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Soviet Storm
September 8, 2013 1:47 AM   Subscribe


 
Also available on Hulu.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:49 AM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hey, thanks for the heads up.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:56 AM on September 8, 2013


This fake, made-up, "historical" "colorized" "footage" thing . . . someone's going to write up the simulation of historicity in 21st-century simulations of television shortly and then fail to earn tenure because their career is a simulation, too.
posted by mississippi at 3:11 AM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


What makes you think the footage was colourised?
posted by MartinWisse at 3:47 AM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Looks great MartinWisse, I will be sure to check these out eventually.

Funny that they want to have it both ways... when speaking to outsiders they will call it WWII, and yet still it seems to begin in 1941. Was the Soviet Union not involved in any of this war in 1939, 1940? Oh, right, when they were allied with the Nazis that part doesn't count!
posted by Meatbomb at 4:41 AM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks for posting these!

[And as long as we're discussing Soviet-produced films about the Eastern Front, I'd like to put in a plug for Come and See -- one of the best movies I've ever seen about war. It's not a documentary -- but I'd say it's more honest about what went on in Russia during WWII than any non-fiction film I've ever seen. Indeed; it's the only war movie I've ever seen that really seemed like it does justice to the topic. And having now heaped encomiums on this movie, I have to add -- I'm tough when it comes to films, but I couldn't sit all the way through this one. The climax of the film was simply too much for me.]
posted by ariel_caliban at 5:10 AM on September 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Thanks for this! My grandfather fought and was wounded in the Siege of Leningrad and I am looking forward to watching this.
posted by griphus at 6:02 AM on September 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


and yet still it seems to begin in 1941
Some think it began in 1914
posted by robbyrobs at 6:59 AM on September 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


when speaking to outsiders they will call it WWII, and yet still it seems to begin in 1941.

Yeah, Americans are weird like that...
posted by MartinWisse at 7:01 AM on September 8, 2013 [14 favorites]


Nthing the film Come and See. The tone of the film is, once seen, difficult to forget. A masterpiece. Everyone should watch it. And they can: torrent.
posted by Mister Bijou at 7:17 AM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


What makes you think the footage was colourised?

It looks colorised: you've got a large sections that are all one color, and tonal differences are carried entirely in grey shades, rather than deeper, complementary colors. There's no reflected color, and color borders are very sharp. I could be wrong--it could be entirely an artifact of the film used.

It also looks like they've computer-generated some elements, or digitally inserted cropped content from other footage, and that's visible in terms of difference in grain.
posted by fatbird at 7:36 AM on September 8, 2013


Thanks. Always on the lookout for such things.
posted by FauxScot at 7:38 AM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Awesome!
posted by ph00dz at 7:52 AM on September 8, 2013


From World War II Casualtiestotal military and civilian deaths (top 20 in descending order):
1. Soviet Union ... 22,000,000 to 30,000,000
2. China ... 10,000,000 to 20,000,000
3. Germany ... 7,000,000 to 9,000,000
4. Poland ... 5,620,000 to 5,820,000
5. The Holocaust ... 4,869,860 to 5,894,716
6. Dutch East Indies ... 3,000,000 to 4,000,000
7. Japan ... 2,620,000 to 3,120,000
8. India ... 1,587,000 to 2,587,000
9. French Indochina ... 1,000,000 to 1,500,000
10. Yugoslavia ... 1,027,000
11. Romania ... 800,000
12. Hungary ... 580,000
13. France ... 567,600
14. Phillippines ... 557,000 to 1,057,000
15. Italy ... 454,600
16. United Kingdom ... 450,900
17. United States ... 418,500
18. Korea ... 378,000 to 483,000
19. Lithuania ... 350,000
20. Czechoslovakia ... 325,000
So, who were the winners again?
posted by cenoxo at 7:52 AM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are a lot of aspects of Soviet campaign on the Eastern front that Russian-produced docs won't cover.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:00 AM on September 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


So does this documentary cover the soviet war crimes or not?
posted by bdz at 8:03 AM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm just curious because I live in a country which was occupied by the soviet army for 40 years and the women in the village where my grandmother born was gang raped by the "liberating" soviet army. Both the soviets, the nazis were bad, fucked up ideologies and fucked up leaders.

So take it with a grain of salt what you see about glorious war winner soviet army.
posted by bdz at 8:16 AM on September 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


So does this documentary cover the soviet war crimes or not?

Yes. See, for instance, the episode The Battle for Germany
posted by Mister Bijou at 8:24 AM on September 8, 2013


the women in the village where my grandmother born was gang raped by the "liberating" soviet army.

