A Note from the Translator: I recently translated for LR Novaya Gazeta’s jokey response to Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu’s idiotic call for denial of the victory of the USSR in the Great Patriotic War to be made an criminal offence, in a logically absurd attempt to make this appear a corollary of Holocaust denial. (Maybe excess bile addles the brain and the Ukraine’s morally and logically correct assessment of the Holodomor as a act of genocide has made him bilious?). Anyway, here from Grani.ru is a supremely intelligent piece with much food for thought. [LR: Click the "Essel" category in our sidebar to read Dave's prior translation]
Without Hitler or Stalin
Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel
I should start by saying sorry to Sergei Kuzhegetovich Shoigu as I consider the part he plays in breeding prize labradors in Russia is particularly impressive. I like labradors – and that includes Koni [TN: Putin’s dog, a gift to him from Shoigu). A good dog should not be blamed for having a bad master. I won’t get started on the Ministry of Emergency Situations – we are a catastrophic country and a country of catastrophes, so I imagine that Mr. Shoigu keeps himself pretty busy and I’ve heard no great complaints in this area.
So had he confined himself to his two main and honourable activities, we could have remained friends. But then he went and joined ruling party United Russia. Running his ministry, he saves his country – this while the ruling party is busy ruining it. I don’t see the logic. But I’m prepared to forgive even that. Let’s allow that he is a bit weak-minded. Or not much of a thinker. Or a bit yellow. And who isn’t afraid of Putin? Not even labradors will save you from him, not even Koni. A great number of people have been dragged into the bear’s cave, because they, trained back in the days of the CPSU, lacked the courage to stick in their heels.
But now Sergei Shoigu has decided to take in interest in law-making regarding matters of military history – and that I will not put up with. It’s not just that a “revision” of the results of WWII is by definition impossible, just as one cannot revise the conclusions of the Battle of Kulikovo Field [Note 1], the Battle of the Kalka River [Note 2], or the Battle of Crécy, or of the Hundred Years’ War. Shoigu could not, therefore, have had in mind the poor patients of Kashchenko Hospital [TN: Moscow’s largest psychiatric hospital] saying to their doctors that Hitler seized Moscow or that Stalin signed a capitulation on 9 May 1945 then poisoned himself along with his nurse, after which their bodies were burnt by Molotov and Beria. And in any case, a court would find such people to be psychologically disturbed and it would not be possible to incarcerate them for disseminating such “revisions”.
I don’t suppose Sergei Shoigu intends to lock up Anglo-American historians as well for thinking – as they rightly do – that the UK and the USA could have won the war on their own, without the USSR, and that had it not been for the USSR, there might well have been no WWII (which is certainly quite probable). Sergei Shoigu’s reach is nowhere near long enough for him to fling Ukrainian, Estonian, Lithuanian, and Latvian politicians as well into jail for being in no rush to thank their Soviet occupiers who drove out the German invaders and then took their place. Now that the Soviets have gone, you won’t see Czechs, Hungarians, or Poles (especially Poles!) going up to old tanks set up as memorials to lay flowers there – and they are quite right not to be doing so.
So whom precisely does Sergei want to jail and for what? Well, clearly it’s us, dear readers, that he’s after. For commenting, for expressing doubts, for displaying a lack of administrative cheer, for refusing to shout “Hurrah!” year after year for 65 years, for not feeling respect for the moustachioed monster who won the war not for his country but for himself personally and who did everything for that war to happen and to be lost. What leader back then would have sent his officers en masse to the firing squad and helped his enemy with exports of steel and wheat? Hitler was not getting ready for a friendly visit to Stalin but was instead preparing for war. Meanwhile, Stalin sent friendly delegations in the other direction and sleepwalked through it all, drunk on the blood of his own citizens.
What does Sergei Shoigu really think he’s doing? Has he even heard of, let alone read, the memoirs of Lev Kopelev, Vasil Bykov’s and Vyacheslav Kondratyev’s wartime writings, Grossman, Vladimov, Solzhenitsyn? Oh, all right… I’ll help him out and commit a crime.
