Content advisory 18+ Thinking to write about the up-and-coming “Victory Day” in Russia on 9 May (the whole world celebrates it today, 8th May – Artem), I decided to consult Artem regarding the wisdom of saying ANYTHING negative. And since I am not one to mince words whatever the subject, this was quite a concession for me to make.
The reason for my indecisiveness stems from the enormous respect and affection I have for Russian people, especially the sparkling lights of passion, energy, wit, and wisdom I have known in Moscow over the years. I am perfectly aware that virtually all of them can tell a tale of loss and grief without going too far back in time, and to risk insulting their memories is the last thing I would want to do.
Likewise, there are still ex-soldiers and other war-survivors among the living. They have earned their stripes and nothing that some American Baby Boomer who wasn’t anywhere near the Front might have to say, pro OR con, is worthy of their attention. I know that.
Nevertheless, we live in 2018. The Second World War ended in 1945. That, if my math is right, is 73 years ago. To give you a comparative time frame, the interval between the TWO great wars of the 20th century was a mere 21 years. In America, Abraham Lincoln signed a law on 22 September 1862 declaring that as of 1 January 1863, Slavery would be abolished and all colored people would be free. The United States entered the SECOND World War in 1942, only 80 years later. When the Japanese struck at Pearl Harbor, nobody was thinking about slaves anymore. Time moves on.
Yet in Russia, the Great War never ends. This is because the government won’t LET it end, and I, for one, have gradually grown suspicious about the motives lurking behind all this. This week (actually most weeks) I cannot turn on the TV (my wife and I watch Russian TV most of the time), without having to deal with yet another damned WAR FILM. There must be a thousand of them. It’s getting to the point where I see more Nazi soldiers on TV than I do living people here in Bliznatsi. (Well, it’s a quiet village.)
Everybody, everywhere I have been, thinks THEY won the war. The Brits say THEY won it. (The didn’t; they survived it.) The Americans say THEY won it (OK, they beat the Japanese. And yes, they contributed in Europe — Omaha Beach and so forth, but mostly the Americans arrived just in time to pile onto the smoldering heap and fuck a lot of French girls.) The Russians say THEY won it — and that is closer to the truth, although they probably couldn’t have done it without financial support from the Americans and the rest of the Allies. But if Russia won it, they won IN SPITE of themselves.
First Stalin tried to work out a way to divide Poland with the Germans, so Russian minds were on conquest just as much as were those of the Krauts. Then Stalin, who had already set about murdering his best military personnel, made a pact with the devil (Hitler) for which he (and Russia) paid dearly. Millions of Russians died because of the stupidity and cruelty of those who should have been there to protect them, and after the Great War ended, the Cold War began, and Stalin continued his murderous bloodshed. Result? The Soviet people were basically imprisoned in their own country. Meanwhile, the Soviet state tried to gobble up as much of Eastern Europe and the Balkans as possible.
The Great Patriotic War. It is estimated that 25,000,000 Russian soldiers and civilians died in the carnage (some say 35 mln – Artem), and that does not include those who perished in the purges before the war and in the gulags afterwards. The Germans lost 8,000,000. Victory? Ok, but many — perhaps half — of those 25 million died needlessly, due to the ineptitude of their own commanders. At the beginning of the invasion, many were disarmed by the advancing Germans and had no weapons to fight with (just like my grandgrandfather – Artem) — or Russian resistance consisted of raw recruits (just like my grandfather – Artem) who didn’t know how to use the weapons they were given. They were annihilated, not because they lacked resources, but because they were inadequately prepared.
The cold, bitter truth is that the brave Russian people were in a position where they had to fight the Germans on the one hand and try to survive their own leaders on the other.
In order to compensate for this mess, the whole military operation had to be shifted to the Urals. In the end it was successful, but Russian people died by the millions, like flies. Did Stalin shed any tears?
Like it or not, that’s the history. But, hey, it was a long time ago. Meanwhile, the Germans and the Japanese are in great shape, the UK is percolating along, the USA is still the one Super Power. And here come the Chinese.
Like it or not.
What about Russia? Well, on First Channel I see a lot of tanks and missiles, and listen to plenty of stuff about God and Country. That’s the menu on TV. In the streets, meanwhile, one notices — alongside the carefully hand-picked loyalists wearing hardy grins — a nation of taciturn, downtrodden people trying to put on a stoic expression and deal with increasing deprivation due to the isolationist policies of the self-serving, super-rich government. Russian businessmen need to buy their suitcases in advance if they want to stay in business, I think.
So what will we see on Wednesday — Victory Day? A lot of breast-beating by government officials, a beaming President, a slew of military jets zooming overhead, squadrons of tanks rumbling along Red Square, sharply-honed soldiers goose-stepping in rigid formation with those cold, clean-cut God-squad expressions that young soldiers always have frozen on the faces. We will be introduced to the requisite number of old codgers who were actually THERE in the war years; they will be plucked from the crowd and held aloft like still-breathing statues — and this extravaganza will be rounded off by the obligatory evening display of fireworks. Boom boom boom Then we can all drop off to sleep watching more war films.
Therefore, I asked my esteemed colleague (Artem) what HE thought. Here was his reply:
” I think people have forgotten the real idea of the Victory Day – end of war, celebration of peace. Something to remember so that the war won’t happen again. And they turned it into the demonstration of killing machines and manship of the president (figure of speech, but whose rockets are bigger, huh?). They feed on pain and hatred, stimulating diversity, fear and intolerance, making enemies out of long forgotten things for their own benefit and (sometimes) satisfaction.”
If I could have said it better, I would have. But I can’t so I will leave the stage, and let Artem’s words complete my blog today. And hopefully, ring in your ears.
==Eric Richard Leroy===