This attitude continued to prevail after the war. When those who had defeated Hitler returned home, many — considered to be enemies of the state or who had committed the ‘sin’ of being taken prisoner during the war — were sent to the gulag or murdered.
Some estimates suggest that more than two million were killed — quite possibly many more — on the orders of Stalin, who with brutal cynicism referred to the previous few years as ‘the great patriotic war’.
Putin has much in common with Stalin. He may not have engaged in mass murder but his violation of the accepted norms of civilised behaviour in the early 21st century are such as to put him beyond the pale.
It is because of the eventual collapse of the ‘cruel empire’ which Stalin built that his modern-day successor, Putin, is so desperate to enlarge his territory and to conquer Ukraine.
It is also why he is sizing up former parts of the Soviet empire, such as the Baltic states and Moldova.