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T h i s s p e c i a l a d v e r t i s i n g s u p p l e m e n t i s p r o d u c e d a n d s p o n s o r e d b y R o s s i y s k a y a G a z e t a ( R u s s i a ) a n d d i d n o t i n v o l v e t h e r e p o r t i n g o r e d i t i n g s t a f f o f t h e I n t e r n a t i o n a l N e w Yo r k T i m e s .
Second World War still looms so large in the minds of Russians. Nearly every Russian has a direct connection to the war; Every family has its story to tell. This edition of RBTH, and our online project, The Unknown War, hope to reveal some of these narratives and give our readers a sense of the human tragedy of the war and why victory meant so much.
More than 27 million Soviet citizens died in World War II, many in major battles that took place in the Soviet Union itself. Hitler considered Slavs an inferior ethnic race, and Nazi records suggest that if Germany had been successful, millions of Russians would have faced a genocidal regime of enslavement and exile. Facts like these help demonstrate why the
of the Soviet Union are estimated to have died during the Second World War, more than from any other country
was how long the Battle of Stalingrad lasted. It was a major turning point in the war that cost the lives of more than a million Red Army soldiers and civilians
and self-propelled guns took part in the Battle of Kursk in June 1943, still the world’s largest battle of its kind
Read previously untold stories of a world at war in this issue of RBTH and find out much more at UNKNOWNWAR.RBTH.COM
70 YEARS ON, A BATTLE FOR HISTORY Russia’s current conflict with its European neighbors has raised new questions about the role the Soviet Union played in World War II As the 70th anniversary of the allied victory over Nazi Germany in World War II approaches, a discussion is under way among Russian government officials and historians about how best to preserve the historical truth about what is called the Great Patriotic War in Russia. In the months preceding the anniversary, a number of provocative statements have been made regarding the role played by the Soviet Union in the victory. Two of the most challenging came from Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna, who said that the Auschwitz Concentration Camp was liberated by Ukrainians, and from Ukrainian Prime Minister ArsenyYatsenyuk, who said, “the Soviet Union invaded Germany and Ukraine” during the war. During a recent session of the 70th Anniversary Celebration Organization Committee, Russian President Vladimir Putin connected these statements to the ongoing difficulties between Rus-
sia and the West over the conflict in Ukraine. Putin said that these “attempts to alter and distort the events of that war” and “these cynical, unconcealed lies”could be tied to the attempts“to undermine the strength and moral authority of contemporary Russia, deprive it of the status of a victor nation”in order“to use historical speculations in geopolitical games.”
flect the official position of the government they represent. Historian Oleg Budnitsky, director of the International Historical and Sociological Center of World War II and Its Consequences at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, also believes that the problem of the distortion of history is contrived. He stresses that professional historians outside of Russia do not attempt to falsify history.
Verbal ‘slips’ Russian historians are not united in their opinions on whether or not the problem that Putin was promoting really exists. Nikita Petrov of the Memorial human rights organization says he believes that the issue the way Putin formulated it does not exist.“Actually, no one is distorting the history of the war,” says Petrov. He calls Schetyna andYatsenuyk’s words “slips,”“verbal announcements”and“emotional expressions,” which cannot be taken seriously since the words do not re-
‘Revising facts’ Not every Russian historian, however, is ready to agree with this approach. Many say they believe that Russia’s neighbors have been using historical issues in the interests of contemporary politics for a long time. According to Dmitri Andreev, a historian and political analyst at Moscow State University, “our ideological opponents have begun revising some wellknown facts about the Great Patriotic War, the results of the war.” Historian Alexander Dyukov, Direc-
tor of the Historical Memory Foundation, also ties these announcements to today’s politics and uses the Baltic states as an example. “The picture of history that the Baltic governments are painting is becoming a great violation of human rights here and now,” says Dyukov, explaining that the national narratives of “the horrible Soviet occupation” of two Baltic countries — Estonia and Latvia — are used to justify the failure of these countries to guarantee the rights of their Russianspeaking minorities. In light of this, Dyukov does not think that connecting the war to the crimes of the Soviet past — such as deportations and repressions — contributes to the “right understanding of the real historical tragedies” of the Soviet era. Dyukov also mentions Ukraine, saying that historians there have been“rewriting history” for the past several years, glorifying the crimes committed by the Ukrainian nationalists dur-
ing World War II. This has provoked a schism in society, he says, and became one of the reasons of the current tragic civil war.