Sadly, if the village where your grandmother lived had been in China or Korea, women were also raped and killed by Japanese troops. If the village where your grandmother lived had been in western France and Paris, women were raped and killed by American troops. It is What Soldiers Do.
posted by Mister Bijou at 8:35 AM on September 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


They are not free anymore, but Dan Carlin's Hardcore History's series on the Barbarossa campaign ("Ghosts of the Ostfront") is really good. Brutal stuff, but then war has probably never been more brutal than the East Front during WWⅡ.
posted by bouvin at 8:39 AM on September 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


So does this documentary cover the soviet war crimes or not?

Why would it? Of course it's going to depict glorious Soviets! That's why multiple historical sources, your family's narrative included, are important.

I am actually interested in the nature of the Allied behavior- for example I know that prostitution was encouraged because it was thought to prevent rape. But while it doesn't look as bad as the military brothels/comfort women situation, I can't imagine being treated like the un-rapeable alternative to male lust was fun either.
posted by Phalene at 8:43 AM on September 8, 2013


So does this documentary cover the soviet war crimes or not?

If only MartinWisse had been kind enough to provide you with some way -- any way at all -- to watch the documentary and decide for yourself whether it sufficiently aligns to your idea of what the most important thing to talk about is.

A shocking oversight by the OP, really.
posted by Etrigan at 9:04 AM on September 8, 2013 [18 favorites]


One of my grandfathers was drafted into the German army, although only briefly: he was forced to join shortly before the Soviet army arrived to "liberate" Estonia and he deserted during the German retreat. All the documents showing that he was in the Nazi army were destroyed during the war, but people knew and talked about it. So when the NKVD (forerunner of the KGB) got wind of this, they snuck an agent to the tailor shop where he was working at after the war, to find him out and deport him to Siberia as a Nazi collaborator.

That agent's sister became my grandmother. My grandfather died peacefully two years ago at the age of 88.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 9:26 AM on September 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Why would it? Of course it's going to depict glorious Soviets!

Ah, the pure joy of contempt prior to investigation. Hint: try watching the documentary. If that's too much, watch episode 16, The Battle for Germany.
posted by Mister Bijou at 9:34 AM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Great post!
posted by Renoroc at 9:42 AM on September 8, 2013


Looks like Military History is the international version of the History channel. I Wonder why this never aired in the US.
posted by Renoroc at 9:53 AM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


If anyone here thinks American soldiers didn't rape Native Americans, Southerners, Northerners, slaves, Germans, French or Italians, or any other nationality, please, turn in your internet license.

Hell, American soldiers even rape American soldiers. Very recent news, in fact. Quite a topic at the moment.

One can't really condemn the Soviets for JUST that particular aspect of their behavior, nor the Germans, Japanese, or anyone else. It is a sadly common occurrence in war. I always find it funny when I read "Oh those terrible _____________. They raped a lot of women." Pick a soldier type. They did much worse. And it's not just them. It's US. My Lai, anyone? Massacres everywhere. Cruelty. Torture. Barbarism.

War is the suspension of civilization. This is why we must abolish it. We suspend our own civilization when we engage in it.
posted by FauxScot at 10:26 AM on September 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


No, that other side was bad! Our side was good.
posted by telstar at 10:29 AM on September 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thank you!
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 10:57 AM on September 8, 2013


Come and See is thematically quite similar to Tarkovsky's Ivan's Childhood which is also excellent. It's on Hulu plus.

imho, the greatest war films are also anti-war films. I've found many interesting suggestions on this thread.

Thanks for the post, I enjoyed the first episode.
posted by xowie at 11:51 AM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, who were the winners again?

War is a bad thing, but the winners were

The 400,000,000 to 500,000,000 Chinese citizens who weren't murdered or enslaved by the Japanese Empire

The 150,000,000 or so Soviets who weren't murdered or enslaved by the Reich

The 30,000,000 Polish citizens who weren't murdered or enslaved by the Reich

and so on.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:03 PM on September 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


I've just finished Life and Fate - Vasily Grossman's epic. If you ever want Great Patriotic War immersion, look no further. Life can be grim.
posted by Mario Speedwagon at 2:41 PM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


War or peace, citizens of those countries had other enemies besides the Axis to worry about:
Soviet Union
People's Republic of China
Katyn Forest
New boss, same as the old boss.
posted by cenoxo at 2:52 PM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a great series for the description of Bagration alone. Strange to think the Soviets perfected blitzkrieg and used it to win the war, on a massive scale.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:05 PM on September 8, 2013


Anything where they superimpose actors over colourised historical footage along with sensationalised commentary gets my two thumbs up.

