[FOUNTAIN]Europe sees tolerance, but Asia doesn’tThe international media toasted the 60th anniversary ceremony of D-Day, held in France on June 6, as a reconciliation that encompassed both the winners and losers of World War II. The chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schroeder, joined the heads of state of the allies that defeated Nazi Germany.
Another notable attendee was Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, who became the first Russian leader to attend a ceremony in remembrance of the Normandy landing.
Cold War tension might have been the reason that kept the former Soviet leaders from attending the event, but even Mikhail Gorbachev, who ended the Cold War, and his successor Boris Yeltsin, made a point of boycotting the ceremonies on D-Day.
While there were no official statements as to why they did not attend, the Russians may have wanted to highlight the battle of Leningrad and the resistance of other Soviet cities over the Normandy operation as the pivotal moments that tipped World War II into an Allied victory. The Soviet Union lost more than 20 million persons in Leningrad fighting against the German forces. In fact, Russians celebrate May 9th, Victory Day, with a more splendid festival than that at Normandy. Thanks to the sacrifice and struggles of major Soviet cities, the Red Army captured the city of Berlin on May 9, 1945.
Another explanation is that Russians resented the Normandy operation because many believe that the loss of Russian lives was larger because the U.S. and British war planners delayed the landing. So Russians would not gladly celebrate the meaning of D-Day, which emphasizes the heroic achievements of the American and British forces.
Of course, the allies who confronted the Nazis together went their separate ways immediately after the end of World War II and the Cold War began. The Soviet Union and the Western world held separate victory celebrations that emphasized their roles.
Mr. Putin’s attendance suggests that Europe has set out on a new way of integration by adding tolerance in the interpretation of its history. Europe experienced two world wars and lost tens of millions of lives. Former enemies have finally reconciled and united. Still trapped in the vestiges of the Cold War and past enmity, Northeast Asian countries envy the Europeans.
by Kim Seok-hwan
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.