The Soviet soldiers defeated the metaphysical evil underlying German fascism
VICTOR LOUPAN, Head of the Editorial Board
Every year I write an article about the great victory for the May issue of the magazine “Russian Mind”. Although we all seem to know everything about it. The Ninth of May, the red banner above the Reichstag, the Victory Parade on the Red Square and everything connected with it. But we often overlook one simple fact. A great victory is preceded by a great war. With the big difference that a great victory is a great joy, but a great war is a terrible grief! It is so terrible, that there are simply no words in the human language to describe the indescribable essence of it.
The war, the great victory in which we almost religiously celebrate on May 9, began 80 years ago, on June 22, 1941. Today there is a debate: was it unexpected and treacherous or quite expected? But one thing is absolutely clear – the Soviet people, the ordinary citizens of the USSR did not expect it.
On the night between June 21 and 22, graduation parties were traditionally held at all Soviet schools. Dressed high school graduates celebrated, danced, and then – also according to the established tradition – moved somewhere to picturesque settings to meet the sunrise with their classmates. One of the girls graduating on this beautiful Saturday night was my mother. She sat with her friends on the banks of the Dniester, watching the sunrise, while Messerschmitts flew over them. This is how the war began for the inhabitants of the western regions of the USSR, where for the rest citizens its beginning was associated with the powerful voice and clear diction of Yuri Levitan. The text he read was simple and literally one-minute-long:
“Attention! Moscow is speaking! We are transmitting an important announcement from the government. Citizens of the Soviet Union!
Today at four o’clock in the morning, without declaring war, the German armed forces attacked the borders of the Soviet Union. The Great Patriotic War of the Soviet people against the German fascist invaders began. Our cause is just! The enemy will be defeated! Victory will be ours!”
For the Soviet people, Levitan’s voice was the “voice of the Motherland”. His radio reports always began with the same phrase: “From the Soviet Information Bureau!” It is interesting to note here, that despite the complete informational secrecy during Stalin’s times, Levitan’s reports in the beginning of the war did not hide the defeat and retreat of the Red Army at all the fronts.
And this is what the Soviet people heard from Yuri Levitan on May 8, 1945: “Order of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief for the Red Army and the Navy.
On May 8, 1945, in Berlin, representatives of the German command have signed the German Instrument of Surrender. The Great Patriotic War, which the Soviet people waged against the German fascist invaders, is victoriously over. Germany has been completely defeated.
Comrades, Red Army soldiers, Red Navy sailors, sergeants, foremen, army and navy officers, generals, admirals and marshals! I congratulate you on the victorious end of the Great Patriotic War!
In commemoration of the complete victory over Germany, today, on May 9, on Victory Day, at 22:00 the capital of our Motherland, Moscow, on behalf of the Motherland, will salute the valiant troops of the Red Army, ships and units of the Navy that have won this brilliant victory.
Eternal glory to the heroes who fell in the battles for the freedom and independence of our Motherland!
Long live the victorious Red Army and the Navy!
Marshal of the Soviet Union
Since we are talking about appeals to the people and the perception of the tragedy of what was happening, by the same people, I cannot miss to recall the famous, albeit belated, Stalin’s first speech after the beginning of the war. Before that, on June 22, only Molotov spoke briefly, clumsily and stumblingly. On July 3, 1941, the “leader of the peoples” started speaking on the radio in the following manner: “Comrades! Citizens! Brothers and sisters! Soldiers of our army and navy! I appeal to you, my friends!” This appeal was so unusually emotional, that millions of radio listeners immediately had tears in their eyes. “What is required in order to eliminate the danger hanging over our Motherland, and what measures must be taken in order to defeat the enemy?”, he asked further. Then he continued: “The war against fascist Germany cannot be considered as an ordinary war. It is not only a war between two armies. At the same time, it is a war of the entire Soviet people against the German fascist troops. The goal of this nationwide Patriotic war against the fascist oppressors is not only to eliminate the danger hanging over our country, but also to help all the European peoples groaning under the yoke of German fascism.”