Strange to think the Soviets perfected blitzkrieg and used it to win the war, on a massive scale. KokuRyu

Yes I know what you mean, (although I wouldn't call it blitzkreig per se. Probably maneuver warfare).

But you know, I still think no one ever beat the Germans at that game. Right the way through the war and up until they end they still played an intelligent chess game with the pieces they had - but at the end they simply had no reserves, no gas and no vehicles to maneuver with.

The other reason I don't like Russian generalship is the shocking disregard for casualties.
posted by fingerbang at 4:10 PM on September 8, 2013


Fun fact I learned today from Zhukov's wikipedia page:

On the 100th anniversary of Zhukov’s birth, the Panakhida, Orthodox memorial service, was conducted on his grave, the first one for the entire existence of the Kremlin Wall Necropolis.
posted by bukvich at 5:16 PM on September 8, 2013


If Germany hadn't been engaged on the Eastern front, they could have easily repelled the Allied invasions. Something like 80% of the Wermacht was on the Eastern front when D-Day happened.
posted by Dasein at 6:05 PM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


fingerbang....

Soldiers are usually treated like a material and not much more. "GI" is government issue in US parlance. We like to think of them as being precious, but history suggests they are trained to die, as well as kill, and leaders waste them like a caste of cheap ants frequently. We had our own pile of nonsensical operations in WW2 and WW1 were lots more could have come home but for the actions of higher ups here and there. Generally, we only protect the expensive ones. Grunts just get ground up.

A lot of those Russian generals at Stalingrad were actually there in the breach. None of this "Have some champagne, Herr Goering, and we'll discuss the latest news from the front."

One reason I admire them to the degree I do is that this was back against the wall, we-are-all-gonna-die-including-me and ladies, step right up and pick up a gun or a sharpened shovel, too. Luck must have played a part in Stalingrad, some strategy, some brute waste of humanity, but it paid off. The remaining Russians would today surely be speaking German as part of an entire hemisphere of the Greater Reich if they had not wasted lives by the thousands on stopping Paulus and his crew. Things didn't improve a lot for them post WW2, but the west owes them a debt of gratitude, I think.

War is waste, pure and simple. Waste of millennia of human refinement. Waste of lives, material, effort. The human cost is just one cost. Russians may be a lot of things, but timid is not one of their national characteristics, any more than shy is a term you can use on Americans. Doesn't mean they are at the pinnacle of civilization, but damn, you have to admire their determination and perseverance.

One thing I am personally glad for?.... not being a Russian in the 1940's or a German in 1944.
posted by FauxScot at 7:01 PM on September 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


If Germany hadn't been engaged on the Eastern front, they could have easily repelled the Allied invasions.

Since the Eastern Front was the German point of the war, I guess the worry here would be that Germany takes Moscow and Stalin sues for peace. Was there an idea of an alternate plan to D-Day in that case? I'm just reading Rick Atkinson's The Day Of Battle, which is all about the Italy campaign, and that happened largely because Churchill felt that knocking Italy out of the war would be a significant morale booster for the Allies, while meeting Stalin's need for the Western allies to do something to take the heat off of Russia. If Ike and the Americans had their way, there'd have been nothing but spoiling attacks on the "soft underbelly of Europe", though how soft any underbelly is when it's lined by the Alps, I don't know.

I do know that, in Axis and Allies, if Germany can take Moscow early, then Germany and Japan can usually win it.
posted by fatbird at 7:10 PM on September 8, 2013


One thing I am personally glad for?.... not being a Russian in the 1940's or a German in 1944.

The only thing worse than this was being in the way between them.
posted by fatbird at 7:10 PM on September 8, 2013


Thanks. Really like how you get a feel for the ebb and flow of things. Watched quite a few of these. The presentation is a bit rough sometimes though. Weird how the intro sequence has a has someone saying "the allied team has captured the enemy flag" in german like in a computer game. I googled a bit and on the Tripwire Interactice forums someone identifies samples from the game Battlefield 1942. Also really bad german in the graphics and from some of the actors :D But all in all i liked watching these. Sitting here in Berlin and always keeping in mind all of the caveats others have mentioned above i am grateful that people were prepared to give blood, sweat and possibly their life to stop Hitler and his fuckers.
posted by ST!NG at 7:51 PM on September 8, 2013


The only thing worse than this was being in the way between them.
posted by fatbird at 9:10 PM on September 8


Yeah, I'm not sure if this is A True Fact or not but in Dan Carlin's take on the German / Russian war, he stated that Poland lost a larger percentage of it's population than any other country in the second world war: First, you have Russia and Germany, allied in tearing Poland apart, splitting it in half, and the massive loss of life involved in that whole show. Then, Germany blasted through, going east, and then occupied it, and then Russia blasted through it going west, and then occupied it.

