Our joint victory! Russian Ambassador to New Zealand Andrey Tatarinov notes Russia's leading role and enormous sacrifice in the defeat of Nazism 65 years ago.
The war, in which 72 countries were involved, stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean and took the lives of over 55 million people, 27 million of whom were citizens of the Soviet Union. In our country, 1710 cities, over 70,000 villages and 32,000 plants and factories were destroyed. In total, almost 35 million Soviet Army men participated in the military actions during the war.
The victory in the war with Nazism was won at a very great cost. The military allies, the oppressed nations of Europe and the German anti-fascists fought shoulder to shoulder with the Red Army.
The Second World War was truly an epoch-making event. It was not only a global struggle that surpassed in its scale all previous military conflicts in the world's history. That struggle involved not merely a clash of the different interests of countries; it was a matter not so much of competing ideologies as polar, uncompromising approaches to the very foundations of the existence of the human race. For the first time in history, the stake in that battle was the preservation of life of whole nations. Gas chambers and crematoria of Oswiecim (Auschwitz), Buchenwald, Salaspils and other concentration death camps and the Holocaust tragedy showed what fascism implied and what sort of future the so-called 'new order' was preparing for the world. Those who today in some countries question both the significance of the victory and the role of the Soviet Union in it forget that without them these countries might not even be on the map.
As for the pre-war history of the war, we should not forget the policy of appeasement towards fascist Germany, which was used by Great Britain and France with the goal of directing Nazi aggression towards the east, against the Soviet Union. The Munich agreement of 1938 became the culmination of that policy. It was the Munich agreement which caused a division among the prospective allies in the war with Nazism, causing mutual mistrust and suspicion among them, which in fact snuffed out hope for establishing a united front in the fight with fascism.
Of course, we should not ignore the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed in August 1939. However, in the light of the historical events of the day, the Soviet Union not only was left face to face with Germany because the Western countries rejected the proposed system of collective security but also faced the threat of war on two fronts--because it was in August 1939 when the conflict with Japan on the Khalkhyn Gol River reached its height. The Soviet diplomacy of the day for good reason considered it, at least, unwise to reject the proposal of Germany to sign a non-aggression pact and to stand alone against the most powerful military machine of Nazism in the situation where the potential allies of the Soviet Union in the West had already signed similar agreements with the German Reich and did not want to collaborate with the Soviet Union.
However, we would like to remind that in Russia the moral aspect of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact has received an unequivocal evaluation in the Parliament. The same cannot be yet said about some other European countries, which made very equivocal decisions in the 1930s.
Many countries, including New Zealand, made an inestimable contribution to achieving the victory. We commemorate with deep respect 11,600 New Zealanders who gave their lives during the Second World War.
However, it is an undeniable fact that it was the Soviet Union that bore the brunt of Nazi Germany's aggression and suffered the hardest trials: not only Germany, but in fact, the whole of Western Europe fought against it. In 1944, the length of the Soviet-German front was four times greater than that of all the other fronts put together where the Soviet Union's allies fought.
On the Eastern Front, up to 201 enemy divisions fought, while the American and British troops during the same months fought with two to 21 divisions. Even after Western countries opened the Second Front in Western Europe, when the Allies had 1.5 million people under arms, the Nazi military forces numbered 560,000. At the same time, 4.5 million German soldiers were concentrated on the Soviet-German front, where 6.5 million Soviet soldiers fought. Hitler's troops had their main losses in combat with the Red Army: 70 per cent of Germany's personnel and 75 per cent of its total military equipment--tanks, weapons, aircraft. The Soviet Union's territory, cities and villages suffered the main brunt of Hitler's aggression. Three-quarters of the German military forces were defeated on the Eastern Front and these were the most effective, battle-seasoned military units.
The decisive battles that determined the outcome of the war also took place on the Soviet-German front: the Battle of Moscow (December 1941-January 1942), the defeat of Paulus's army at Stalingrad (November 1942-February 1943) and, at 'finally, the Battle of the Kursk Bulge (July-August 1943). Those and other victories were won at a great price. Hundreds of thousands of Soviet soldiers and officers gave their lives on the battlefields. Even our Western partners could not deny the obvious facts. Winston Churchill wrote: 'It is the Russian Army that has done the main work of ripping the guts out of the German Army.' It is a pity that in June 2009 during the celebration of the 65th anniversary of the invasion of the allied forces in northern France almost none of the Western leaders, with the exception of the President of the United States, Barack Obama, mentioned in their speeches the Soviet Union's contribution to the victory over fascism. Moreover the Second Front was opened only in June 1944--eleven months before the end of the war, when Soviet troops were approaching Germany, and it was obvious that she had lost the war.