An honest discussion At the same time, Nikita Petrov believes that it is in Russia and not abroad where excessive politicizing of the subject is taking place. “When in Russia someone begins an honest discussion on the war, without embellishments, when the repressive essence of the Soviet regime is uncovered, for some reason we become afraid and say: The truth is being distorted,” says Petrov. Meanwhile Alexander Dyukov says there are no serious problems in Russia with revealing information about the problems of the past. “I do not see any systematic hushing up of the tragic pages in Soviet history. At least I’ve never seen anyone on a governmental level denying the Stalinist repressions and the trag-
ic hunger of the 1930s,” says Dyukov. Historians who do not agree with Dyukov’s views say that the narratives being told about the war and the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe are a reaction to the way those countries feel about the communist system that was imposed on them after the war, rather than “distortions of history,” and it is not surprising that the these countries’ governments want to paint their Soviet pasts in exclusively gloomy hues. Yet historians say it is important to differentiate between the inevitably varied interpretations of the Soviet era in Eastern Europe and principled evaluations about the war that are based on historical facts. “Black must be called black, and white — white,”says historian Andreev.“Facts shouldn’t be twisted. Individuals can stress certain interpretations, but historical truth is something else.” ■ALEXEI TIMOFEICHEV RBTH
EXCLUSIVELY AT RUSSIA-DIRECT.ORG
RUSSIAN SOFT POWER: REVIEWING THE OPTIONS ALEXEI DOLINSKY EXPERT
he term soft power has many different connotations. It is important to remember, however, that in the end, soft power is still power — an ability to achieve desired outcomes with finesse and authority, not coercion or economic resources. Russia has long been developing public di-
plomacy instruments aimed at boosting its soft power, but the outcome has been less than optimal for both internal and external reasons. Konstantin Kosachev’s appointment as head of Rossotrudnichestvo in March 2012 was expected to start the golden age of Russia’s soft power, but his re-
cent resignation ended those hopes, and that golden age never took place. Just three years ago, when Kosachev took office, there seemed to be a window of opportunity for the country’s public diplomacy. For almost a decade, Russia had been building up its soft power capabilities with no apparent
strategy or coordination mechanism. As neither has been put in place and the window of opportunity is now closed, the country’s public diplomacy needs a new long-term approach. Rossotrudnichestvo itself was far from a dream agency; it combined Soviet-era representative offices, a chain of Russian schools abroad inherited from the Defense Ministry, and a tiny budget. Kosachev was a unique individual who combined diplomatic and
public policy experience and could use his authority and direct connection to the national leadership to coordinate Russian public diplomacy. His idea was to turn the agency into Russia’s international development vehicle and move the aid budget that Moscow currently donates to international institutions toward bilateral products. CONTINUED ON PAGE 3
RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES A global media project sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta www.rbth.com
YURY LEVITAN: THE VOICE OF VICTORY
FEMALE PILOTS WHO TERRORIZED THE NAZIS
A fortunate twist of fate made a young provincial man the bestknown voice in the country.
Soon after the beginning of World War II, Russian authorities began receiving messages from female pilots who wanted to fight at the front with the men. The decorated pilot Marina Raskova, who became a hero in the Soviet Union for her nonstop flight from Moscow to the far eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur in 1938, took up the cause, proposing that the military create a special all-female flying squadron. Despite Raskova’s fame, the idea was not an easy sell. Finally, Stalin intervened and, on Oct. 8, 1941, the order came to create three combat regiments of female pilots — one to fly fighter planes, one for dive bombers and one for night bombers. The units also had female support staff and engineers. Raskova herself commanded the 125th Guards Bomber Aviation Regiment. However the best-known of the units was the 46th Taman Guards Night Bomber Regiment, originally called the 588th Night Bomber Regiment.
tive of Orenburg in the south Urals, remembers the impact Levitan’s broadcasts had. “In those days we couldn’t afford a radio,” she said,“but there were loudspeakers mounted on certain streets, and people would flock to them at a strictly defined time to listen to news from the front.” This communal experience brought people closer together, and Trifonova describes it as “like being part of one big family, with Yury Levitan at the head.”
