Soviet Union: How the first socialist state met World War II - and the painful aftermath.
Latest hand-picked WWII news. See also: Stalin's Purge, Russian WWII Tanks - T34, Dictator Joseph Stalin, Operation Barbarossa 1941-1945, Battle of Leningrad, Gulags.
The mysteries of a palace in Crimea: Where Joseph Stalin and the Soviet delegation stayed during the Yalta Conference
At the Yalta Conference, which took place in 1945, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill took on the ambitious challenge of creating a geopolitical system that would prevent major global conflicts. From Feb. 4-11, the three leaders met at the Livadia Palace in Crimea and hammered out plans for the United Nations, as well as the division of Europe into the spheres of influence that defined the post-World War II era.
Soviet archives reveal how Russia showed huge support for Nazi invaders who had come to fight godless communists
A secret archive has revealed how thousands of Soviet citizens collaborated with "Christian crusader" Nazi invaders. The documents, collected by Professor Boris Kovalyov of the University of Novgorod, shows how many considered the Germans as Christian liberators, and their own masters as godless Communists. This view was reinforced when the Nazis opened up 470 churches in north-western Russia alone and reinstated priests driven from their pulpits by Stalin. In turn, the clergy supported the Third Reich by co-operating closely with SS death squads by betraying Communist officials, Jews and partisan resistance groups.
As Stalin starved Ukrainians, kids ate each other -- Podcast interview of Timothy Snyder, author of Bloodlands
When starving orphans in the Kharkiv orphanage suddenly went silent, caregivers rushed in to find the children eating Petrus, the smallest of them. Some tore off bits of the boy's flesh and devoured them, while others sucked blood from his wounds. It was 1933 in Soviet Ukraine, and the famine was the result of forced collectivization. 3.3 million people died of deliberate starvation in the Soviet Ukraine in 1932-1933.
The Soviet collectivization is one of the topics Lewis Lapham discusses with Timothy Snyder, author of "Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin," in this 19-minute podcast interview.
Direct link to the podcast (9MB, mp3-format).
Red Star Over Russia: A Visual History of the Soviet Union from the Revolution to the Death of Stalin (book review)
David King is a collector of visual artefacts from the Soviet past, and his house is almost a museum by itself. "Red Star Over Russia" has an amazing photo of Lenin's wife Nadezhda Krupskaya who had a thyroid illness that caused bulging eyes and a swollen neck (a photographer covered her neck with a cape and dimmed the lighting). Soviet propaganda talked about "Lenin, the party and the masses". In reality the Soviet dictatorship was fearful of the working class. In 1918, when workers voted against the Bolsheviks, the elections were ruled invalid. History was rewritten and photographs faked to keep this a secret.
Zhukov admitted USSR came close to defeat by Nazis - Interview broadcast in Russia for the first time
The Soviet Union almost lost the war in 1941 and suffered from poor planning, claims Marshal Georgy Zhukov in the frank TV interview that has been banned since it was recorded in 1966. Zhukov, the most decorated general in the history of both Russia and the Soviet Union, stated that Soviet generals were not confident that they could hold the Wehrmacht at the Mozhaisk defence line outside Moscow. Zhukov also revealed details of his exchanges with Joseph Stalin: How Stalin summoned him to Moscow in October 1941 to save what until then had been a faltering defence on the Western front outside Moscow.
Exhausted by Stalin's regime Russians were ready simply to surrender to the Nazis
There are two views about World War II. The first: Stalin's regime was tyrannical, but the war was fought for freedom. The second: WWII was in fact two wars: the one on the Western Front a battle for freedom; the other on the Eastern Front between dictators enslaving nations. People in the Soviet Union had little idea of democracy or Nazism, and were just fighting for the Motherland. And even then they thought long and hard before fighting: Stalin's regime had "exhausted" them, and many were ready to give up. This explains why millions and millions of Red Army soldiers surrendered in the early stages of the war.
World War II photographs from the USSR
World War Two-era photographs from the Soviet Union.
