My trip through the Baltic states a couple of months ago ended with a brief excursion into north-east Poland. Though the region’s got more history than you could shake a stick at, only one thing’s really memorable about the town I visited. It’s a very big thing though. According to NATO and Kremlin military strategists, World War Three’s quite likely to kick off there. It seemed sensible to investigate, and I’ve just reported my findings to the world, via wireless. 17.30 onwards, if you wanna know what I learned . . .
Vladimir Putin’s supporters don’t like to acknowledge that they’re living in a ruthless kleptocracy. It’s nicer to portray Russia as a beacon of anti-fascism. With that self-image in mind, a legislator called Andrei Kresov demanded almost three months ago that Moscow stage a ‘Nuremberg 2.0’ to put captured Ukrainians on trial. That’s apt in ways he probably doesn’t know. There was nothing inherently progressive about Nuremberg 1.0. Winston Churchill didn’t want it to happen at all; he proposed in 1942 that leading Nazis be ‘shot to death within six hours of capture’ and hankered for summary executions until the eve of the trial. It was Stalin who insisted on court-imposed punishments (lest people say the Allies ‘were wreaking vengeance on their political enemies’) and that’s because, in his experience, they were useful to cloak murder. The lawyer he put in charge of Soviet preparations was Andrei Vyshinsky, who’d prosecuted his rivals to death at a series of show trials in the late 1930s. The senior Soviet judge, Iona Nikitchenko, had ordered many of their executions, and he was appointed for just one reason: he could be trusted to follow instructions without question.
The link between Stalin’s show trials and Nuremberg is described in my book The Trial, but if you prefer your insights shorter, I wrote a piece about the recent convictions in Donetsk for the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/jun/10/trial-donetsk-precedent-conflict-21st-century
Quite belatedly, here’s a short piece about a trip to Finland three months ago: https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2022/march/in-helsinki. I went with my mum, to visit relatives and find out more about a great-uncle who was wounded in battle in 1940 – defending the country against an unprovoked invasion ordered by Moscow, as it happens . . . Before and after my stay in Helsinki, I traveled around the Baltic States, and the picture above was taken in Tallinn. It’s a truck pretending to be a tank, in solidarity with Ukraine.