Join 3,376 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Memoirs of the Great Patriotic War
April 18, 2011 9:56 PM   Subscribe

A collection of first-person accounts of the men and women who defended the Soviet Union against the Fascist invasion, and eventually participated in the race to Berlin. via the War Nerd
posted by pompomtom (22 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've been meaning to post this link in a thread: The Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System Online, a confusingly-organized collection of postwar interviews with Soviet refugees (typically people left behind in Europe after the war). Not without its biases, but fascinating nonetheless.

Also, a morbidly funny story. My great-grandfather was killed when the Germans shelled Moscow in 1941. He was visiting the Central Committee building at the time, and happened to be in an office that suffered an almost direct hit. One guy had just excused himself to go to the bathroom, nd when the explosion hit he was on the shitter. Apparently he and the shitter fell through several floors--and survived.
posted by nasreddin at 10:13 PM on April 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


These are awesome.
posted by Artw at 10:15 PM on April 18, 2011


Ah, Russians, playing to type...

The most “profitable” object under our guarding was the so-called “17th guard” – alcohol base. It was a depot, where the alcohol from all points of Berlin had been delivered and collected. Two sorts of spirits, technical (ethyl) and refined, were kept separately. If you’d see our guards’ chances! Everybody had its own “output” of alcohol – a flask, a carboy or some can… Aviators visited us: “Guys, we brought presents for you – the leather pilot’s jackets. Please exchange them for spirits.”

Initially, for our own consumption of spirits we made it with fifty-fifty water dilution. However, the diluted alcohol proved to be warm and disgusting to taste. Fellows improved the taste by adding salt in the glass. And finally we came with the best procedure: you pour refined spirits up to a third of a glass and take it in one gulp. Immediately after that you take two gulps of water – and you are in perfect bliss! You get up in the morning – no hangover! A drink of water – you are in bliss again!

posted by Artw at 10:17 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Great find, thanks. Natalia Peshkova - "Speaking of the puttees: we had two carts. Sometimes I was allowed to ride in one of them. Once I fell asleep in it and the second horse, which was as hungry as we, ate the cloth off my boot. I had to walk with one puttee for a month."
posted by unliteral at 10:38 PM on April 18, 2011


Estimates of total deaths (military and civilian) of major combatants from Wikipedia's World War WII Casualties:
China ... 10,000,000 to 20,000,000
France ... 567,600
Germany ... 6,777,000 to 8,863,000
Italy ... 457,000
Japan ... 2,620,000 to 3,120,000
Soviet Union ... 23,954,000
United Kingdom ... 450,700
United States ... 418,500
Remind us again of who won, and who lost.
posted by cenoxo at 10:47 PM on April 18, 2011


When We were in St. Petersberg we trudged through the snow in decaying boots, in what seemed at the time a pretty epic undertaking, to the museum of the seige. It was a pretty interesting experience, despite absolutely nothing being in English. The place was empty except for us and a couple of old ladies, the museum attendants, who may have been alive at the time of the seige. They mimed us through all the exibits, talking at length in Russian, of which we understood none, except what sounded like the word Deutches, spat out with considerable hatred and venom. By the end of it we knew one thing for sure: the seige had been really, really hard and they really fucking hated the Germans.

Then they wanted to know if we wanted to pose and take photos with a helmet and submachinegun, which normally I'd be all up for but somehow it seemed wrong after that.

We felt considerably less impressed withour badassery trudging through the snow back to the Hotel.
posted by Artw at 10:51 PM on April 18, 2011


Artw When we visited the museum of the siege we were impressed with the deliberately atmospheric, gloomy atmosphere. Then we realised they had turned off the lights, presumably to save money - they went round turning them back on as we went round. Didn't seem like there was a lot of money or tourist interest.

Especially poignant when you realise that so many of the victorious leaders of the Leningrad siege were killed by Stalin after the war - Moscow didn't like competition.
posted by alasdair at 11:40 PM on April 18, 2011


Remind us again of who won, and who lost.

Well this was back in the day when the winners got to hoist their flag over the loser's Reichstag.