Non-Aggression Pact between Nazi Germany and the USSR (Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact)
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a major factor in the start of World War II, was signed in Moscow on August 23, 1939. It set the fate of the Latvians, Estonians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians, and Moldavians as these nations were merged into the Soviet Union. In spite of the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, the pact still otulines many geopolitical realities in Europe. The pact was signed by Foreign Ministers Vyacheslav Molotov and Joachim von Ribbentrop. The pact included secret protocol (the original was found in the archives of the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee in the 1990s), which defined the Soviet and Nazi spheres of influence in Eastern Europe.
Innocent wives, mothers, sisters and daughters Stalin sent to a Gulag camp in Kazakhstan
The women's faces gaze down from the walls, some sad, some confused. These women, from all over the Soviet Union, had been sent to gulag although they were not even suspected of anything. Their crime? Being married to an enemy of the state, for which they were sent to this prison in Kazakhstan. This link in "The Gulag Archipelago" was called Alzhir, an acronym for the Akmola Camp for the Wives of Traitors to the Motherland. It was not only wives who were sent here, but mothers, sisters and daughters. There were also kids in Alzhir, and not just the offspring of "enemies of the people." 1937-1953 the camp saw 1,507 births by prisoners violated by guards.
Russia's largest history site closed after criticising pro-Kremlin governor, who cut allowance of the survivors of Nazi siege
The home affairs ministry in St Petersburg closed Russia's biggest history resource hrono.info (used by scholars worldwide as a unique source of historical material) saying it published extracts from Hitler's Mein Kampf. Vyacheslav Rumyantsev says the Mein Kampf is available everywhere and his site only summarized it, adding that the authorities may have closed the site after an article criticised St Petersburg's pro-Kremlin governor, who cut an allowance to survivors of the Nazi siege of Leningrad. Recently police raided a human rights group, seizing the material (including interviews with gulag victims) used in "The Whisperers" by historian Orlando Figes.
Stalin’s Nemesis: The Exile and Murder of Leon Trotsky by Bertrand Patenaude
Leon Trotsky spent the last 4 years of his life as an exile in Mexico, under verbal attack from papers and opponents and the threat of assassination. This Mexican visit proved fatal when Stalin decided to rid of his great rival. In this fascinating account, Bertrand Patenaude has created both a good biography of the revolutionary leader and an account of the violent world of international socialist politics in the 1930s. The most damning case against Trotsky is his intellectual dishonesty: to avoid downplaying his own achievement in the Revolution, Trotsky defended the idea of the USSR as a workers' paradise, even as it had become a totalitarian nightmare.
Crimean Tatars mark anniversary of the mass deportations by Stalin
40,000 Tatars gathered in Crimean capital Simferopol to mark the 65th anniversary of their people's mass deportation by Josef Stalin and renew calls for greater post-Soviet rights. Within days of Crimea's retaking by Soviet Red Army forces, dictator Josef Stalin ordered the deportation of the region's Tatar population on grounds that they had collaborated with Nazis. On May 18, 1944, over 180,000 Crimean Tatars were loaded onto cattle trains and sent to Central Asia and Siberia. 40% perished in the first years of exile. The Muslim Tatars were only allowed to return to Crimea in 1989 under Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika reform policies.
Metal detectors and shovels - Russia still searching for World War II dead
Every spring searchers fan out across Russia's swamps and forests armed with metal detectors and shovels, searching for bones. Most are are just teenagers, their nails caked in the dirt of this valley near Moscow, where the Red Army's 32nd Rifle Division held Adolf Hitler's Nazi troops for 15 days in 1941. Their friends prepare to celebrate the May 9 Victory Day holiday by watching the military parade on Red Square, but the volunteers say the memory of the war is stronger here. 5 hours of seeking with metal detectors revealed an exploded helmet, a gas mask, bullets, leg bones, shrapnel, a pair of boots riddled with more bones and one mossy shoe.