Our debt to those who paid with their blood for the salvation of the human race from fascism is first of all that we must put a reliable barrier in the way of spreading ideas of intolerance, and racial, national or religious superiority. The unity of the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition, the harmonious development of relationships between different nationalities and religions, tolerance and mutual respect, the preservation of cultural diversity and the open and constructive dialogue of civilisations--these are the main conditions for victory over the forces of hatred and extremism.
The lessons of the Second World War look relevant from the point of view of the formation of the post-war world order. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the turning point in the history of the 20th century occurred with the founding of the United Nations Organisation during the war, and the Soviet Union (and the Russian Federation as a continuing state) is rightfully considered one of its founders. Even today the United Nations serves as a central link of the international system, a key factor for maintaining stability and security in the modern world and the cohesion of the global community as it faces new challenges and threats. It is important that by joint efforts the truly democratic and equitable principles of international relations were laid down in the UN Charter; it became the universally recognised foundation of modern international law, the fundamental code of behaviour of countries and international organisations. Its principles and norms that passed the test of the Cold War are today the essential foundation for the formation of the new safe and just world order of the globalisation epoch.
The results of the war had a great impact on the development of international relations. Even today, 65 years later, when the world has unrecognisably changed, the elements of the post-war order of Europe and the world are still of great importance for the preservation of peace and security on our planet.
Victory anniversaries should not become an excuse for confrontation or be used for settling old scores and offering mutual offences. Victory Day (9 May) should become a symbol of commemoration and reconciliation. It is important that this celebration should promote the unification of all countries and peoples and help to strengthen our solidarity in the face of the global challenges of the 21st century. The anniversary celebrations should serve as a reminder of the great inner spiritual potential of Russia and the Russian people. In view of this, the history of the Great Patriotic War is for us a constant source of strength and security. The memory of the war and the millions of its victims is sacrosanct; this memory should be carefully kept and protected from slander. For all honest people, the Victory Day celebration will remain an undimmed and sacred occasion.
Russia and many other countries celebrated the Victory Day anniversary and honoured the veterans. It is good to know that Russian people who were participants in the military actions, workers of the home front and victims of the siege of Leningrad live in New Zealand. To commemorate the Victory Day anniversary they were awarded a special medal established by President of Russia Dimitri Medvedev--'65th Victory Anniversary in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945'.
During the war our allies from the anti-Hitler coalition, including New Zealand, helped us to fight fascism. Hundreds of New Zealand seamen were participants of the Arctic convoys, delivering military equipment, medical and food supplies to Murmansk and Arkhangelsk across the North Atlantic. Those convoys were unprecedented in their risk--trips across the ice and through storms, under attack by fascist aircraft and submarines. During the entire period of the war 77 convoys to Russia carried more than 4 million tonnes of cargo. Regretfully, about one hundred ships were destroyed by the enemy. Many courageous seamen, including New Zealanders, sacrificed their lives for our joint victory.
Like the Russian veterans, the New Zealand participants in the Arctic convoys were awarded anniversary medals. On the eve of Victory Day on the Wellington waterfront a traditional wreath-laying ceremony was conducted near the memorial bronze plaque which was an initiative established and sponsored by the Russian Embassy in May 2005 to honour the veterans of the Arctic convoys. The hymns of Russia and New Zealand were played. It is noteworthy that diplomatic relations between our two countries were established during the war--on 13 April 1944. Last year we celebrated their 65th anniversary.
The historical experience of the international brothers in arms during the war has a special significance in a situation where the human race again faces a global challenge, this time from international terrorism, which is no less dangerous and treacherous than fascism and no less merciless: thousands of innocent people have already become its victims. The foundations of civilisation are threatened again. Like fascism, terrorism has nothing to offer to the world except violence and disrespect for human life, the readiness to destroy even the very basic norms of human morality in order to achieve its maniacal goals.
To cope with such a threat, like it was done 65 years ago, is possible only on the basis of solidarity and mutual respect. Double standards with regard to terrorists are as unacceptable as attempts to rehabilitate the fascist accomplices. Allowing terrorists to speak publicly about their misanthropic ideas is as immoral and unnatural for modern Europe as parades of former SS men in the countries which claim to keep democratic values.
Victory Day is one of Russia's most joyful celebrations, although we celebrate it with tears in our eyes. It will always be celebrated with great respect and honour by the Russian people and by all who treasure peace on our planet and the happiness of all the people who live on it.
In the annals of warfare, the Russo-German War of 1941-45 stands supreme, not only in the scale of forces involved but also in the extent of suffering inflicted. The Red Army's losses were horrific, an average of 8000 soldiers dying each day for four years. Civilian casualties were equally horrifying. With the bulk of the Wehrmacht engaged on the Eastern Front, the outcome of the war depended on the Soviet Union's effort. Its Western allies, including New Zealand, owe a great debt to the Russian people for their achievement and sacrifice in the great battles--at Moscow, Rostov, Stalingrad and Kursk to name but a few--that tore the heart out of our common enemy.
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|Publication:||New Zealand International Review|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2010|
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