I do not know who exactly wrote this Stalin’s appeal to the people, but it was written masterfully. It was later replicated as a brochure, which was read again and again by millions of people at the front and in the rear, including those who were in the rear of the enemy. In my opinion, Vladimir Putin valued this speech very correctly: “When the Great Patriotic War began, Stalin – despite all his policy towards the church, which was tough, if not to say cruel, – addressed the people in a completely different way – as “brothers and sisters”. And that made a lot of sense, because such an address is not just words. It was an appeal to the heart, to the soul, to history, to our roots, in order to outline, firstly, the tragedy of the current events, and secondly, to encourage people, to mobilise them to defend their Motherland.”
It should not be forgotten, that the beginning of the war was preceded by horrible times. The thirties were not only the years of “Stalinist repressions” and other “party purges”, which generally did not concern the majority of ordinary people. Such social phenomena as “collectivisation”, “dispossession”, “decossackisation” and other organisational processes during establishment of the Soviet system in all its specifics were much more massive and terrible. The terrible thirties were preceded by the hungry and cold twenties, and before that there was a horrible Civil War bringing death to up to 10 million people.
We are already accustomed to the idea that the Soviet people idolised Stalin, as evidenced from the general hysteria and the deadly spontaneous crush in the streets of Moscow on the day his death was announced. In fact, the “personality cult” and true love of tens and hundreds of millions of people for Stalin, not only in the USSR, but throughout the world, developed after 1945 as a result of the Great Victory. But by the beginning of the war, millions of Soviet people had no sympathy for either Stalin or the Soviet regime. And therefore, in order to convince the whole people of the sacred essence of country-wide resistance to the barbaric invasion of the German fascist hordes, it was necessary to forget for a while about the Bolshevik rhetoric dividing us into “whites” and “reds”, forget about the monstrous persecution of the church, forget about “public enemies”, about “Zinovievites” and “Trotskyists”, who were recently shot in the basements, with a clear belief that not all of them were killed.
It should not be also forgotten that having started the war almost by the middle of summer, German troops were already preparing to storm Moscow by the beginning of winter. They believed that the “blitzkrieg” was a success, that soon Soviet Russia would be defeated and enslaved, and that the Aryan Reich would finally take over the entire boundless European space. Millions of Soviet soldiers captured by Germany, who often surrendered without a fight, were for them a confirmation of the racial superiority of the Aryans over the Slavs and Jews, because for them Soviet regime was equal to “Judeo-Bolshevism”. In the minds and souls of the Germans intoxicated by fascism, anti-Communism and anti-Semitism combined into one consistent idea added by the racial classification of the Slavs as “untermensch”, which translation into Russian means “subhuman”. Where the “subhuman” had a foreseen fate: death or slavery.
In the beginning of the war, the Soviet people did not know all of these. But those who knew it, took it for the Pravda-newspaper-style Soviet anti-fascist and anti-capitalist propaganda, or simply could not believe that such a thing was possible.
But the German style of war of extermination quickly convinced our people that this was the case. In the occupied territories, the Germans and their collaborators mercilessly exterminated the Jewish population regardless of their age or gender. Hundreds and thousands of people were driven into ravines and shot from machine guns. But the horror was not only racial or ethnic. In the occupied territories, for example, they hunted Komsomol members. Almost all high school students and all students were members of the Komsomol. In small towns, especially in Ukraine and southern Russia, traitors led policemen and SS men to homes and apartments, pointing at the Komsomol members, who were then immediately arrested. Most often they were sent to concentration camps. But when it was impossible, they were simply killed.
