Russia reflects on 75th anniversary of the Great patriotic war

By Valerii Utkin

MAY 9 1945, marks a historical epoch in the Russia when fascist Germany surrendered to Russian armed forces to end cruel and barbaric forces of Adolf Hitler.

The USSR’s Red Army that dealt the decisive, crippling blow to Nazism, reduced it to ashes to end the Second World War (1939-1945), which endured human losses during this wartime.   

After an aggressive Nazi regime came to power in Germany in 1933, it was only a question of time when its desire to conquer new territories would turn into a full-scale world conflict. After launching the war in 1939, Wehrmacht (German Army) dominated most of Europe leaving the USSR and Great Britain to face the oncoming fascist threat.

More than four million men of Hitler’s armed forces backed by heavy artillery, tanks and aircraft attacked the Soviet Union without provocation.

The Soviet Red Army fiercely successfully resisted the Wehrmacht, eventually pushing the enemy back and defeated Nazi troops near Moscow, Stalingrad.

Leningrad’s horrific siege was one of the most heinous crime in the world history. It lasted for 900 days, from September 1941 to January 1944.

Even though completely surrounded, Leningrad’s civilian population of almost three million refused to surrender in a war which culminated into lack of water, little food and no electricity. The endless air and artillery bombardment led to massacre and the majority of people succumbed to hunger and bitter cold, and the streets were littered with dead bodies. The only life-line to the mainland was the ice of Lake Ladoga – known as the “Road of Life”. It is estimated as many as 1.5 million people died.

On July 17 1942, one of the most brutal standoffs in human history – the Stalingrad battle – had begun. It covered the territory of 100 thousand square kilometers. The number of both Soviet and German soldiers was more than 2 million people. It should be noted that, a major industrial center on the Volga River in Southern Russia, Stalingrad was in itself a coveted prize for Hitler. Control over it was a key to the vital Caucasus oil fields. Seizing Stalingrad – “Stalin’s City” – would deal a disastrous blow to Soviet morale, something Stalin couldn’t afford. The horror of Stalingrad lasted for 199 days, costing an estimated 1.5 million lives from both sides. Battles raged for every street, house, basement and staircase. Areas captured by the Wehrmacht troops by day, were re-taken by the Red Army at night.

The Soviet offensive during the winter of 1942-1943 formed the so-called Kursk Bulge. The Soviet command chose the strategic defense at the Kursk Bulge in order to exhaust the key enemy grouping, counterattack and then defeat the Germans in that area. In its turn, the German troops at the Orel and Belgorod-Kharkov footholds were able to launch flanking attacks against the Soviet troops defending the Kursk area. In order to take advantage of the opportunity, German leaders began preparations for a major summertime offensive in this direction.

On July 12, the Soviet troops embarked on the offensive at the Kursk Bulge. That day railway station Prokhorovka, 56 kilometers north of Belgorod, witnessed the largest tank battle of the Second World War with the participation of 1,200 tanks and self-propelled guns. The battle lasted all day long and resulted in the Germans’ retreat with losses of about ten thousand men and over 360 tanks. By August 23, the enemy was flung back 150 km to the West, with the cities of Orel, Belgorod and Kharkov liberated.

After the Kursk victory, the odds were in the Soviet favor. The Red Army blocked the enemy and delivered a crushing blow to Germans. The Battle of Kursk became the geostrategic pinnacle of crisis-style tensions and the turning point of both the Great Patriotic War and the Second World War.

The military successes of the USSR strengthened the country’s international prestige, with nine more states establishing diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in 1942-1943. At the same time, Germany’s stance was on the downward spiral stimulating the dissipation of the fascist bloc. On October 19-30, 1943, Moscow hosted a conference foreign ministers of the three great powers, reinforced its resistance against German invasion until the unconditional surrender of Germany. The Soviet-Anglo-American coalition was significantly boosted by the Tehran Conference (November 28 – December 1, 1943) which ensured the post-war cooperation. In Tehran, Western allies pledged to intrude in Northern and Southern France, opening the second front in Europe before May 1, 1944. Thus, Berlin’s hopes for a split in the anti-Hitler coalition failed, and the victorious completion of the Great Patriotic War and the Second World War began.

The Great Patriotic War lasted 1,418 days, almost four years. A total of 27 million Soviet people were killed, including 18 million civilians and 8.7 million soldiers. Four million people were tortured and killed at Nazi death camps. Two thirds of those who died on the battlefields were young men from 19 to 35.

We remember those who fell on the battlefield 75 years ago, those who were tortured in the camps and who died of hunger and from their wounds and all those who sacrificed their lives defending their country’s sovereignty.

“We must not forget either about the horrors of the war or the results of that war or about what united us during that war in order to better use all this knowledge today and unite our efforts in the fight against contemporary threats and act more effectively in the future,” the Russian President Vladimir Putin said in one of his interviews.

Falsification of the history of the war is inadmissible

It is the duty of historians to tell the truth about this tragedy, but it should not serve as an object of political speculations. The Russian Federation will continue to firmly counter any attempts to falsify the history of the war, revise its outcomes, make heroes of the Nazis and blasphemously treat the memory of the fallen.

We draw attention to the inadmissibility of cynical attempts to ignore the lessons of war and to make the distorted moral and legal assessment of its results. Glorification of Nazism and revival of its ideology are fueling intolerance, discrimination, extremism and hatred on ethnic, racial and religious grounds. All countries and peoples of the world should fight these threats to prevent new tragedies and preserve peace and security for coming generations.

The Post -Second World War and new global challenges

The creation of the anti-Hitler coalition may rightfully be called the biggest diplomatic breakthrough of its time. The coalition became an example of the rallying of States of different ideologies and political systems in the face of a common mortal danger.

Today, 75 years on, there is no need to simplify the history. Each of the anti-Hitler coalition States pursued its own aims, had its own national interests. The achievement of mutual trust did not come easy but still, the participants of the coalition succeeded in rising above their differences and putting aside all that was secondary for the sake of achieving a common Victory as their principal task. The opponents of fascism were united by a common understanding of the fact that evil had to be resisted together, sparing no effort for that, allowing no compromises, no concessions or separate deals. This lesson in full measure retains its relevance in modern times as well.

The principles and standards of the UN Charter, which stood the test of the Cold War, are today an alternative basis for shaping a new, secure and equitable world.

In order to commemorate the Great Victory’s jubilee, the Russian Federation jointly with its partner countries advanced an initiative to adopt the UN General Assembly resolution “Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the End of the Second World War”. The adoption of the resolution will be an important contribution of the UN to mark this important day in the history of the humanity.    

Mr. Valerii Utkin is the Ambassador of the Russian Federation in Namibia