Vlad is a historian of genius

This conclusion is inescapable for anyone who has heard Putin’s speech at Victory Day parade on 9 May.

I did so only the other day, belatedly, and Schopenhauer’s definition of genius instantly crossed my mind. “Talent,” he wrote, “hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see.”

Vlad, that Thucydides in the Kremlin, did just that by providing an insight that has so far escaped, well, everyone else. The Soviet Union, he said, won the Second World War all on its own.

These are his exact words: “At the most difficult moments in the war, during decisive battles that determined the result of the struggle against fascism, our people stood alone – alone on the toilsome, heroic and sacrificial path to victory.”

Though the history of that war is still taught in Russia along the lines of Stalinist propaganda, there Vlad hit a target even Stalin couldn’t see. Talking to Roosevelt and Churchill at Yalta, the generalissimo graciously acknowledged that without help from the Allies the Soviet Union would have lost.

Our genius reminds me of the late 70s, when I acted as interpreter and tour guide to the visiting Soviet hockey team in Houston. On a coach tour of the city, I pointed out a cenotaph to the Americans fallen in the war.

“Which war was that?” asked the burly forward, Popov by name if memory serves. “WWII,” I clarified. “Did Americans actually fight in that one?” asked Popov, testifying to the unrivalled success of Soviet education.

One would expect our Thucydides in the Kremlin to be better informed, what with his university education and distinguished service in the KGB. I suspect that he does know the facts, but, as his idol Stalin explained, “If facts are stubborn things, then so much the worse for facts.” America’s second president, John Adams, thereby stood corrected.

Stalinist historiography generally ignores any Allied involvement in the war before 6 June, 1944, D-Day. Since even Vlad wouldn’t ignore the subsequent action, he must define as “the most difficult moments of the war” the events between 22 June, 1941, when Germany attacked the USSR, and D-Day, when the Allies supposedly began to offer some feeble support to the Red Army’s “toilsome, heroic and sacrificial” efforts.

The reality was rather different. It wasn’t the Soviet Union that stood alone in that war, but first Poland and, from the fall of France to 22 June, 1941, Britain.

Poland stood alone against two allies, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. The former attacked her on 1 September, 1939; the latter stabbed the Poles in the back on the 17th.

Britain and France didn’t cover themselves with glory in the ensuing ‘Phoney War’. But there was nothing phoney about the fall of France and the subsequent Battle of Britain.

Another piece of Russian propaganda is mocking the French who didn’t put up any fight and meekly surrendered after just 40 days. That is contrasted with the heroic efforts of the Soviet people who rose as one… well, you know the drill.

For those of us who don’t mind stubborn facts, it’s instructive to compare those shameful 40 days to the first 40 days of the Hitler-Stalin clash.

The theatre of operations in the former was about one-fifth the size of the latter. The frontline in Flanders and northern France was about 300 km long; in Russia, it was close to 2,000 km.

Nevertheless, the Luftwaffe engaged more warplanes against France than it did in Barbarossa, and suffered much greater casualties (by about a third). In fact, on the first day of their attack on France, 10 May, 1940, the Germans lost more planes than on any other day of the whole WWII. The Wehrmacht’s losses in men and materiel were slightly higher than in Russia as well.

Yet in France those 40 days are treated as a national shame. In Russia, the first 40 days of the war are held up as the first step on that “toilsome, heroic and sacrificial path”.

In the Battle of Britain, which Putin implied never took place, the Nazis lost more than 1,700 planes – which is 1,700 that could have flown against the Soviets but didn’t. Throughout the war, the Nazis kept at least as many planes, especially fighters, on their Western front as in Russia, and considerably more from the end of 1943 onwards.

Such deployment is understandable in view of the massive bombing raids by the RAF Bomber Command and, later, also the US Air Force. Almost three megatonnes (!) of high explosives were dropped on Germany, bombing her flat. Considering that the Hiroshima bomb yielded less than 20 kilotonnes, the Allies’ bombers spoke to Germany in the language of the nuclear age.

It’s not only Germany’s cities that were obliterated, with 80 per cent of all houses destroyed, but also most of her industry that otherwise could have treated the Soviets to a few nasty surprises, including conceivably atomic bombs.

Also, Germany’s entire naval war was fought against the Allies, with the Soviets taking no part. That sapped German resources more than is generally recognised.

Germany’s submarine production alone used up more raw materials than her tank manufacturing. In its absence, Soviet soldiers could have enjoyed the sight of twice as many Tigers and Panthers in, for example, the Battle of Kursk.

At the same time, the Soviets were receiving mountains of supplies, mostly from America, but also from Britain. The dollar value of America’s Lend-Lease supplies to Russia was $28 billion (real money in those days) – and, unlike such supplies to Britain, those were gifts, not loans.

