*Nicolae Țîbrigan

On December 28, 2018, the Russian Embassy in Romania posted on its Facebook page a Romanian and Russian text denouncing the crimes committed by the Red Army during the occupation of Romania after the Second World War.

The armistice that ended on September 12, 1944 in Moscow between Romania and the Allied Powers (the Soviet Union, the United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain) on the one hand shortened the war for several months, saving hundreds of thousands of soldiers from death. On the other hand, the event allowed the country to be occupied by the Red Army, a situation which lasted until 1958, during which the Soviets assured the establishment of communism. The Russian troops were cantoned in northern Moldova in August 1944.

After that, the Red Army began the military offensive against German troops and their allies. Throughout the country there have been large waves of arrests of Romanian soldiers who had been taken prisoners. At the same time, the Soviet troops continued to follow the German troops that were retreating to Bulgaria via Dobrogea. Thus, the Soviet Union took over all strategic objectives in Romania: ports, industrial areas and oil installations. The Soviets withdrew from the country in 1958.

In the Facebook post published by the Russian Embassy, this piece of disinformation tries to accuse many publications in the Romanian and Western newspapers of denigrating the Red Army soldiers “who (in fact) liberated from fascism the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Europe”. In this narrative, the atrocities committed by Soviet soldiers in Romania would be a myth, implying the existence of an official decree issued by the “Supreme Commander” Joseph Stalin, but without specifying the date or number of the decree:

Officers and Red Army men! We are going to the country of the enemy. Everyone should keep his composure, everyone should be brave … The remaining population in the conquered areas, regardless of whether German, Czech, or Pole, should not be subjected to violence. The perpetrators will be punished under martial law. In the conquered territory, sexual relations with the female sex are not allowed. For violence and rape the perpetrators will be shot”.

The text is not signed, and the accuracy of the “order” issued by the former Soviet leader is questionable. No expert or historian was approached to confirm or denounce this narrative.

With the help of online search engines, I looked up the decree issued by Stalin using the following key words in the Russian language: [противника, насилию, половые связи, будут расстреляны] and unraveled a pseudo-history published on various websites, forums and marginal blogs such as: Sovertnik.com, Russkaya semerka, Rambler, Ru-an.info etc. The story about Stalin’s famous decree issued in January 1945 stars with an opinion article written by Elena Sineavkaya, historian and researcher at the History Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The Article is entitled “Russian Army in 1945 Europe” published in the second number of the review on the 4th of May 2012 in Obozrevatly-Observer (inactive website), without mentioning any source for Stalin’s order.

After this article appeared, the pseudo-historic article about the “brave Soviet soldier” is reproduced on many marginal channels until reaching the state controlled media, where the false narration starts to be distributed by various editors, take for example Sitnikov’s article published on Svobodnaya Pressa with the title “For Rape the guilty will be executed…” in January 2013.

Mystifying the “Russian Army’s Crimes” is borrowed later in February 2017 by Russkaya Semrka” website with the title “Why Soviet soldiers were accused of raping 2 million German women” and also by “Rambler” on 20th of August 2017. This time, Supreme Commander Stalin’s decree dating since 19th of January 1945 has a number of registration – 229.

I have verified the decree issued by Stalin on 19th of January 1945 no.229 on the website soldat.ru and discovered that it was in reference to the “Red Army’s operations” in Poland and nothing mentioning the death penalty for those accused of “violence and rape” on “enemy territory”. Afterwards I verified all decrees issued by Stalin on 19th of January 1945 and did not find one paragraph referring to “banning rape”.

In other words, the document mentioned by historian Elena Sineavkaya is a fake, used in historic literature about the Second World War which cannot be demonstrated by archived documents from that period.

Moreover, on January 19, 1945 the German’s retreat before the Red Army’s advance through Poland to the West. The Soviets occupied the Polish cities of Tarnow, Lodz, and Krakow and they did not advance significantly on German soil. So, the previously mentioned Stalin’s decree would not make any sense.

Vistula to Oder: Soviet Advance Across Poland January 11 – February 2, 1945

Source: HISTORY IN IMAGES: Pictures Of War, History , WW2

Today, history has become a useful instrument in promoting strategic Kremlin’s strategic narrations not only on Russian soil, but also outside Russia. That is why, WW2 history is not a subject for serious analysis, but a mix of information about military technic, soldiers, emotions and passion.

Real facts and rational discussions are now irrelevant. For Kremlin’s new propaganda are now more efficient in communicating their falsities and logical errors, delivered to the larger public as a nationalist and anti-Western discourse.

According to the Russian Embassy, the anti-Soviet campaign in Europe would have fascist origins, and the narrative is based on the argumentum ad nazium logical error, according to which the opponent’s position is invalidated by association with positions of the Nazi regime.

