Amid the incessant attempts, within and outside Russia, to erase or reverse the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany, we must never forget who is to blame for every single one of the many millions lives we lost.
March 3, 1943 saw the city of Rzhev liberated from the Nazi occupation. Out of the 50,000 people who used to live there before the war, only about 300 survived. Two days before the city was recaptured, German troops gathered the survivors in an old church and rigged it with explosives. The doomed residents got extremely lucky; there was no explosion – the Red Army advance force got there in time to disarm the bombs. Few were as lucky as this.
No one has ever doubted that an ultimate and clear understanding has been achieved on the subject of who was the perpetrator in World War II, and who the victim, as well as the liberator; and it seemed that nothing could ever change that. Alas. In the 21st century, the rehabilitation of Nazism has slinked back into our world.
We need, finally, to announce the Soviet Union’s loss of life and material losses in WWII and have these numbers memorized by all. The official number is 26.6 million people. It’s a result of complex calculations, but it’s official, and it’s the most precise estimate we have today.
Taking into account all the abominable attempts to revise both the cause and the outcome of WWII undertaken in the West, it’s a matter of big politics. And these numbers must be official, well-researched, scientifically double-checked and proven.
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics’ total population was defined as 196.7 million people at the start of the war. The State Commission came to the conclusion that the country’s total population was reduced by 37.2 million people during the four years of the war. The aggressor is fully responsible for all these losses, regardless of whether these people were victims of extermination, fell on the frontline, or died behind the lines because their living standards dropped dramatically.
At some point, this number was revised to exclude those who could have died naturally, regardless of the war, based on the average mortality rate in the USSR as recorded in 1940. Overall, these “natural cause” deaths were estimated at 11.9 million. The commission also added to this statistic 1.3 million children who died shortly after they were born throughout the war because of the spike in child mortality. After all these calculations, experts arrived at the final figure of 26.6 million people (37.2 million – 11.9 million + 1.3 million). It is now regarded as official.
Historians also did a thorough count of how many Soviet civilians perished due to the sweeping extermination policy pursued by the Nazis. The official record stands at 13.7 million. It was proven that at least 7.4 million Soviet civilians were killed intentionally – shot dead, burned, buried alive. Another 2.2 million people taken to the Reich as Ostarbeiters lost their lives due to inhumane treatment and backbreaking labor. On top of that, over 4.1 million civilians died prematurely on the occupied territories because of disease, starvation and overall poor living conditions.
In August 1942, in Stalingrad, before the counterattack, before the legendary battle began, between 40,000 and 70,000 civilians died in a single day (!) as the result of massive German bombing. One of the most beautiful and peaceful cities in the Soviet Union – a city that had pretty much no military bases, aviation or antiaircraft batteries – was ruthlessly destroyed and razed to the ground, all in one day.
Then, the attempt to starve Leningrad residents to death, which was the biggest war crime in history, claiming the lives of at least 800,000 people.
In fact, for Nazis the “group” subject to elimination was the entire population of our country – regardless of their ethnic (racial) or religious belonging. Russians, Jews, Belarusians, Tatars, Ukrainians, Mordvins and Chuvashes were only guilty before Hitler because they were the citizens of the USSR poisoned by the “Communist idea”, and most importantly they simply resided in territories that were part of Hitler’s “ruthless Germanization” plan.
These days, the USSR gets excluded from the list of winners, and often is not even mentioned, as if the country didn't even participate in WWII at all. The European Union goes even further to accuse the USSR of unleashing the war. Eastern Europe and the Baltic states officially declare at the government level that the USSR did not liberate those nations from Nazism, but rather occupied them and enslaved their people. Hold on a minute.
Does it mean that the verdict of the Nuremberg trials that determines the perpetrators of crimes against peace, namely, preparation for, and initiation of, WWII – doesn’t matter anymore?
The incalculable price that the USSR paid in the fight against Nazism was not the “price of victory” as it’s sometimes referred to for some reason. That is wrong. It was rather the price of saving all the survivors, and saving the remaining “four fifths” of the Soviet citizens, saving the whole of Europe, and I am certain, the entire world, from the devil of Nazism.
As for us – children, grandchildren, heirs and successors of the victorious Soviet people, we must do whatever possible to maintain the truth about WWII, its heroes, victims and criminals. And make sure a war like this never happens again.
The writer is an aide to the president of the Russian Federation.