The war between past and future
by Vladimir Rozanskij

In Putin's rhetoric, war can be "remade" if necessary. The memory of the graffiti left by Soviet soldiers on the walls of the German Bundestag in 1945. Invasion of Ukraine seen by Russians as defensive reaction to external pressure.


Moscow (AsiaNews) - Commenting on the war events in Ukraine and the commemorations for the Victory against Nazi Germany, in recent days the President of Moldova Maia Sandu has cited two famous slogans related to the conclusion of World War II: "Can we do it again? No. Never again? Yes." Many commentators in Russia such as writer Dmitry Glukhovsky, producer Aleksandr Rodnjansky and Senator Nikolai Fedorov have taken up these two opposing rhetorical questions on various sites and publications, including state-run ones.

"Never again war" is a phrase also repeated by the pontiffs, starting with Paul VI at the UN Assembly many years ago. It is the hope referred to the Holocaust and the most terrible massacres, which unfortunately have been repeated many times and are also seen in Ukraine. Many consider the phrase unrealistic, but one cannot help but reiterate it.

The "we can do it again" is a graffiti left by an anonymous Russian soldier on the walls of the Reichstag in 1945, back in the days of Russian victory parades in 1945, where the use of the preposition "Za" (for), origin of the new "Z swastika" of the Putin war, stands out. "For the assault on Moscow. For the bombing of Leningrad. For Tikhvin and Stalingrad. Remember and don't forget, if not we can do it again," the inscription read, using in the verb "to do it again" a distorted form (podovtorit), typical of the Northwestern Russian dialect. It is thought that the soldier came from Tikhvin, in the region of Leningrad, where in 1941 there was a tremendous defensive battle and then a powerful counterattack by the Red Army.

On the walls of the Reichstag the Russian soldiers have left many similar inscriptions, taken up in the demonstrations of these days: "Dear Hans and Fritz, you will not forget, and if necessary we will return!". Or: "We came to Berlin with the sword, to make the Germans forget how to use it." In 1955, a poet who had fought at the front, Mikhail Dudin, composed a song that became famous in a war film, "Let the enemies remember / we don't threaten, we say it / we chased you halfway around the world / and if need be we'll do it again."

Over time, the threat "we'll do it again" had gradually disappeared from Soviet war jargon, which since the Khruščev years had been converted to the "struggle for peace". Putin closed his May 9 speech with a "never again global war," but the whole speech was centered on "if need be we will do it again," indeed "we had to do it again because of you." Since 2012, the year of Putin's re-election as president, stickers have appeared at May 9 parades on cars with the "we can do it again" (možem povtorit) slogan used two days ago.

The writing is accompanied by a drawing of a man with a hammer and sickle in place of his head, raping another with a swastika in place of his head, and is attached to Russian cars even more than the Z. After the annexation of Crimea in 2014 it became popular, and today it is a symbol of a Russia that intends to assert a "will to power" of its own, even more so than concluding the annexation of the Donbass and the Black Sea coast.

The well-known super-Putin journalist Petr Akopov proposed the inscription in 2018, calling it - along with the logo - the "defensive reaction to external pressure from which Russia must protect itself": the same phrase with which Putin in Red Square redefined the "special military operation" in Ukraine. The speech was delivered from the usual Kremlin grandstand, but as many noted, this year there was a novelty: the stage was mounted so as to cover the mausoleum of Lenin, guilty according to Putin of having invented the Republic of Ukraine. It was Stalin who defeated Hitler,  Putin's "rushism" refers to him.

The writings on the walls of the Reichstag have never been erased. Some are covered by stucco, others even have been accompanied by translations, and at the beginning of the 2000s the Bundestag deputies decided to preserve them. So that it never happens again, it must be remembered that someone might do it again.