Category Archives: Saint-Petersburg

The 75th Anniversary of the End of Leningrad’s Blockade (1944-2019)

January 27th, 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of Leningrad’s Blockade (1944-2019).
It’s been a few years now that some folk in Russia are wondering as to why this date is still being marked. They have gone as far as to state that the Blockade was instigated by Stalin to kill as many civilians as possible, while in fact the Fascist troops were never going to destroy the city or its people. Never mind that there are German sources that prove the opposite intentions of Hitler and Co. As if the mere instance of such view was not enough, what I personally find disgustingly amazing is that this view is often expressed by the Jewish people. The very co-nationals of those who would be completely annihilated, had Herr Hitler had his way. 

Last year millions of Russian people, myself included, were outraged when one Russian teenager gave a speech at Berlin’s Reichstag. The speech was claimed to have been his own research into the hardships of a young German soldier who fought on the Fascist side and died of wounds during the Stalingrad Battle. The boy’s speech sounded apologetic of the soldier’s sad fate; he expressed compassion and a hope that such war would never happen again. Of course, for the sake of poor invaders who’d have to face the brutal Russians once more. 

This year some Germans have voiced their surprise: how much longer will they have to apologise to the Russians for the massacres of the Second World War? More precisely, what’s that thing about the heroes of Leningrad’s Blockade? They are not heroes, no way.

Indeed, given that most European countries gave in to Fascist regimes in weeks, if not days, after the invasion of each of them, it must be really hard to get a European head around the fact that it was possible to stay in a city for nearly four years, enduring hunger, cold and air raids, watching your friends and relatives die, and never wishing to leave it or to surrender. The more I follow these morone blurts of contemporary Europeans, the more I am inclined to believe that in 1939-45 in Continental Europe one could either collaborate, if he was a European, or die, if he was a Jew. A small proportion who weren’t prepared to do either joined various Resistance movements. They could still die, but at least their conscience was clear.

Ever since Hitler’s watercolours surfaced in early 2000s and art historians have taken a keen interest in them, I felt it wasn’t long before we’d hear that this great dictator who is duly loathed by every sane person was a really nice chap. A good fella who had the misfortune to lead Germany in that terrible war against the USSR under that tyrant, Stalin. 

And surprise! We only had to wait until the Ukrainian Maidan to hear it all: that Fascist demonstrations should be allowed in a progressive democratic society; that it was the USSR that invaded Germany and Ukraine (they don’t mention that Ukraine was the Soviet Republic at that time); and that the Russians should stop being so touchy about their casualties. Shortly before 2014 we had heard that Leningrad should have been given up instead of enduring the Blockade. For at least a decade there have been torrents of criticism of the annual Victory parades and, more recently, of the Immortal Regiment movement. And finally, last year “the voice of the progressive Russian youth”, Nikolay from Novy Urengoy, sympathized for the young German invader whose life so sadly ended somewhere in Stalingrad.

Add the fact that a European school curriculum is either ambiguous or altogether taciturn about the role of Russia (formerly the USSR) in the Second World War, and it is clear that the anti-Soviet propaganda has been working to mask, downplay and perverse the Soviet effort and victory practically since May 9th, 1945. And now it has come to Germany asking, how much longer it has to remember its atrocities against the Russian people in that war.

Can you imagine Germany asking how much longer it will have to hold various Holocaust Memorial Days? Can you imagine anyone asking when the Holocaust as a theme will stop being a sure guarantee for either an Oscar or a Nobel Prize in Literature? Just a reminder of that Austrian professor who’s had the misfortune to deny the Holocaust and was persecuted for it, and it’s clear what the answer to the above questions is. Never. Never will the Holocaust cease to be the scare and an opportunity for fame in either Europe or America. I’m looking at it from the point of various propagandist efforts, I’m not denying anyone’s personal sentiments.

Just for the record: according to what we know from existing documents, Hitler didn’t really distinguish between Russians and Jews. For him and his financiers both peoples were to be disposed of. Apart from the affluent few, Russians and Jews were too populous, too poor, and too grounded – historically. One could tell tales about the superior Aryan race to the fellow Europeans, but not Russians or Jews. Besides, despite the differences, both nations would never subscribe to the Protestant ethics, as professed by the Fascists. And therefore they both had to be driven to extinction. 
Nowadays Europe wants to remember only about the Jewish genocide. Perhaps, it’s easier (in various sense) to contemplate the murder of some 6 mln people. Even if we include non-Jews and the figure rises to 17 mln, it is still easier to stomach, given that in both cases the number is spread across much of Europe. It’s different when you are left to swallow the unbelievable 28 mln dying in Russia alone. It’s different when, instead of an orderly sequence of “arrest-detention-transportation to a camp-death in a gas chamber”, you are faced with war-time footage of the Nazis shooting Russian toddlers, hanging the women soldiers, and destroying the entire villages and cities. The uncivilized Russians defended their country and caused the Fascists to kill 28 million of people (the search for the unknown victims of war continues, and the figure is now approaching 30 mln).

So, yes, it’s easier to remember the Holocaust; it’s “only” 6 mln, and it was so “civilized”.

I’ve been monitoring these morons both in Europe and Russia for years, and whenever it was appropriate I have never shun from expressing my opinion. So, while I don’t deny the Holocaust (which has been marked separately in the last few years in Russia), my sense of patriotism and historical fairness proposes the following suggestion on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the end of Leningrad’s Blockade:

— Europe and America stop apologizing for and otherwise remembering the Holocaust, and we stop reminding the world about 30 million dead Soviet citizens (Jews included) and of who really won the Second World War.

In the unlikely event of the Holocaust Memorial Days being erased from European and American calendars in the upcoming years, our Victory Day on May 9th will, too, become just another day when we remember the heroes of our history, rich in defensive wars. Cue in Borodino Battle, the Battle in Kulikovo Field, or the Battle on the Ice. 
You should realise, of course, that the above suggestion is proposed with a great deal of bitter irony. The way history is going, however, the Victory Day we celebrate now may be changed by another of its kind one day too soon. As much as most of us don’t want it, it can only happen in the event when that unbelievable quid pro quo comes to life. For, the moment we stop being sorry about either 6 mln, or 30 mln, the new catastrophe will explode.

The Revolutionary Smolny Telephone

In Russia, when you cannot get through a certain number, you say that the number is engaged ‘like at the Smolny’. The Smolny Palace was built by Giacomo Quarenghi in 1806-08 to house the Smolny Institute for Noble Maidens, Russia’s first institution for women’s education. However, in 1917 the Smolny Institute was moved out of Petersburg, and between October 1917 and March 1918 the building served as the headquarters for the Bolshevik Government. Vladimir Lenin resided here, and several revolutionary decrees got passed here in November 1917, including the Decree on Peace and Decree on Land. Naturally, the phone line must have been engaged most of the time, due to a high activity of the Bolshevik government, and so the abovementioned expression originated.

The Museum of Contemporary History in Moscow’s Tverskaya St. has tweeted a picture of the phone that was used by the Military Revolutionary Committee in Vassilevsky Island to keep in touch with the Bolshevik headquarters at the Smolny.