It seems beyond dispute that Germany lost the war in Europe and they were defeated (at large cost) by the Red Army (who inflicted 2 out of every 3 German casualties.) Everything else about the 1938-1945 European war was a sideshow to that basic fact. Stalin had no more imagination than Lincoln and his "awful arithmetic", but the Red Army totally deserves its propers.
posted by three blind mice at 1:30 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can't walk ten feet in Moscow without seeing some monument to the 'Great Patriotic War'. The fact that the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were allies up to 1941 and fought together for two years to carve eastern Europe up between them is never raised, funnily enough. If Stalin hadn't murdered most of the Red Army officer corps during the purges and had actually believed the reports that his BFF Hitler had invaded the Soviet Union instead of turning over and going back to sleep they might have done a bit better earlier on too. The Germans were initially welcomed as liberators in Ukraine, after Stalin had starved several million Ukrainians to death in the early 30s, and it should be remembered, as writers such as Norman Davies and R. J. Rummel have pointed out, that a large, but ultimately unquantifiable slice of the massive Soviet death toll even during the war were Soviet citizens murdered by their own government.
posted by joannemullen at 1:33 AM on April 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


ArtW, and again:

"We even had oil lamps...which contained stearin diluted with alcohol... You could warm food or boil water. But why would you burn alcohol - you should drink it! That's why we dragged a rag through it and wrung it out - you could get maybe 50 grams of alcohol, and since we got several of these tins, you could drink a decent amount, although it was of course disgusting."

(I've only read 1 of 9 pages by this guy, and it's fascinating).
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:30 AM on April 19, 2011


Men, women and children played their part.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 3:50 AM on April 19, 2011


Я люблю русских.
posted by FauxScot at 5:06 AM on April 19, 2011


If Stalin hadn't murdered most of the Red Army officer corps during the purges and had actually believed the reports that his BFF Hitler had invaded the Soviet Union instead of turning over and going back to sleep they might have done a bit better earlier on too. The Germans were initially welcomed as liberators in Ukraine, after Stalin had starved several million Ukrainians to death in the early 30s, and it should be remembered, as writers such as Norman Davies and R. J. Rummel have pointed out, that a large, but ultimately unquantifiable slice of the massive Soviet death toll even during the war were Soviet citizens murdered by their own government.

No discussion of the Soviet death toll in World War II is complete without someone trying to shift some blame away from the Nazis.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:09 AM on April 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Norman Davies is a Polish nationalist who isn't taken seriously by Soviet historians.
posted by nasreddin at 6:08 AM on April 19, 2011


(Historians of the Soviet Union, that is.)
posted by nasreddin at 6:08 AM on April 19, 2011


Has anyone shown this to Garth Ennis?
posted by Artw at 8:14 AM on April 19, 2011


> If Stalin hadn't murdered most of the Red Army officer corps during the purges and had actually believed the reports that his BFF Hitler had invaded the Soviet Union instead of turning over and going back to sleep they might have done a bit better earlier on too. The Germans were initially welcomed as liberators in Ukraine, after Stalin had starved several million Ukrainians to death in the early 30s, and it should be remembered, as writers such as Norman Davies and R. J. Rummel have pointed out, that a large, but ultimately unquantifiable slice of the massive Soviet death toll even during the war were Soviet citizens murdered by their own government.

This is so full of oversimplifications and misstatements it should basically be ignored. Anyone interested in the subject should read Overy's Russia's War: A History of the Soviet Effort: 1941-1945, which is comprehensive and well written, as gripping a work of history as you'll read (but pretty depressing, as you might imagine).

Anyway, thanks very much for the post, pompomtom; I look forward to exploring the site.
posted by languagehat at 8:53 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


No discussion of the Soviet death toll in World War II is complete without someone trying to shift some blame away from the Nazis.

Because they were another psychotically violent authoritarian regime that planned to split Europe with the nazis. Remember how they divvied up Poland? Remember Katyn Massacre? Some have posited that Hitler's attack to the east pre-empted a later Soviet attack to the west...
posted by codswallop at 10:43 AM on April 19, 2011


Some have posited that Hitler's attack to the east pre-empted a later Soviet attack to the west...

Yeah, just like "some have posited" that aliens built the pyramids. Suvorov is a crackpot.

Look, the Soviet regime was horrible in a different way from the Nazi regime, and Stalin was horrible in a different way from Hitler; it can make for an interesting discussion, but anyone who uses one as a way to distract attention from the other can usually be summarily dismissed. Here's a good piece by Timothy Snyder, who has thought deeply about the matter and knows a lot of the relevant history.
posted by languagehat at 10:55 AM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Germans were initially welcomed as liberators in Ukraine, after Stalin had starved several million Ukrainians to death in the early 30s

Anatoly Kuznetsov was no darling of the USSR (nor was the USSR his darling), yet I believe he'd disagree a bit with this statement.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:01 PM on April 19, 2011


Given the number of these accounts that start out with what the future-soldier was doing in school at the time of their being drafted, I think it's probably a mistake to blame Stalinism or the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact on them.
posted by pompomtom at 2:37 PM on April 19, 2011


the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were allies up to 1941

for completely new definitions of allies.
posted by wilful at 5:23 PM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


« Older ヘヤ メタフィテレ! ヰテ ヨウ ナメ イン ジャパネセ!...  |  Team Ghost Riders... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments