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Stalinism to the end

Author: praecept0r from NY, USA (mostly)
4 March 2009

WWII is the sacred subject in Russia. No other country sacrificed this much. No other battles fought through the war come close in magnitude to what was going on on the eastern front. As an aside, that part of the war is totally forgotten and ignored by Hollywood or TV network documentaries in the States. Americans have all seen Iwo Jima, 70000 marines on an atoll in the Pacific. Few know Stalingrad, some know Kursk, then battle for Berlin, obviously. Where is the rest of the war? Just as an example - how many people interested in WWII history heard of a meat grinder called Rzhev where almost a million Russian soldiers were killed in 1942-43, along with 200000+ Germans? As bizarre as it looks in a western society, the Soviets never talked about early defeats much, hence those are virtually forgotten everywhere.

What would one learn watching hours and hours of the mini-series "Voyna"? Nothing, unfortunately. The six-part miniseries were made in 1990, at the time when little bits and pieces of truth about the horrors of the Stalin's reign grew into a steady stream. "Children of Arbat" by Rybakov and the film "Pokayanie" by Abuladze have seen the light. To certain degree, de-stalinization of the society stepped up. However, lives, destinies, ideologies in this country have always been polarized, there are always two sides in the barbed wire. Well, Stadniuk, the writer for this movie was a nationalist-communist and true Stalinist to the end. The film's action starts in June of 1941, a week before the war. We are immediately met with a standard communist party phraseology about the early mistakes in the war, unpreparedness of the Soviet Union and a great toll that repressions of 1930s had exerted on the Soviet armed forces. Stalin is not to blame, it's basically Beriya's fault. We are back to 1954 official explanation of these events when these generals and officers were largely rehabilitated by Khrushcev. Oh well, the rest is no better ideological garbage of carefully masked half-truths and the official soviet doctrines. There is nothing about the "unknown", or never mentioned by propaganda events of the war, etc, etc.

How valid is this film now? Not much. For the human side of the war, there were excellent great movies already made and stories written and hopefully more to follow. For the greater historical scope, and cinema educating the masses - a bit more materials surfaced by now, with lots and lots still locked in the archives without any access to it. Most young Russians don't care about history, others support neo-nationalist causes and love their new fuhrers, the textbooks continue the old lies. The prevailing ideology inside the country once again, and may be more than ever resembles something that the grandfathers and fathers fought in 1941-45. There are interesting books as of late, few based on serious research. Most of the new literature is based on fantasy. A lot needs to change in Russia, so that people could be interested in learning the full truth and capable of facing it. One could only hope that it will come out one day out of the locked archives. And one could only hope that one day the populace shall realize that "negativity" about the war, its conduct, its bloody generals, Stalin and all the craziness on top only underscore the valor of those in the trenches. Then we can view the heroism through the clear prism of truth and learn something about the previous generation and for the future.

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