Thanks to a personal intervention by Joseph Stalin, the radio newsreader Yury Levitan rose from humble beginnings to national adulation, forever connected with the words “Moscow is speaking,” which began his broadcasts. When a young aspiring actor by the name of Yury Levitan became a radio announcer in Moscow in the early 1930s, after being rejected by the theatrical institute because of his provincial patois, nobody could have foreseen that he was destined to become a household name across the Soviet Union and one of the most iconic voices in Soviet history. Levitan, the son of a tailor and a housewife, had come to Moscow from the nearby city of Vladimir — after only finishing grade nine — hoping to make his career in acting. After the theatrical institute refused to enroll him, he was admitted to a group of radio announcers selected by the renowned actor Vasily Kachalov. Then fate took over. In January 1934, after hearing the young broadcaster’s voice on the air, Stalin phoned the Radio Committee and demanded that from now on only Levitan read his reports. Thus the young intern, thanks to the rare and expressive timbre of his voice, so unpleasant to the professors at the theatrical institute, became the main radio anchor of the Soviet Union, the bestknown voice on Radio Moscow.
The Night Witches The 46th Night Bomber Regiment was the world’s only female night bomber regiment, and the only one of the three Russian units to remain all-female throughout the war. The unit was commanded by Evdokia Bershanskaya, who was the only woman to have received the Order of Suvorov. The Germans came to call the members of this regiment the Night Witches, because of their precision at hitting targets, but also because of their practice of turning off their engines to approach targets silently, which caused the incoming planes to sound like sweeping broomsticks. On May 27, 1942, the regiment, consisting of 115 ladies aged between 17 and 22, arrived at the front. They fought their first battle on June 12. At the height of the regiment’s strength, 80 pilots served.
“For Lyuba! For Vera!” The pilots of the 46th Night Bomber Regiment flew small Polikarpov Po-2 slow-moving biplanes. The planes, called puddle jumpers or bookcases, had been used for training pilots before the war. The Germans called them “Rus veneer,” because they were made of wood with a veneer coating. The plane had an open cabin with a Plexiglas visor, which could neither defend the crew from bullets nor from strong wind. There was also no radio communication. The plane’s speed was only 120 kilometers, or 75 miles, per hour and its altitude was three kilometers. The only weapons the pilots had were handguns until 1944, when they acquired machine guns. There was no bomb compartment, so the bombs were hung right under the plane’s belly. At the beginning of the war, the women would write “For the Fatherland” on the bombs, but after pilots began to be killed, they instead wrote the names of their fallen comrades, so the bombs would read “For Lyuba! For Vera!” The Po-2 could not carry many bombs, but because the planes flew so low, they could hit targets with great precision. A Po-2 crew consisted of a pilot and a navigator. The navigators would carry smaller bombs on their knees and throw them overboard with their hands. The women would make up to 10 flights a night. Just before the target, the pilots would turn off the engines and the bombs would fall on the enemy in silence. The navigators were usually university students. Polina Gelman studied history and Irina Rakobolskaya studied physics at Moscow State University; Raisa Aronova attended the Moscow Aviation Institute. They brought a certain educated sensibility to the regiment: they read lectures, published magazines and wrote poetry. One of the most famous of the Night Witches was Lilya Litvyak, the White Lily of Stalingrad. She was the first female pilot to shoot down an enemy plane and held the record for most kills by a female fighter pilot. She was shot down during the Battle of Kursk in 1943 at the age of 21. Thirty of the Night Witches died in combat; twenty-three of the pilots were named “Heroes of the Soviet Union.” During the war, the Night Witches flew more than 24,000 flights and dropped 23,000 tons of bombs.
Radio during the war years Radio was an extremely important instrument in broadcasting both news of the war and propaganda to Soviet citizens. Across the country, people would listen for news of which cities had fallen, which regions had been retaken, and whether there were imminent air raids. Nina Trifonova, a na-
‘Attention! Moscow is speaking!’
Yury Levitan, rejected from acting school because of his country accent, became the best-known voice in the Soviet Union during World War II.