It wasn’t just indirect help either. From 7 December, 1941, the Allies fought in the Pacific, keeping Japan from attacking Russia from the east. They also fought the Germans in Africa from 10 June, 1940, and, from 9 September, 1943, in Italy. That gives the lie to the Soviet – and now Russian – propaganda that the Allies only landed in Europe on D-Day. The last time I looked, Italy was still in Europe.

Another overworked line is that D-Day happened after the Soviets had effectively won the war, with the Yanks greedily devouring the chestnuts Stalin had pulled out of the fire. In fact, at D-Day the frontline on Russia’s west was twice as close to Moscow than to Berlin. The war hadn’t been won – and possibly wouldn’t have been won without the Allies even at that point.

The contributions of the USSR and the Allies to victory were about equal, and conceivably neither side would have won on its own. It’s true that the Soviet Union suffered greater casualties than all the other warring parties combined, but not because she stood alone.

Actually, the Soviets executed 158,000 of their own soldiers following tribunal verdicts – and possibly twice as many without even that travesty of justice. But even such horrendous numbers are but a drop in the ocean.

The Soviets lost some 12 to 15 million lives in the Red Army (and perhaps as many civilian ones) because of the barbaric methods of fighting favoured by Stalin, the gross incompetence of Soviet officers and generals in the initial stages of the war, and the eagerness of Soviet soldiers to desert, surrender and even join the enemy. More than 6.5 million left the Red Army for such reasons during the war, over four million of them in the first months.

Saving soldiers’ lives simply didn’t enter into the consideration of the Soviets. And why would it? When Churchill expressed his condolences on the awful losses suffered by the Soviets, Stalin just shrugged: “We lost more during the Collectivisation”.

Since then the war has been sacralised in Russia, what with any other achievements not exactly thick on the ground. At the moment, the volume of the bugles whining and drums rattling is higher than ever – and Putin’s speech added quite a few decibels.

The US and Ukrainian intelligence believe that the 97,000 Russian troops amassed on the border with the Ukraine will invade late in January or early in February. War psychosis needs to be whipped up in preparation, and that’s about the only thing Russia’s government is good at (actually, they are real experts at money laundering too, but that’s off the subject).

Putin’s lies are part of that programme, although even many Western historians teach, or rather preach, the same fallacies of the Second World War. Stalin lives on not only in his portraits, now ubiquitous in Russia, but also in history books – many of them Western.  

5 thoughts on “Vlad is a historian of genius”

  1. Surely that’s just rhetoric, rather than official rewriting of history? Were anyone interviewing him to ask about the US-supplied trucks, the tanks we supplied (including the Valentine kept in production at Russian request as, small though it was, it filled a role the T34 and IS2 could not), would he deny those contributions? Russia honoured our veterans of the Arctic convoys with a medal in 2015. They annually commemorate the British and Commonwealth dead at cemeteries at Severomorsk and Murmansk. At least *some* Russians over there honour us.

    Meanwhile, there’s many an American convinced they won both WW1 & 2 by themselves, and will happily inform of how they ‘saved’ our ‘limey asses’, along with the ‘asses’ of the rest of Europe. Nor are Britons free from myth in this respect either, proudly talking of how we stood alone against Adolf, as in the famous David Low cartoon of the British soldier standing defiantly ‘Very well, alone’.
    Yes, *alone* we stood, arraigned before all the forces of Jerry-occupied Europe. Alone!
    …apart from Canada. Australia. New Zealand. South Africa. India. And the rest of Empire. And all those ex-pat ‘Free’ forces, Free French, Free Polish, Free Czech, Free Norwegian, Free Belgian. Oh, and the Resistance groups we were supplying, ‘setting Europe ablaze’.
    Alright, don’t labour the point (as he finds himself re-enacting that scene from Life of Brian).
    Kenneth Bird replied to Low’s cartoon, with two soldiers staring across the Channel: ‘So our poor old Empire is alone in the world.’
    ‘Aye, we are—the whole five hundred million of us.’
    (tbf, the 450 million and their resources were not exactly convenient to hand, across the Atlantic or the other side of the world.)

    And Russians are not the only ones who mock the French for their precipitate collapse—remember the Americans with their ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys’? Or the old joke about ‘French Army rifles for sale—never fired, dropped once’? Raised on that attitude, it can be a shock to learn that an estimated 90,000 French died fighting for France. (For interest, look up ‘1er régiment de parachutistes d’infanterie de marine’, both history and beret badge.)

    There are people from all countries who take commendable patriotism a bit too far. Don’t see point of sweating over some rhetorical flourishes by a politician in a speech to a domestic audience. I’m far more exorcised over MPs like Dan Carden and Kim Johnson who, after a failed bomb attack by a Muslim asylum-seeker(*), their first thought is for their precious Muslims, and damn us native British. And will our police, our genderfluid otherkins in blue, be wearing green ribbons in ‘solidarity’ with Muslims, as Notts police did after 7/7? Will they be rushing to guard mosques as they did after a Muslim murdered soldier Lee Rigby?

