There's a new European Union-sponsored documentary out about Soviet history. I just saw it and highly recommend it.
This is the official film site: http://www.sovietstory.com/
This is a trailer for the film:
You can see it for free here.
The film features newly discovered evidence from the archives on the close Soviet-Nazi cooperation before the German attack on the Soviet Union. Molotov even made a major speech in the Kremlin in 1939 or in 1940 which he said it would be "a crime for the Western nations to fight against Hitler"! The page with the speech was then removed from newspapers in all the Soviet libraries, after the Soviet Union started portraying itself as an eternal enemy of fascism.
The German naval attack on Norway was also made from the Soviet port of Murmansk! In addition to that, the SS actually visited the Soviet concentration camps to learn how to build them, because the Soviets already had 20 years of experience. And Soviet engineers went to Germany to help them build it. They even have footage in there of Soviet officers greeting the German officers with a Nazi salute! They have also found documented evidence that Stalin had transferred a number of Soviet Jews to the Germans, who promptly put them into concentration camps, where most of them perished.
No wonder this movie was prohibited and castigated in today's Russia...
Russian imperial ambitions predate the Soviet period by hundreds of years (and Russia's military might is largely a function of the price of oil, which seems to constantly increase). Ukraine spent over 300 years under Russian domination, and there was plenty of ideological basis for Moscow to justify its domination and control well before Lenin's revolution, along with the brutal suppression of Ukrainian language and culture within the Russian Empire. The Soviet Union was actually in a way kinder to Ukrainian culture than the Russian Empire was, because at least the Communists preserved and supported the languages of the Soviet minorities, despite the general Russification of education and government.
The post-Soviet nostalgia in the post-Soviet Republics is largely an ethnic Russian phenomenon, and is actually a post-imperial nostalgia. Many Russians want to be part of a great and dominant Russian nation again and think that the partial disassembly of the Russian empire in 1990 was the biggest accident of 20th century history, a sentiment voiced by Putin early in his presidential career. (I was surprised to learn a while back that despite the fact that over 80% of Belarusians want Belarus to remain independent, it is part of the Russia-Belarus Union. In Ukraine, only 2/3rds actually want Ukraine to remain independent, but it is much more independent politically. I think part of the reason for the numbers is that Ukraine has a much larger Russian minority. But the reason for Ukraine's independence vis-a-vis Belarus is a function of the democratic nature of its politics.)
How do you explain the fact that Stalin is seen as the Greatest Russian in History in recent public opinion surveys in Russia? Serious Russian historians have said that this is due to the fact that people in Russia are no longer taught about Soviet crimes, but Stalin is glorified in the textbooks for making Russia a great and respected nation.
Having read "The Rape of Nanking", I agreed with the author that unlike in Germany, there was no national repentance in Japan for the crimes committed by its imperial regime. I woud have to say that the same is true of today's Russia. Soviet crimes are white-washed and presented as necessary by the current government. As a results of this, the history of Japanese atrocities is still largely seen as Chinese and Korean propaganda in Japan, just like this movie is seen as Western provocation in today's Russia and serious criticism of the Soviet Union in general is seen as criticism of Russia. There is no willingless to learn from history. And we all know what happens to those who don't learn from it.