There has been a lot of speculation about the question of Russia’s participation in the D-Day celebrations. There are references to the large numbers of Russians dead in the war on the Eastern Front and the importance of opening a landing on the Western shores of Normandy to relieve some of the pressures in the East. This is a question that could only have come from the young, the uninformed and from people with no memories.
On the 23rd of August, 1939 the Foreign Ministers of Nazi Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics signed a Treaty of Non-aggression between Germany and the USSR. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact guaranteed peace between the two nations and, in a secret protocol, the two countries agreed “spheres of influence” in which their respective interests would be respected. The two then set the rules for their carving up Europe between them.
The next month saw Germany invade Poland on 1 September 1939 and Stalin ordered the Soviet invasion of Poland on 17 September. The next day, September 18, 1939 Stalin signed a peace treaty and neutrality with the Japanese Empire. In March 1940, parts of the Karelia and Salla regions in Finland were annexed by the Soviet Union after the Winter War where the Finns resisted the Soviets with courage and intensity. Stalin continued the same month with annexations of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and parts of Romania (Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina, and the Hertza region). The Soviets took over former Polish territories in the Ukraine and Belorussia.
As the Germans and Italians invaded the rest of Europe and annexed these territories the Soviets called on the Communist parties to Europe to turn against the Socialists, Christian Democrats, Anarchists and their labour union affiliates and assist the Germans with their occupation. When Germany attacked and took control of France the French Communist Party’s newspaper “L’Humanite” published the decrees ordered by the Nazi occupiers and turned in trade unionists to the Gestapo for transportation to concentration camps or execution. The PCF (the French Communist Party) moved in, with German blessing, to take control of many municipalities across France. The same Communists who had fought in the Spanish Civil War suddenly became neutral towards Franco. This Collaborationist Front was true in other occupied European countries.
It wasn’t until 22 June 1941, when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union that the Soviets began their fight for survival against the Nazis. Overnight the Communist Parties of Europe became anti-fascists, but many stayed in place in the municipalities. The Soviets lost a lot of people fighting the Nazis but there was always a sense that this was something that they brought down upon themselves by allying with Germany and using that pact to build a Soviet Empire (which they retained, more or less, after the war).
So, the populations of the occupied nations of Europe were very pleased with D-Day and the beginning of the end of their nightmare. That is why D-Day is so important. It is also why these same patriots were unwilling to include Russia in their celebrations. Only the young and the befuddled have no memories of that time and ask why Russia was not invited.