top of page

Almost two out of three texts about the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in Kremlin media are positive

As Europe marks the 84th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Russian media continues its efforts to rehabilitate the treaty. According to, almost two-thirds of the articles on the subject found in the Kremlin's media present the document, signed on the eve of the World War II, in a positive light.

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the non-aggression treaty between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany that divided Eastern Europe into Russian and German spheres of influence and gave the green light to the aggression against Poland a week later, is known in the West as the last call of the Second World War.

Meanwhile, in Russia, efforts to rehabilitate both the treaty itself and the USSR leadership which signed it have been under way for a couple of decades. The resolution adopted in the European Parliament in 2019, highlighting the equal role of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in starting the Second World War and condemning their crimes against humanity, has greatly intensified the efforts of the pro-Kremlin media to publicly defend their version of history. And the large-scale aggression against Ukraine, launched in February 2022, has added new arguments as to why both Stalin and Putin were right to attack their neighbours.

The disinformation analysis centre has conducted a study on how the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was portrayed in the pro-Kremlin media in 2023 and in what context. In 227 pieces of content published since the beginning of the year, 137 of them presented the Pact in a positive or in a positive/neutral context. The main message was that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was no different from the the treaties between other European countries and Nazi Germany and fit legal context of the time.

This is illustrated by the thoughts of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in an interview with Pervij Kanal: "Long before the current events in Ukraine, our colleagues from the West started to do exactly that at an official level, blaming the USSR and Hitler equally. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is supposedly the trigger for the Second World War. There is no mention of the fact that Paris and London signed the same thing with Adolf Hitler only a year ago. The Munich Plot and Poland's role in it are taboo."

On the one hand, it is emphasised that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was an ordinary treaty, no different from other treaties concluded by other governments of the time. On the other hand, although Russia has officially postponed the outbreak of the war to 1941, the pro-Kremlin media are citing all sorts of events that supposedly led to the outbreak of war. From the Polish-German treaty of 1934, or the British-German treaty of 1935, to the Austrian Anschluss, to the Munich Agreement and the German-Polish aggression against Czechoslovakia in 1938.

All this is intended to divert attention from the fact that the USSR was the aggressor country and actively contributed to the launch of large-scale military action. This contradicts the mythical narrative of the USSR as an innocent victim, which was defending itself and defeated Hitler's Germany.

To reinforce the narrative of the USSR as an "innocent victim", on the eve of the anniversary of the Barbarossa operation, the Russian FSB published, and the pro-Kremlin media disseminated, excerpts from the testimony of Nazi Germany's General Ferdinand Shoerner. According to him, "from the moment of the signing of the agreement [on the German side] there was a conscious and clear intention not to comply with the agreement".

Another narrative, which appealed to the inevitability of the USSR's war with Germany, also received considerable attention in the Russian media. Supposedly, Stalin was wise to foresee this by spliting Poland, the Baltic States and Finland with Hitler, thus buying time to absorb new territories and prepare for the German attack.

The study found that similar reasoning was used to justify the large-scale military invasion of Ukraine launched by Putin. Putin's Russia is thus supposedly following the victorious tactics of the Second World War by invading and absorbing neighbouring territories in order to buy time and space for an inevitable war with the West.

What would be detected only by those who were deeply interested in Russian politics a few years ago, today became an undisguised aggression and promises of war against the West. Such sentiments are becoming the norm in Russian media channels. On the one hand, while such openness may be shocking, it must be borne in mind that it is targeted at a domestic audience, with the aim of creating a supposedly pseudo-historical justification for the Kremlin's current aggressive policy. On the other hand, playing with an open hand may indicate the Kremlin's desperation. Many of the things that Moscow has achieved politically have been done through lies and disinformation. Russia's openness about its plans is not likely to frighten its neighbours, but to make them seriously prepare to counter it.

The traditional narrative of denial of the occupation of the Baltic states has been an important element in the rehabilitation of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: "The surrender of the Baltic states without a shot being fired is emphasised, as if to imply that their entry into the ranks of the USSR was voluntary. This only shows once again the important role played by the partisans of the Freedom Fights, who used their weapons to prove the continuity of the Lithuanian state and their intransigence against the Russian occupation.

bottom of page