I first celebrated День Победы (“Day of Victory”) on May 9th as a student in Moscow in 1985. In Russia, this holiday marks the defeat of Hitler on May 9, 1945. Celebrating it for the first time decades ago left a big impression on me. It changed the way I thought about World War II. Of course, as an undergraduate student at Stanford back then, I had taken courses on Soviet history and knew that Soviet losses towered above all other countries shattered by that war. But it’s one thing to read numbers in a textbook; it’s another to see, feel, and witness the significance of this war to people in real life. There is no family in the post-Soviet world (or Europe, for that matter) that was left untouched by this horrific war. Stories of great-grandparents serving on the frontlines or grandparents hiding in shelters as kids live in every family to this day. Soldiers and civilians of the Soviet Union paid tremendous sacrifices to defeat Hitler.
Very well said, but you have also laid out the biggest long term challenge... the future and how will history reflect this era. Your substack is an excellent forum to show your experience, expertise, and current thoughts.
History, though, is the greatest challenge of our era here in the US and around the world. It is how we experience it, study it, remember it, honor it, critique it, and ultimately learn from it for a better day. Putin, and many others foreign and domestic, are trying to use history as a weapon. Some, like Putin, say is time to rewrite it, change what happened, create new heroes, erase old sins, and forge a new future. Stalin did this as we know. It is right to not fall for Putin’s weak use of May 9 to justify his failing efforts in Ukraine, but he is not the only one. As an historian who has taught for three decades do not assume the next generation just knows what happened... it is a constant effort of reminding people of the truth of the past.
You are a fantastic writer. You have a way of bringing us readers into your world. It’s quite astonishing. My husband, an Annapolis grad, also follows you. He’s a history lover, and he thinks you are the only person I follow who is worth paying attention to is you. That’s mostly because of your knowledge of actual facts, but it’s also because of your down to earth common sense. Thank you Sir.
Well said. It pales when compared to the crime of needlessly invading Ukraine but to compare the fight against real Nazis with what's happening 2022-3 in Ukraine is to trivialize the suffering and achievements of Soviet (ie not just Russian) soldiers in 1941-5. If it's not disgusting it's at least lip curling contemptible.
Just in case anyone might be interested, here is what the 60th anniversary celebration of victory at Stalingrad looked like. Ambassador and Mrs. Vershbow led the US delegation. https://shoeone.blogspot.com/2013/01/ten-years-ago-i-accompanied-ambassador.html
Excellent explanation! I agree a hundred per cent with you. I find very interesting your anecdotes. I believe that Putin’s reign will soon come to an end, what do you think?
Thank you. It must have been moving to meet the Stalingrad veterans. Every town of any size in Russia has an eternal flame and a memorial of some kind commemorating WW2 losses. Putin's disrespect for them is shameless.