On the morning of June 22, 1941, the phone at the Radio Committee was ringing nonstop because correspondents in Kiev and Minsk were calling in to report Nazi Germany’s unexpected attack on the Soviet Union. Moscow was afraid that the reports were a provocation, but Levitan was called to work just in case. Shortly a courier brought a package from the Kremlin containing a piece of paper with two lines that had to be broadcast: “At 12 o’clock an important government announcement will be made.” At noon that day,Yury Levitan took over the airwaves:“Attention! Moscow is speaking! Citizens of the Soviet Union! We are transmitting an announcement from the Soviet government.Today at four o’clock in the morning, without presenting any claims to the Soviet Union, without declaring war, German forces invaded our country.”Levitan’s announcement launched four years of regular broadcasts on the Red Army’s progress in its struggle to push back the Nazis. From the fall of 1941 onward, Levitan pronounced the words “Moscow is speaking” from Sverdlovsk (modern-day Yekaterinburg), around 900 miles (1,400 kilometers) east of Moscow. All radio towers in the Russian capital had been dismantled because the German air force had been using them as targets for their bombing runs. Levitan received instructions from his commander-in-chief and reports from
the Soviet Information Bureau in Moscow by phone. In March 1943, he was transferred to Kuibyshev (now Samara), 540 miles southeast of Moscow, where the Radio Committee was located. But throughout the course of the war, Soviet citizens listening to his broadcasts were convinced that his voice was coming from the capital. The fact that Levitan was announcing the news from Sverdlovsk was divulged only a quarter of a century later. On May 9, 1945, Levitan was called to the Kremlin, where he was presented with a text from Stalin on the allied victory over Germany. He had only 35 minutes to prepare the broadcast. In order to make it to the radio station’s studio, he had to cross Red Square, which was overflowing with people. In an essay recalling that day, Levitan’s friend and publicist Yury Belkin said that Levitan screamed over the crowd: “Comrades, let us through, we have important things to do!”And the people in the crowd shouted back: “What things! Levitan is about to announce the victory. Stay put like everyone else and listen!” Levitan immediately saw that the situation was hopeless and returned to the Kremlin, which had its own radio station, and broadcast from there. At 12:55, Levitan removed the wax seal from the envelope he had been given
CHILDHOOD IN WARTIME: A COMPOSER REMEMBERS Although he was only four when the war began, Stepan Sosnin recalls that time vividly.
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Before the war, Stepan Sosnin’s family had their own workshop: both his parents were set designers at the Bolshoi Theater. But in 1941, Sosnin’s father was sent to the front.“That same year we received news that my father was missing in action,”Sosnin remembers. “My mother told me.” She remained in the city protecting the skies of Moscow as an anti-aircraft gunner. Sosnin was four years old at the time. Even 70 years later, he remembers the air-raid sirens and his grandmother telling him to move faster. “We would descend to the sounds of the bombardments. The windows in our house were sealed with paper so that the glass would not fall out. It was like that in all the houses.” Sosnin recalls the war in fragments. He did not even understand what war was, but he clearly remembers that something was happening that did not give anyone any peace. And it was not only the German airplanes that flew right above the city. Barrage balloons and anti-aircraft gun divisions had been set up to coun-
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FROM PERSONAL ARCHIVES
Stepan Sosnin experienced the war both in Moscow and as an evacuee.
ter the German bombardments.Women would service the locating devices of the anti-aircraft installations and search for moving targets.“My mother serviced one of these batteries,” he recalls. “My grandmother and I were evacuated in November-December 1941
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to Ulyanovsk [553 miles or 890 kilometers from Moscow], to the house of my aunts. There were many boys there who they were looking after. I was the ninth! Can you imagine that?” Both Sosnin’s aunts worked and had ration cards through their jobs. The
and read: “Moscow is speaking! Fascist Germany is destroyed!” During the war years, between 1941 and 1945, Levitan read about 2,000 reports from the Soviet Information Bureau. The reports were not recorded at the time and Levitan was later asked to record part of the announcements on tape in the 1950s for posterity.
