The Horrors of War
Nobody knows the horrors of war better then Russia. It was only after I first arrived in Russia that I began to understand the magnitude of how World War II effected Russia. It seemed at that time everyone I spoke to had at least one member if not multiple family members who lost their lives in World War II. Hearing the stories of fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters never being seen after this war was heart wrenching. Some died due to the the conflict itself, others died from the elements, with many more perishing from diseases. Just looking into their eyes as they would share their stories spoke volumes that can never be written here. But what I can share are my own feelings as I’ve grown to understand my new family and the tragedy that befell them so many years ago. I must admit first of all I hesitated for almost a year in writing this post, fearing that I really didn’t understand fully what I’ve seen and heard. It has only resurfaced in my mind and ignited my pen because of what’s happening in Ukraine. I’m not politically inclined in any way and my views here are to help reveal what I’ve come to understand in a very limited way.
The second time I came to Russia I got the chance to visit several of the cities in the “Golden Ring”, this was my first exposure to the monuments that have been erected to those who lost their lives in World War II. In many cities and towns across Russia memorials have been erected to honor those who fell to the horrors of this calamity. I understood as we do in America, that these were memorials to those who have fallen but I didn’t have a real understanding that it held for Russians. I remember vividly my wife explaining how this happened in her family and many, many others. I won’t go into detail but it’s one of the few things they discuss were they show emotion. One must understand that Russians are very good at not over displaying their emotions, it’s not something they do in public but is reserved for private settings and even then in moderation. I will digress here a bit since I believe they learned to control their emotions due to the living conditions that they were subjected to before, during and after the war. They had to learn to get along in the common flats that the government built. They weren’t for a single family but multiple families shared them together. The oppression and suppression by a dictatorial government affected the Russian people in many ways including their emotions. An interesting side note here, even Vladimir Putin was raised in one of these flats. Vladimir Putin Biography – Facts, Birthday, Life Story – Biography.com.
When I started my blog and began doing research on various subjects I found the first chart that shows the actual number of lives lost during World War II. It stopped me in my tracks. It was hard to comprehend that Russia had suffered such great losses (and still does). I don’t believe that people or the world realize that it took almost the entire rest of the world to equal the number of losses that Russia felt. The repercussions of this war continue to be felt even up to this day. It has become clear to me the true significance and understanding Russians have for war. They have not forgotten their dead nor are they willing to allow harm come to their families no matter where they are at.
Here are just some of the facts:
The country with the most numbers of World War 2 casualties was Russia. With over 21 million dead, it was over 30% of the entire casualties of the war period. The dead in second world war totaled between 50 and 70 million people. More than 80% of these casualties were from four countries; Russia, China, Germany and Poland. Almost half the casualties were believed to be civilians, most of whom were women and children.
One of the most revealing charts that I have ever seen. It gave me great pause when I truly understood the number lives that where lost during World War II.
What led up to the horrible losses?
Text borrowed from Grayfalcon
In the beginning when Hitler made the decision to invade Russia a little known fact occurred. Many Russian troops, commanders, and others chose to surrender to the advancing Army. They felt at the time they were choosing the lesser of two evils. What eventually changed the attitude of the millions of Russian soldiers and made such persistent fierce fighting the norm of the Russian army everywhere, was the gradual realization that they were under an attack of unprecedented deliberate cruelty that intended to literally decimate and destroy the Russian people, as Hitler ordered his army and S.S, according to the Nazi ideology of a war of racial destruction of the German “masters race” against the Russians in the occupied territories which were treated, both civilians and captured prisoners of war, with terrible cruelty that intended to make them all die of cold and starvation. Vast numbers of Russian prisoners of war died of starvation and of exposure to the harsh weather, and so were countless civilians in the captured villages who were either mass murdered or simply stripped of their winter clothing and left to die of exposure in the snow. With time, a stream of surviving starved refugees, both civilians and escaping prisoners of war, were able to escape back to Russian held territory and tell their terrible stories of the German treatment of the population and of captured soldiers. Many did not have to say a word, it was enough to see how starved they were. Russian media and military propaganda published their stories and pictures, and many were moved from one army unit to another, to be shown and heard. This, more than anything else, ignited what the Russians still call “The Great Patriotic War”. The Russians everywhere realized that even compared to the cruelty of Stalin’s terror regime, the alternative of Nazi occupation was far worse, and that they are literally fighting to avoid extinction by the Nazis. Initially heroic and fanatic Russian fighting was the exception, then it intensified when the Russians were literally fighting for home and family, in the battle of Moscow, and later, as the horrible realization of the monster they’re facing became known to them, the Russians fought the toughest war in their tough history, with key examples Stalingrad, Kursk, and so many other places in their giant country. That way, although Russia lost about 85% of the enormous military production potential it prepared for the invasion of Europe, although it lost before the end of 1941 a military force that was more than double the size the that German intelligence originally estimated as the entire Russian force,
Russia survived, recovered its military production far beyond German reach, recruited new millions of new soldiers instead of those lost, and fought a lengthy and costly war of survival, and revenge, that destroyed Nazi Germany, and Russia, despite its enormous losses, ended World War 2 as a super-power.
In Conclusion – What is the answer?
As I have watched this unfold from this part of the world I must say when it comes to “Home” and “Family” the answer should always be to protect them. I honestly don’t believe either side wants war. The consequences are just too enormous. It’s also clear that Ukraine should be allowed to remain sovereign and Russia should protect its interests in the region. I won’t claim to understand what the real answers are, but I do know this. When you visit someone else’s home here you bring a “gift” not a gun. It’s much better received.