In 1942, my mother was present at such a massacre in the village of Aksai near Rostov-on-Don. Recently a ruthless dispossession took place there, and the son of one of the executed esaul decided to avenge his father and became a policeman. So he pointed to a dozen of his former Komsomol classmates, and the Germans drove them into a small cellar. The residents who evidenced the case thought that it would be like a prison, because there was no prison in their village. But the policemen threw two grenades there. And then they forced the women to clean all this mess. There were practically no men in the village, but if they were, then only disabled and old people. My mother was also a Komsomol member, but she was evacuated, and no one knew her in the village. So, after this terrible scene, my grandmother took her Komsomol member card and threw it into the oven. Led by fear for her one and only surviving daughter.
The great German writer Ernst Jünger described in his famous diary how he lodged with his squad in an abandoned Soviet mental hospital located in a garden surrounded by a high fence, which housed several dozens mentally ill patients. Both local people and even good-natured German soldiers (from the elderly people) fed the poor fellows. But suddenly an SS medical detachment arrived at the hospital with a load of Aryan blood delivered for transfusion to the bloodless wounded. The SS men instantly shot the madmen as unnecessary human trash. And Jünger regarded it as an example of the prevalence of technology over morality.
The cult of technology was one of the ideological pillars of fascist modernism. The great German philosopher Martin Heidegger devoted one of his fundamental works, “The Question Concerning Technology”, to this topic. For him, technology is not just a method, but an area of getting out of secrecy, realising the truth. Proceeding from this, the unbearable episode briefly described by Jünger reveals the true and unbearable essence of German fascism.
Despite Communism as a reality, despite its extreme manifestation in the form of Stalinism, on May 9, 1945, Russia won the Greatest Victory in its entire history. Because there was something apocalyptic in the Great Patriotic War. Not in World War II, but in the Great Patriotic War. Because there was practically no war as such in Europe. France, who was the major and most powerful enemy of Germany in Western Europe, was defeated in a couple of weeks. The Poles heroically fought back, but this also did not last long. Even the terrible and apocalyptic genocide of the Jewish people in the Nazi death camps began to manifest itself in full force since 1942, after the defeat of the German troops near Stalingrad. This heroic victory became the beginning of the end for the Third Reich.
The famous Hitler biographer and Pulitzer Prize winner, American historian John Toland wrote how difficult it was for the Nazi ideologists to explain the unthinkable fact that Russian “subhumans” were driving them, “supermen”, with “impossible” technical superiority, to the ingloriously retreating German soldiers. The Soviet people not only inflicted a military defeat on them. The victory over fascism was also moral, as poorly equipped and not always well-fed Soviet soldiers defeated the metaphysical evil underlying German fascism.
The metaphysics of evil is just as important for our consciousness as the metaphysics of love and death, about which Schopenhauer wrote so profoundly.
Those who today are trying to underestimate the essence and importance of the celebration of the Great Victory, those who are trying to introduce negative notes into the major triumphal march of millions of soldiers who laid down their lives for the Victory, simply do not know what they are doing. Christians have understood long ago that an unbeliever, or in other words, a skeptic, does not understand the word “truth”. Does not understand like Pontius Pilate. For an educated Roman of the time of Christ, the truth is the meaningless delirium of a fanatic who does not understand the subtleties of life.
Here is what the philosopher, theologian and GULAG prisoner Pavel Florensky wrote about it: “What is the truth?” – Pilate asked Truth. He did not receive an answer <…>. The Living Answer stood in front of him, but Pilate did not see Truth as its trueness. Let us imagine that the Lord <…> would answer the Roman Procurator: “I am the Truth”. But even then, again, the questioner would have remained unanswered, because he did not know how to recognise Truth as the truth”.
Those who downplay the fundamental role of Victory Day celebration today, do not really understand the role of truth in the continuous struggle between good and evil. Without understanding the metaphysical essence of evil, they do not understand that their irony and giggling are metaphysical defilement. But you can only dirty something clean and beautiful. Dirt and uncleanness cannot be stained.
“Our cause is just! The enemy will be defeated! Victory will be ours!” There is only one word missing. And this word is – Amen!