‘I can’t let the people down’ After the war, Levitan continued to broadcast on Radio Moscow. For the next 28 years, he read government announcements and reports from Red Square. In 1953, he announced the death of Stalin, his wartime commander-in-chief. In 1961, he announced the flight of Yury Gagarin. Levitan died from a heart attack in 1983, in the central Russian town of Prokhorovka during 40th anniversary commemorations of the Battle of Kursk. Levitan had first experienced heart problems in mid-1945, while reading material about Auschwitz on the air. Before departing for Prokhorovka, Levitan complained to his friends about heart pains, but when they tried to persuade him not to go, he responded laconically, “I can’t let the people down. They’re waiting for me.” ■OLGA BELENITSKAYA SPECIAL TO RBTH
cards were the only thing that saved the family from hunger. “One of the boys was entrusted with cutting the bread in a way so that no one would have more,” Sosnin remembers. Sosnin was able to return to Moscow in 1943, although he remembers it was very difficult getting there as there was no direct road. First he and his grandmother navigated the Volga, then they hopped onto a train with soldiers heading for the front; Sosnin was hidden under a bench. Near Moscow, they climbed into a packed truck and rode to their apartment, where they lived in an eight-meter room. By 1943, the planes had stopped flying over the capital, but the government had ordered the anti-aircraft divisions to remain in place, so Sosnin’s mother continued living in the dugout built for the anti-aircraft gunners. “We excavated the earth, put logs all around the dugout, made a roof and covered it with earth so that it would not be seen from the sky,” says Sosnin, who lived there with his mother until 1944. Toward the end of the war, Sosnin entered a music school, after hearing radio announcements for singing lessons (this would lead to his career). When he first started school, he went every day from the dugout. Later he was transferred to a boarding school. “The field where our dugouts were still exists,” he says. “It is empty. Nearby there are tram rails. Whenever I pass the field, I remember the anti-aircraft squadron that was stationed here.” ■EKATERINA SINELSCHIKOVA RBTH
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WHAT WAS THE ROLE OF THE SECOND FRONT? The opening of the The fate of fascism second front saved the was determined at lives of Soviet soldiers Stalingrad ALEXEY ISAEV HISTORIAN
CO N V E RT I N G M O N O LO G U E I N TO D I A LO G U E Russia Direct is a forum for experts and senior decision-makers from Russia and abroad to discuss, debate and understand the issues in geopolitical relations from a sophisticated vantage point.
March Brief: After Nemtsov
The murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in the center of Moscow on Feb. 27 was a shocking event for Russians and Russia-watchers around the world. Was the killing a turning point in the Russian political scene or will the tragedy quickly fade into memory? What is the future of the opposition without Nemtsov’s charisma and influence and who will take his place? Will the person who ordered his killing ever be found? Read this brief to learn more.
the construction of an artificial breakwater and floating piers, and a strong air defense, so the operation took months of preparation. It is important to note that the chief driving force behind the D-Day operation was American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who insisted on the landing in France in 1944. If it were possible to express in one phrase the significance all the Allies played in the victory over Germany, it would be:“The English and the Americans broke the neck of the Luftwaffe and the Soviet Union broke the back of the German ground forces.” Three-fourths of German casualties
Alexey Isaev is a historian who specializes in World War II and is the author of a number of books about the war.
MICHAEL JABARA CARLEY EXPERT
n July 3, 1941, 11 days after the Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union, Ivan M. Maisky, the Soviet Ambassador in London, met British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden to discuss the military situation and the larger question of Anglo-Soviet military cooperation. Attacking the Soviet Union, Maisky said, was Hitler’s first big mistake. “Russia is eternal”and cannot be beaten,”Maisky said, but it needed help. The Soviet Union was bearing the full force of the Nazi juggernaut. Could the British government not make some landing on the coast of France? Such a move would indicate the willingness of the British. This was the first Soviet request of many for a second front in the west to take German pressure off the Red Army. In the summer of 1941, Britain was
ties were horrendous. But the Red Army kept fighting. On a wall in the Brest Fortress, a wounded soldier wrote: “I am dying, but I am not surrendering.” Britain said it was doing its best to help the Red Army, but not even British public opinion believed that. The British ambassador in Moscow, Sir Stafford Cripps, accused his own government of shirking the fight, letting the Red Army take all the casualties. Soviet opinion, he said, believed that Britain was ready “to fight to the last drop of Russian blood.” The U.S. State Department also had a poor opinion of the Russians, but President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not share the views of his bureaucrats. He worked to overcome anti-Soviet resistance and, in November 1941, announced the extension of the LendLease program to the Soviet Union. Then, in December 1941, everything changed. The Red Army won a strategic victory in the Battle of Moscow, breaking the aura of Wehrmacht invincibility. In the Foreign Office, the British bureaucrats worried about the Red Army winning the war without their help, so finally the discussion returned to the second front in France. In February 1943, the Red Army victory at Stalingrad sealed the fate of Nazi Germany. And still the only place where the British and Americans were fighting German ground forces — and there only with three divisions — was in North Africa. Roosevelt finally put his foot down. At the Tehran conference in November 1943, he allied himself with Stalin to insist that a second front be established in France. Churchill resisted, but to no avail. Planning for the Normandy Invasion became the priority. By the time the Western Allies landed in France in June 1944, the fate of fascism in Europe had long been determined. But better late than never. Stalin was pleased to have some relief for his forces. If the U.K. and the U.S. had not finally joined the fight in France, Red Army soldiers would have washed in the waters of the English Channel, which is just what worried the Western Allies. Europe would have been liberated by the Red Army alone.