Hitler’s Germany had, of course, to be defeated. For the sake of mankind, and for the Germans’ own sakes. Hitlers cannot be allowed to win. But the USSR ought to have been defeated and Stalins cannot be allowed victories either. The Allies – the UK and the USA – should have won. And they would have. No one would have left Hitler in power and enjoying freedom, no one would have forgiven the Holocaust. It should have been without us, though. We would then have been liberated by the English and the Americans.
Soviet power would have fallen and the country would not have suffered though the agonies of 1948-1953. And there would have been no Khrushchev, no Brezhnev, no Afghanistan, no Andropov, no Putin, and no KGB. And we would not have been born into the slavery we have been. The USSR should have been defeated in the war. The USA already had the atomic bomb and America could have used it to defeat Hitler, even if by then Germany had occupied the USSR all the way to the Urals. Leningrad should have been surrendered. Of course, it would have been far from pleasant under Hitler’s army, but millions of Leningraders would not have died, just as the citizens of Paris and Lyon did not die.
We could have survived until the liberation. But how could we have achieved such a state of affairs? How could our soldiers have dropped their resistance – what with zagradotryady [special troops behind the front lines with the task of shooting retreaters] and SMERSH? Who was going to abandon Leningrad when its unhappy citizens, subjected to propaganda until they had become fanatical, preferred to see their children die of hunger rather than surrender? I realised there had been a way out when I saw Bryan Singer’s film Valkyrie. Our only chance was Klaus von Stauffenberg. Our last hope. There would still have been a Nuremberg after that, only one without Soviet judges. Yes, and Germany would have avoided Soviet occupation (and the bestial behaviour of Soviet forces) and not
have had a Berlin wall. Stauffenberg would have saved theVaterland. Germany itself was not lost anyway. I was there recently. It’s a clean, smart, tidy, kind, and free country.
Whereas we… It was our last chance, I’ll repeat. If only General Olbricht had not been delayed by three hours and Fromm had not been a coward! Berlin, Paris (Rommel was in the plot!), and the whole of Northern Europe would have fallen to the plotters. Hitler would have been arrested before he was able to make his radio broadcast, as would Himmler and Goebbels. The concentration camps would have been closed down, saving those Jews still alive, and the truth about the Holocaust would….
England and the USA would have signed a separate peace treaty with Germany. Soviet troops would not then have invaded. No hammer and sickle over the Reichstag but rather the flags of the Allies. No 9th of May. All Stalin’s triumphs up the spout. Parts of Eastern Europe would have been saved too. Stalin would have stopped as he would not have attempted to fight the Wehrmacht plus the USA and the UK. Furthermore, the bomb was nearly ready – an extra deterrent. No Yalta. No Potsdam.
Just think how many more of our soldiers would have survived if the war had ended one year earlier! Another conference, this time not on Soviet territory, with other participants would have replaced Yalta. That shameful picture of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin would not exist. England would not have returned refugees to Stalin, Vlasov would not have been hanged because the Russian Liberation Army would have returned to Germany. The combined strength of the Wehrmacht and the Allies would have been sufficient threat for Stalin to hand back the Baltics (and probably Hungary and Czechoslovakia too). Meanwhile, the Ukraine and Poland would have received military aid from the West and might well have liberated themselves.
No one would have mollycoddled the USSR. Communism would have died 40 years sooner. I would have mourned von Stauffenberg no less than a wife. He could have saved Russia…
All right, Sergei Kuzhegetovich, you can haul in your gallows now. Do you really think that can frighten me after all that your victory has done to my country?
Note 1: Wikipedia: The Battle of Kulikovo (Russian: Куликовская битва, битва на Куликовском поле) was fought by the Tartaro-Mongols (the Golden Horde) and the Russians. The battle took place on September 8, 1380 at the Kulikovo Field near the Don River (now Tula Oblast) and resulted in a Russian victory.
Note 2: Translated from Russian Wikipedia: The Battle of the Kalka River (the spot is in what is now the Donetsk Region of Ukraine) took place on 31 May 1223 between an alliance of the Russian Princes and the nomadic Polovtsy against the Mongols. The Mongols won.