Really a great post, OP, I look fwd to watching these -- thx!
posted by dancestoblue at 8:03 PM on September 8, 2013


What I always read was that no one wanted to be under either's thumb, and were happy when "liberated", and were prepared to fight on their liberator's side... only to be viewed with suspicion and treated with hostility and "we can't leave them in our rear" solutions. Villages were first wiped out by retreating Soviet troops carrying out a scorched earth policy; the Nazis didn't trust the survivors not to act as partisan saboteurs, so shot the rest... and when the Soviets came back through, decided that anyone who wasn't dead was a collaborator, and either shot them or shipped them off to Siberian labour camps.

This may be more of a received history of WWII than well documented fact, but I've never heard of anyone in Poland, the Ukraine, or the Baltics feeling anything but worse for being where they were. It's not enough that they were the battlefield, but they were treated as the enemy by both sides.
posted by fatbird at 8:25 PM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


What gets me is that WWII weapons ranged all the way from horse mounted Polish cavalry with lances all the way up to the two atomic bombs. Totally barbaric no matter what way you look at it.

Also, I remember my dad, who had signed up with the US Navy in 1943, telling us about how most of the guys serving the chow at the training bases in the US were German POWs. I don't recall how he came to the following conclusion, but I distinctly remember that his impression of them was that they were extremely thankful to not only be alive, but to be well fed and out of danger on American soil. My dad was destined for the Pacific theater, so perhaps they only had the German POWs at bases where the American GIs were headed there rather than Europe.

Also, great post, btw. Thanks!
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 8:28 PM on September 8, 2013


The remaining Russians would today surely be speaking German as part of an entire hemisphere of the Greater Reich if they had not wasted lives by the thousands on stopping Paulus and his crew.
FauxScot

Sure, but I never disputed this, not really my point anyway.

My opinion is that the Soviet generals burned through far more troops than they needed to. They were playing the same game against the Germans but they weren't really that good at it.

It's hard to generalize but I think Soviet generals were often of very poor quality, good ones were perhaps masters of drive and organization (and staying alive in a police state) rather than masters of confounding and unhinging the enemy.

And as for that race to Berlin between Zhukov and Rokossovsky, that must have directly destroyed perhaps hundreds of thousands of loyal soldiers. For what? Whatever that was that was not an example of great generalship.

Aaand finally.
If you are the head of the armed forces and your crazy political masters tell you to go pointlessly expend your army in stupid attacks, you are the only person who can say no. The only person.
posted by fingerbang at 8:33 PM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


WWII weapons ranged all the way from horse mounted Polish cavalry

This is a pretty widespread misconception. The calvary at Krojanty were equipped with large-caliber anti-tank weapons, and the charge was tactically very successful.
posted by downing street memo at 8:36 PM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


downing street memo: "WWII weapons ranged all the way from horse mounted Polish cavalry

This is a pretty widespread misconception. The calvary at Krojanty were equipped with large-caliber anti-tank weapons, and the charge was tactically very successful.
"

Huh... I do believe the encyclopedias in my middle school lied to me, then. I seem to even recall photos. I honestly never knew that before. Many thanks for the correction!
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 8:47 PM on September 8, 2013


If you are the head of the armed forces and your crazy political masters tell you to go pointlessly expend your army in stupid attacks, you are the only person who can say no. The only person.

Except that saying no will get you swiftly executed. Not cashiered, not reassigned, not embroiled in an argument -- executed. And the next guy will either have learned his lesson or will get executed as well. The best you can hope for is that you expend less of your army than the next guy would have.
posted by Etrigan at 8:50 PM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's hard to generalize but I think Soviet generals were often of very poor quality, good ones were perhaps masters of drive and organization (and staying alive in a police state) rather than masters of confounding and unhinging the enemy.

Yeah, one of the reasons why Soviet casualties in the war were so high was that Stalin had spent the 30s killing off any military man who showed enough ability to pose a future threat. So the military, like every other level of Soviet government, was full of yes-men and drones who knew nothing but how to make numbers look bigger. Sieges with no relief, secret killings of allied military officers for fear that they'd inspire nationalism, regular purges of the Soviet army... The only person who was worse at running a military than Stalin was Hitler.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:11 PM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


one of the reasons why Soviet casualties in the war were so high was that Stalin had spent the 30s killing off any military man who showed enough ability to pose a future threat.

