Monday, March 12, 2012

Moscow's 65th Anniversary Victory Day Parade

Soviets capture Berlin, May 1945

Americans of all political stripes are far too quick to bluster and be triumphal over our role during World War II.  We are too slow to acknowledge the enormous historic debt owed by the free world to the people of the former Soviet Union.

According to official Soviet estimates that were released in 1993, there were over 8.8 million military killed or missing and over 13.6 million civilian losses for a combined total of over 22.4 million.  Deaths due to increased infant mortality during wartime, death is German labor camps, deaths due to famine and disease in German occupied territory drove the total losses to about 26.6 million--more than any other combatant nation.  That is more than 42X more than the total number of deaths in America's costliest war--the U.S. Civil War which claimed 625,000 lives.  The Soviet Union lost about 13.8% of its total 1939 population during the course of the war, the USA, by contrast, lost 0.32% of its total population with just over 416,000 deaths during World War II.  These are truly staggering numbers.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties_of_the_Soviet_Union

Soviet War memorial at Imperial War museum in London
Over 36% of Russian men aged 20 to 34 were killed during the Second World War, over 33% of men 35 to 49 as well.  A generation of Soviets was obliterated at places like Stalingrad, Kursk and the three-year-long siege of Leningrad.  Nor were the casualties exclusively Russian; they came from all corners of the former Soviet Union.  Over 1.3 million Ukranians alone were killed in the war.  Stalin cooly remarked that, "A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic".

In Paris you will find Stalingrad station on the Metro.  In London, you will find a memorial to the Soviet war dead in the garden of the Imperial War Museum on Lambeth road.  http://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/iwm-london

These massive deaths were not in vain.  Four out of every five German soldiers who died in the war perished on the Eastern front (http://facts.randomhistory.com/world-war-ii-facts.html).  Please pause a moment to let that fact sink in!  The Soviets effectively won 80% of the war in Europe.

We Americans tend to become somewhat sentimental about the so-called "Greatest Generation".  The brutal truth is that most of the "Greatest Generation" might never have survived the war without the tremendous sacrifice of the Soviet people.

U.S. Army in Red Square, 2010
On May 9th, 2010 Russia marked the 65th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Moscow_Victory_Day_Parade).  For the first time in her history the military forces of all the allied nations were invited to participate in the parades and celebration.  Forces from the UK, France and the USA among many others participated.

The White House put out an appropriately worded press release (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/statement-president-commemorate-65th-anniversary-marking-end-world-war-ii-soviet-un).  During the 2008 election campaign candidate Obama boasted of of his maternal relatives' military service during the war. On May 9th, 2010, President Obama and Vice President Biden were unable to attend the Victory Day Commemoration.


Brits in Red Square 2010




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