General Valentin Varennikov: Anti-Gorbachev plotter, battle of Stalingrad officer (Article no longer available from the original source)
General Valentin Varennikov, a WWII veteran who and joined the rebellion against Mikhail Gorbachev that quickened the break down of the Soviet Union, passed away in Moscow at 85. He joined the Red Army after graduating from an officers' school in 1942 and was sent straight to the front. He was wounded 3 times and was among a group of war heroes who were given the honor of carrying seized Nazi banners and throwing them onto the pedestal of Lenin's tomb during a 1945 victory parade on Red Square. In 1984-1989 Varennikov served as the top Soviet military officer in Afghanistan. In 1988 he was awarded the highest Soviet decoration: the Hero of the Soviet Union medal.
Russia to outlaw criticism of Soviet World War II military tactics which caused huge losses
Russia wants to outlaw criticism of Soviet military tactics in the latest example of its heavy-handed approach to dissent. The plan comes after a documentary film revealed the scale of WW2 human losses, stirring emotions in a country that has glorified the heroic feats of soldiers during the Great Patriotic War but has often ignored the huge human cost behind the victory. The government sensed a chance to take advantage on the public mood at a time when the recession is threatening Putin's popularity. The law seeks to punish ex Soviet states which deny they were freed by the Red Army, and to make it illegal to suggest that the Soviet Union did not win the War.
If the car was symbolic of freedom in the USA, what did it mean in the USSR
"We are a class on wheels, the most revolutionary class in history... and a class that will travel to socialism in the automobile," stated Valerian Osinsky (top official in Gosplan, the State Planning Commission) in 1929. He is one of the key figures in "Cars for Comrades", Lewis H. Siegelbaum's chronicle of the automobilism in the USSR. Osinsky made a road trip across the US in 1925, and he led a journey across the USSR in 1929 to see which model might be best adapted for the USSR's dismal roads. Imperial Russia's auto industry was cut off by the October Revolution. By 1926, Automobile Factory No 1 was producing 366 "Prombon S24–40" cars (US made 4 million).
History tour: Russia's World War II battlefields and war memorials
The Russians do the biggest war memorials: and they are full of Nazi swastikas being trampled by the horses ridden by Soviet heroes. The 70th anniversary of the start of WW2 causes a huge increase in WWII touring: Normandy beaches, Pegasus bridge, V2 sites... all great tours but for the ultimate WWII tour is the Eastern Front, where 80% of the Germans killed in combat 1939-1945 died. The Soviet Armed Forces Museum has Stalin's coat, the red flag placed over the Reichstag, Hitler's personal standard, torpedoes, medals, swords. Next stop: Stalingrad, or the world's biggest tank museum at Kubinka (Tiger tanks, Porsche Ferdinands and every Russian tank model).
When Soviets and Nazis marched together: Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
69 years ago Soviet and Nazi German soldiers marched together in a military parade in Brest, only one month after Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin had concluded the non-aggression pact that made Third Reich and Soviet Union allies, opened the way for World War II, and led to Moscow's occupation of the eastern Europe for 50 years. Shortly after the Nazis invaded Poland, Soviet forces followed suit. The armies of the two totalitarian states came together at Brest. Instead of retreating to the lines agreed to, the German commander Heinz Guderian decided with Semen Krivoshein, the commander of the Soviet 29th tank brigade, to orchestrate a joint military parade.
Volga Germans under Bolshevist atrocities
After WW1 and the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, Russia went through mass starvation 1920-1924 caused mostly by a government policy of forced grain requisition. When the Volga Germans resisted, they were stripped of all grain and mass executions took place. 30% of the Volga German population was starved before help was allowed. Starting in 1921, the Volga Relief Society in U.S. raised money and bought supplies for the starving Volga Germans. The cruelties against the Volga Germans was better brought out to the world in 1922 when John Hermann traveled back to Sheboygan, Wisconsin and told his story of survival and escape from the Soviet Union.
Review: Stalin's Iron Fist by J. Arch Getty and Oleg V. Naumov
"We should shoot a pretty large number... no trials are necessary. Everything can be done in a simplified process," wrote Nikolai Yezhov to Stalin as he let loose the Great Terror in 1937. Yezhov - 'Iron Fist' aka 'Bloody Dwarf' - was the People's Commissar for Internal Affairs, chief of the secret police, the NKVD, and the second most powerful man in Russia. This butcher appears in history for two years in the mid-1930s and disappears just as quickly - after Stalin liquidated him in his turn. In 1937 he suggested to Stalin the start of a purge in which about a million people were killed, adding that most of the victims should be chosen at random.
