who are comparable to Japanese high school students are using in their classes from September. The textbook contains a chapter on the invasion of Ukraine, which Russia calls a “special military operation.”

This chapter reportedly states that Russia was forced to conduct the “operation” due to such reasons as the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the United States and European countries using Ukraine to weaken Russia. This is in line with assertions that Putin emphasizes in his speeches.

The “Putinist view of history,” which asserts as if Russia were the victim of aggression even though it is itself the aggressor, is extremely dangerous. There are fears that such textbooks will spread a false historical perception and view of the United States and Europe among young people in Russia.

Sept. 3 is also the anniversary of the victory in the war of resistance against Japan in China. Sept. 18 marks the 92nd anniversary of the Liutiaohu Incident, which triggered the Manchurian Incident.

Since the ocean release of treated water from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant began, anti-Japanese behavior has been spreading among the Chinese people. It cannot be denied that these historical occasions may lead to anti-Japanese demonstrations.

The Japanese government should again strongly urge China to take all possible measures to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals living in China.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 3, 2023)