After a continent-wide round of commemorations to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the second world war in Europe, it's clear that the peoples of Europe have a shared past, but not a common one.
Sixty years on, the memory of war here in Warsaw is still irreconcilable with that in Moscow. But it's also utterly different from London's low-key festival of "We'll meet again" nostalgia. Only in the recollections of former inmates of the Japanese prisoner-of-war camps does British memory approach the horrors of daily degradation that are the stuff of everyday Polish or Russian memory.
For Russians, the war began in 1941; for Poles and Brits, it began in 1939. For Vladimir Putin, May 9 1945 marked the end of the Great Patriotic War, when the Red Army almost single-handedly liberated - yes, liberated - most of Europe from fascism. For most Estonians, Lithuanians and Latvians, it marked the transition from one totalitarian occupation to another, Nazi to Soviet....
The Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili - leader of his country's "rose revolution" in 2003 - has said we are witnessing a "second wave" of liberation, inside the former Soviet Union, starting with Georgia and Ukraine. Speaking on CNN the other day, he corrected himself, suggesting it was really a "third wave". I make it the fourth. The first wave rolled over western and northern Europe in 1944-45; the second swept through southern Europe, starting in Portugal in 1974; the third liberated central Europe, starting in Poland in 1980 and reaching the Baltic states in 1991; now the fourth wave, if wave it is, may be building in eastern Europe.
12 May 2005
Timothy Garton Ash on Europe's Memory Wars
Timothy Garton Ash writes from Warsaw in the 12 May Guardian about the fractures in Europe's memories of VE Day.
Posted by Joel at 5/12/2005 06:27:00 PM