The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin's Russia by Tim Tzouliadis
The Soviet Union let American workers, desperate for work and a new start in life, immigrate there in the early 1930s. Exactly how many, nobody knows, because nearly all ended up in mass graves. At first glorified as welcome refugees from the miseries of capitalism, from 1935 onwards they became enemies - except a handful used as propaganda trophies. The rest sank into a living Hades of torture, rape, slave labour and death. The horrors of the Gulag should be as well known as Auschwitz, but they aren't. U.S. ambassador Joseph Davies was a Stalin-loving art collector. When the case of a missing American was brought up by an assistant, he apologised to the Russians.
Anti-Stalin legend Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote about life under Stalin's regime
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who was granted the Nobel prize for his novels about life under Stalin's regime, passed away at the age 89. His novels laid bare the inhumanity of the Soviet system. "One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich" (1963) gave a graphic account of the cruelties endured by those imprisoned in Stalin's labour camps. The book was mostly autobiographical: Solzhenitsyn was seized in 1945, while serving in the Red Army, for criticising Stalin in a letter. He was sentenced to 8 years, and sent to camp in Kazakhstan. His main work was the massive Gulag Archipelago, which revealed the years of Stalinist terror by telling of thousands of cases in detail.
They wanted to believe in Communism, but after experiencing it they were disillusioned
Lawrence and Sylvia Hokkanen left United States in 1934 for the promise of a better life in the Soviet Union, believing in the "worker's paradise." Life in the Soviet Union was both demanding and rewarding: The food was poor and there was no indoor plumbing but they were united with their fellows in the dream of being part of "the worker's paradise" in Petrozavodsk. As Stalin's purges spread they wondered "How can they all be guilty?" By 1938 they were desperate to get out. After long delays they reached U.S. soil in 1941 "thoroughly disillusioned" with communism. "Karelia, A Finnish-American Couple in Stalin's Russia, 1934-1941" tells their story.
Survey: Russian museums missing 50,000 items - Medals, weapons, jewelry
An audit has shown that up to 50,000 pieces are missing from Russia's museums. Putin ordered the audit after his government was humiliated in 2006 by hundreds of thefts from the crown jewel of Russia's art world, St. Petersburg's Hermitage gallery. Over 1,600 museums have been scrutinised and most of them have items missing. Most of the disappeared inventory was pre-Revolutionary and Soviet-era medals, weapons and clothes. Russian museums do not have computerized records, some items have handwritten descriptions in Soviet-era log books, but most only have a single-line description, making tracking them almost impossible.
Secret Cities of the Soviet Union
Construction on the Soviet Union's secret cities began during the early 1940s, and by the 1980s there were at least 57 secret colonies with a population of 1.5 million. Their existence was a secret among ordinary people until the end of the USSR. Since 1991 some of the cities have been opened, but experts think there are still 15 secret cities. After Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, Stalin ordered factories shipped to safe locations beyond the Ural Mountains. These towns set up the pattern for later secret cities. Employees were forbidden to leave, and everything was monitored by the NKVD.
The Soviet Story: Helping nazis and slaughtering soviet people on an industrial scale
"The Soviet Story" tells of an Allied power, which helped Nazi Germany instigate the Holocaust and which slaughtered its own people on an industrial scale. Assisted by the West, this power triumphed on May 9th, 1945 and tts crimes were made taboo. The entire story of Europe's most murderous regime has never been told, until now, with recently uncovered archive documents and interviews with Soviet military intelligence officers... The topics include: The Great Famine in Ukraine (1932-1933), the Katyn massacre (1940), the SS-NKVD partnership, soviet mass deportations, medical experiments in the GULAG.