Also, the author or authors of the text use the synecdoche to extend the criticism of the Red Army’s actions during WW2 to Russia of the 21st Century, cataloging any documented journalistic material about the “victims of communism” as an expression of the rusophobia – the old technique of the new pro-Kremlin propaganda.

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Posting has led to many controversies and negative reactions from both Romanian press and the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and it reach more than 200,000 views and over 50,000 interactions in five days (December 28, 2018 – January 2, 2019) – estimated numbers –.

When propaganda becomes visual

However, internet users have discovered that the photo-symbol of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany (Raising a Flag over the Reichstag, photo by Yevgeny Khaldei) used by the Embassy on the it Facebook page is not original. History records that Senior Sergeant Abdulkhakim Ismailov, who is supporting the flag-bearer, was wearing two watches, which could imply he had looted one of them, an action punishable by execution. Using a needle, Khaldei removed the watch from the right wrist.

The other version of the photograph (which can be found here) was significantly altered for propaganda purposes. Khaldei also added to the smoke in the background, copying it from another picture to make the scene more dramatic.

The original photo (left) was altered (right) by editing the watch on Ismailov’s right wrist

Similar to the problem mentioned above is the reference to an inexistent event the so-called 75th anniversary for freeing Romania by the Red Army. In fact, no one knows a certain date and the Romania public does not celebrate an event instrumented by Kremlin in propagandistic purposes.

For more information about this subject check this explanatory clip:

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I reproduced the full text of Russian Embassy in Romania:

#RO Who had the need, after 75 years since the Second World War, to dig the myths about the “atrocities” committed by the Soviet soldiers – freeing Europe from fascism.

For a very long time, periodically in Western and Romanian media various publications meant to denigrate the Red Army’s soldiers who freed from fascism Eastern and Central Europe’s countries. In this continuous propaganda campaign, the anti-Soviet and anti-Russians aim to convince people that the Russian Army was a bunch of thieves and rapists that had no mercy for the civil society. Today, we witness a new revival of this campaign.

Initially, these types of myths appeared due to the efforts of J. Goebbels, the Nazi ministry of propaganda’s, who after the war, during the Cold War, have been multiplied and repeated by URSS’s allies. During the war on the Eastern Front (Second World War) it reached a point where, in the final stage, the propaganda was so intense, that the Germans believed the stories about the Russian’s cruelty. As a result, when the Soviet armies were reaching Berlin, the city was swept by a wave of mass suicides. According to some sources, in the last two months of the war the number of suicides reached 30-40 thousand.

Still, these so-called “experts” in Soviet soldier atrocities, who prefer to call them simply Russians, forget the fact that these kind of actions against the civil population (rape and stealing) had been forbidden in the Russian Army at the highest level and were punished with the death penalty. In this sense it is relevant to quote the decree issued by J. V. Stalin: “Regarding the inadmissible harsh attitude towards the population”: “Officers and soldiers of the Red Army! We are marching towards the enemy’s country. Each must control themselves, each must be brave… The remaining populations in the conquered regions, either they are German, Czech or Polish, must not be subjected to abuse. Culprits will be punished in accordance with the martial law. On conquered territories, sexual relations with women are not allowed. Culprits, guilty of violence and rape will be shot.”

A punishment so harsh, which would be executed by martial courts if necessary, offers each reasonable person a reason to reflect upon the truthfulness of the so-called mass atrocities usually linked with the Soviet soldiers by the Western experts. Romania is not an exception in this case. The myth created by those who have an anti-Russian attitude, with that “Davi ceas, davai palton” (translated from “Give me your watch, give me your coat”), according to which the Soviet troops had massively looted the Romanian population in 1944, has very little to do with reality. Even if we leave aside the moral and ethical aspect and reduce everything to a primitive logic, not even then someone would risk their life for a watch or a coat. Thus, we urge people to analyze information that appears in mass media and to compare it with verified historical facts.

Naturally, the question appears: who benefits from the poisonous oil thrown on the Russophobia fire, infiltrated in the Romanian public consciousness, after many years since the end of the war in Europe? Is it connected with the upcoming 75th year anniversary since Romania’s liberation by the Russian Army?

Source: Ambasada Rusiei în România – Посольство России в Румынии (@AmbasadaRusa)

Finally, I think that the Russian Embassy from Bucharest received an order from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from Moscow to promote in Romania the myth’s narration about the “crimes of the Soviet soldier”, especially in the holiday period (between Christmas and New Year’s Eve) in order to reach more easily the mainstream media and to polarize in very short in time segments of the Romanian society on controversial themes.

Was this a test that we passed? I don’t know.

Certainly, these types of “digital challenges” will continue to be recycled, especially in the context of the upcoming European elections on the 26th of May 2019. Stay vigilant!

* Nicolae Ţibrigan is a member of the LARICS Expert Council