I recall reading somewhere or other that it's as if Stalin lopped the head off his armed forces right before they were to be engaged in total war, which I think is a good way of stating it.
posted by dancestoblue at 9:36 PM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Stalin has some apposite quotes (apocryphal or no): "One death is a tragedy, one million is a statistic", "quantity has a quality all of its own" and "In the Soviet Army, it takes more courage to retreat than advance."

Re soviet generals, I'm not going to claim special expertise, but the senior staff such as Zhukov and Rokossovsky are judged by historians as pretty bloody good. It was the quality of the individual soviet conscript, illiterate, and half-starved straight off the collectivised farm, that was the issue.
posted by wilful at 11:14 PM on September 8, 2013


It was the quality of the individual soviet conscript, illiterate, and half-starved straight off the collectivised farm, that was the issue.
wilful

Not sure about that. Leaving aside all issues of human dignity and morality.

I think the Soviet conscript was fit for purpose in the kind of hammer-blow operations that nation favoured and, as such, unlikely to have been 'the issue'.

Further, I think they have a claim to be an excellent fighting force. They advanced relentlessly and defended with stubbornness and aggression, the Germans repeatedly express frustration that the Russians don't know they're beaten. A large part of that was the soviet grunt.

War is always blood and guts. The soldiers blood and the generals guts but I think the soviet infantryman did everything that was asked of them and more.

If we're talking about why so many of them died I still maintain that we are not judging the Soviet generals against the same standards we set of the Germans.

And someone upstream said something about Soviet Generals being at the front while the Germans were occupying Chateaux. Someone should tell Peiper and Guderian who led armoured thrusts in the lead tank. Or Manstein who commanded on the move. Also, shortage of 17C stately homes with elaborate water features in the Ukraine means this is not an eastern front story.
posted by fingerbang at 2:12 PM on September 9, 2013


Horses in World War II — Drafted, indeed, by the millions, with the Soviets in the lead and followed by Germany. War is no respecter of persons or animals.
posted by cenoxo at 5:21 AM on September 10, 2013


So, who were the winners again?

A lot of people who survived to show their number tattoos to the next generation.
posted by snottydick at 1:45 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sadly, if the village where your grandmother lived had been in China or Korea, women were also raped and killed by Japanese troops. If the village where your grandmother lived had been in western France and Paris, women were raped and killed by American troops. It is What Soldiers Do.

If anyone here thinks American soldiers didn't rape Native Americans, Southerners, Northerners, slaves, Germans, French or Italians, or any other nationality, please, turn in your internet license.

No, that other side was bad! Our side was good.


Okay, I hate to be “that guy” but I seriously cannot read this stuff without wincing. My uncle is Czech and my brother-in-law is Ukrainian. Both of their families were more or less decimated back in the Soviet days. They both have American citizenship now, which they are extremely grateful for. I’m sorry, but it seriously angers me when people pull this kind of moral equivalence bullshit. I am totally, 100%, completely comfortable and confident in saying, politics aside, petty moral point scoring aside, that yes, American and UK allied troops were at least 100x more truly just and truly “liberating” than Soviet troops. I don’t give a damn about your “they all committed rape” blah blah bullshit. That’s a goddamn lie and it’s frankly disrespectful to the people of eastern Europe. I mean, yeah, I like America-bashing as much as the next guy, but seriously, this is not a case of “total moral equivalence.” We really were the good guys, or at least the “less bad” guys, in this case. Mass rapes on the scale of the Soviets are simply not comparable to those committed by American troops, period, end of story.
posted by quincunx at 11:36 AM on September 13, 2013


One can't really condemn the Soviets for JUST that particular aspect of their behavior, nor the Germans, Japanese, or anyone else. It is a sadly common occurrence in war. I always find it funny when I read "Oh those terrible _____________. They raped a lot of women." Pick a soldier type. They did much worse. And it's not just them. It's US. My Lai, anyone? Massacres everywhere. Cruelty. Torture. Barbarism.

I don't see what lies behind this except false equivalence. You will find very few intelligent commentators who will deny any wrongdoing in soldiers from their side, and the behaviour of Allied soldiers in France may well have been everything they are accused of, but you're not going to convince me that it was equivalent to the Japanese in China, and the corpses of millions of people attest to that. Your sweeping theoretical equivalence is brushed away by actual, factual differences. The facts are what matter.
posted by Marlinspike at 7:35 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


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