Nikolai Baibakov, the last living commissar who served under Stalin, dies
Nikolai K. Baibakov, who supervised Russian oil production during World War II and was one of the Soviet Union's top economic officials, died at 97. He recalled meeting with Stalin in July 1942. Adolf Hitler was advancing to the Caucasus to seize the strategically essential oil fields near Baku. Stalin pointed 2 fingers at Baibakov's head: "If you fail to stop the Germans getting our oil, you will be shot. And when we have thrown the invader out, if we cannot restart production, we will shoot you again." He also established a pipeline under the ice to bring gasoline to besieged Leningrad.
Russian tank hobbyist charged with extremism: Tank has Nazi insignia on its turret
Tank enthusiast Vyacheslav Verevochkin in the Novosibirsk oblast is facing charges of extremism as prosecutors have started a probe into 2 battle tanks he built. The case began after a road-worthiness race between the man's tanks and modern SUVs. One of the tanks had Nazi insignia on its turret. "I restored those tanks that were used during the war. How could there even be mention of any kind of extremism? This is history." Aleksei Voytov, the lead prosecutor, said: "The public display of Nazi symbolism and attributions as an insult to the victims of the Great Patriotic War."
The Whisperers - Private Life in Stalin’s Russia by Orlando Figes
For many years the intellectual protestors like Eugenia Ginzburg, Nadezhda Mandelstam and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn "were widely greeted as the authentic voice of the silenced," telling us "what it had been like to live through the Stalin Terror." Their books did not represent what happened to millions of other people who were not opponents of the regime, but were still dispatched to labor camps or to summary execution. As Orlando Figes concludes in The Whisperers, his book about the impact of the gulag on "the inner world of ordinary citizens," a great many victims silently lived with the system’s basic values and its rules.
Great Terror haunts Russia: 34 skeletons of Stalin's purges found
The skeletons of 34 people have been found along with a 1903 Browning pistol in a Moscow basement, most likely the site of a massacre carried out during the Great Terror, the purge by Stalin in the 1930s. The remains were found during a renovation at 8/1 Nikolskaya Street, a mansion halfway between Red Square and the Lubyanka, the former headquarters of the KGB. Skull fragments found at the scene had bullet marks that showed the people had been shot in the head at close range. Up to 1 million opponents of Soviet power were executed during the Great Terror. The killing reaching its zenith in 1937 when the NKVD sent 1,000 people a day to their deaths.
Highly-decorated WWII Soviet Red Army soldier charged with genocide
Arnold Meri, former Soviet Communist Party official in Estonia and a highly-decorated soldier in the Soviet Red Army, has been charged with genocide for his alleged role in deportations to Siberian labour camps. He is said to have organised the 1949 deportation of 251 civilians from Hiiumaa Island. Meri has admitted participating, but says he played a minor role. Estoniam authorities say more than 40 of those deported died. Estonia has been gradually attempting to prosecute those who helped in the deportation of 20,000 Estonians to Siberian camps after World War II.
The forgotten lessons of WWII: Nazi Victory not bad say 33% in Russia
7 years ago, I helped to conduct a poll of students in 4 Russian cities with dismaying results. Only 34% knew when the war began; 93% said American, British and French forces had aided the Red Army in the capture of Berlin in 1945; and 81% knew nothing about the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial. The situation has probably gotten worse since then. Only 20% of students in Krasnoyarsk could say anything about the events of June 22, 1941. Worst of all, young people are beginning to think differently: When asked what would have happened to the USSR in the event of a Nazi victory, 33% of students in Moscow said the defeat would not have had any negative consequences.
Horrors of Russian Front - World War II as Red Army soldiers (Article no longer available from the original source)
Memorial Day is a somber time for a group of Minnesotans who saw WWII as Red Army soldiers. They can't help but think about Red Army soldiers who weren't lucky enough to avoid the staggering death tolls of the Eastern Front. Now US citizens, Geykhman and Grichener don't diminish the sacrifices of the 300,000 American troops killed. But for every US soldier killed more than 30 Russians died. Grichener was forced into the Red army as a teenager. "An infantry soldier was worth nothing, not a penny. Stalin treated us like slabs of meat and pushed us in front of the enemy until they ran out of lead."