    (* Asylum rejected in 2014—YTF was he still here in 2021? ‘[R]ejected because he has been sectioned due to some mental health incident where he was waving a knife at people from an overpass’—waving a knife? YTAF was he still here in 2021?)

    When I evaluate the many threats to Britain, seems to me the main threat is already here, within our gates—and in power, from police through councils all the way to Parliament.

    1. Many countries push patriotism too far. Some of those countries hate us. Some have threatened us with nuclear annihilation. Some are buying up our politicians and use the City as a laundromat for their ill-gotten cash. Some are threatening to invade NATO countries and their allies, which could draw us into a war. Some are whipping up bellicosity to a level not seen since the 1930s. Some are murdering people on our territory with nuclear and biological weapons, albeit of a small yield. And which would those ‘some countries’ be? Only one springs to mind. But yes, many of our problems are of our own making – which is a separate and unrelated subject.

      As to Putin’s speech, of course it’s just rhetoric. But the rhetoric of the chieftain of a nuclear-armed Mafia state spewing venom about the West around the clock and making threatening moves is worth heeding. Evil tyrants, unlike our politicians, tend to mean what they say. Just think how much trouble could have been avoided if people took the rhetoric of Mein Kampf seriously.

      1. My reply is ‘awaiting moderation’ due to it containing links but wrt your last point, my rebuttal therein was tangential. To add to my reply and directly address it: no-one needed to read Mein Kampf to work out what Onkel Adi was about, only observe his actions as leader. Even before that, all that was required was to take note of the intelligence from the first British Army of the Rhine (1919–29) of clandestine German efforts to rearm along with warnings of the rise of the revanchist Stahlhelm and NSDAP.

        The problem of Germany was not limited to Adi but was the German political establishment—their ‘Deep State’. They were playing an underhand game from the start, beginning with Hindenburg and Ludendorff deflecting blame for their failure to win their war on to civilian authorities. E.g. Adi’s 1936 occupation of the Rhineland was not the first time Versailles’ Art. 43 was breached; that actually occurred in March 1920. The true story of Versailles is Germany’s repeated breaches, overt and covert, even before the ink was dry on their signatures—Onkel Adi was just more overt in continuing a course already set by the Establishment.

        No studying memoires or speeches is required, just mark the actual behaviour of governments; and what we find wrt Russia is broken promises. On 9 February 1990 US Secretary of State James Baker promised ‘no extension of NATO’s jurisdiction for forces of NATO one inch to the east.’ On 10 February German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher declared ‘For us, however, one thing is certain: NATO will not expand to the east.’
        On 8 July 1997 NATO invited Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic to join; 29 March 2004 and Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia formally became members; 1 April 2009 and Albania and Croatia became members too. Since 1949, NATO’s membership has increased from 12 to 30 countries, and now NATO—once about 600 miles from the USSR’s borders—is now not only on Russia’s borders but about 200 miles in what was once Russian territory, in countries historically Russian.

        Yet despite this gross breach of faith, Russia offered friendship to the West and sought co-operation. E.g. Putin, in the wake of 9/11, commissioned a 1000′ tall memorial to the dead, ‘The Teardrop’; within hours of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 Russia offered humanitarian aid to the US and ultimately sent 60 tons; they allowed NATO use of Russian territory, airspace and an airport in support of their Afghanistan mission, only ended in May 2015. Even in the face of increasing hostility of Western Neocons, Russia continued to make friendly overtures, such as ordering their cruiser Moskva to assist the French Navy in the wake of the 2015 Paris attacks by Muslim terrorists and offering Canada help in fighting the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfires (rejected by Trudeau).

        Russia’s current antagonism towards the West is entirely of the USG-led West’s making, breaking promises and taking every opportunity to piss on Russia’s chips. We should ask ourselves, as per the Mitchell & Webb line: ‘Are we the baddies?

        1. You are right. Russia is in imminent danger of a NATO invasion, led by Joe and Boris riding their white steeds. That’s why that unique combination of secret police and organised crime has to defend itself by murdering people all over the world, trying to undermine Western political institutions, waging a hysterical propaganda war, suppressing independent Russian media, pouncing like a rabid do on its neighbours and so on, ad infinitum. Your line has been taken by Russia since the tsars and all the way through Lenin, Stalin and now Putin – that poor country is always surrounded by hostile powers wishing her ill, which is why it has to starve its own people and kill, kill, kill. I suggest that, if you wish to regurgitate KGB agitprop, you do it somewhere else.

  2. At this very instant Russian forces MASSING in a very dangerous manner on the border with Ukraine. We pray for no offensive action, Big Red moves west. And how would USA, NATO, the world respond? Rather tepid I think.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.