In the Foreign Office, the British bureaucrats worried about the Red Army winning the war without their help. in no position to undertake a landing on the coast of France.The British army had yet to win a battle against the Wehrmacht, although they had been at war for two years. That summer, Britain started to send supplies, tanks and fighter aircraft, but not on a large scale: 200 fighters and a few hundred tanks. This was miniscule, considering Soviet requirements. Red Army losses during the first six months of the war were unimaginable: 3 million soldiers lost, killed, wounded or prisoners of war left to starve to death by the Nazis; 177 divisions had to be written out of the Soviet order of battle; civilian casual-
oordination in the planning and execution of military operations has always been the most difficult part of working with a coalition during wartime. Dealing simultaneous blows to different fronts has obvious advantages, but such synchronicity of action meets with great difficulties in practice. In the case of the Soviet Union and its Western Allies, there was no real coordination or harmonization. The reasons for this, however, lay not in the political sphere, but in the reality on the ground. During the preparations for the summer campaign of 1944, difficulties accumulating ammunition forced the Red Army to delay the start of Operation Bagration in Belarus, so it did not synchronize with the landing of Allied forces in Normandy on D-Day. Similarly, poor weather conditions that made it difficult to use aircraft made it necessary for the Soviet command to shift the dates for the start of the Soviet Vistula-Oder Offensive until after the Battle of the Bulge had already ended. For a long time, the opening of the second front in Europe served as grounds for fierce political debate. There were many accusations made that the U.S. and the UK delayed opening the second front so that the Soviet Union would exhaust itself in the fight against Germany. There is another, stronger argument, however, that there were great technical difficulties in invading Europe from the sea. The main problem here was capturing a seaport that would make it possible to provide an uninterrupted supply of a large mass of troops. The raid on the seaside town of Dieppe in northern France in 1942 had shown that the Germans were aware of the threat and prepared to defend the French ports. Additionally, simply capturing a port would be no guarantee of success for a long-term operation. The Germans could blow up the port infrastructure as they withdrew, which is exactly what happened with Cherbourg. Because of these experiences, the invasion took place only after the idea of landing on a beach was proposed in the fall of 1943. The invasion of Normandy would require
“The English and the Americans broke the neck of the Luftwaffe and the Soviet Union broke the back of the German ground forces.”
occurred on the Eastern Front. Even after the landing in Normandy and the opening of the second front in Europe, the total losses of the Germans on the Eastern Front were triple the losses on the Western Front. After concentrating almost all of the strength of its air power in the east in 1941, however, the Luftwaffe’s forces were gradually pulled to the Western Front in defense of the Reich.The daily American bombings of Germany became a way of drawing out the German fighters. The contribution of Soviet soldiers and officers cannot be overestimated. The victory was achieved at the cost of millions of their lives. But the second front helped to speed up the victory over Germany, which in turn helped save the lives of many Soviet soldiers.
RUSSIAN SOFT POWER INITIATIVES: REVIEWING THE OPTIONS CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
During Kosachev’s term, the country did adopt a new international development concept. However, the conflict in eastern Ukraine and a sharp decline in relations with the West in 20142015 created an entirely new international relations and soft power landscape, as Moscow took a competitive rather than a cooperative approach to its interactions with key Western players. Coupled with Russia’s current challenging economic situation, the overall context puts the government into a“rapid reaction force mode,”where decisions are made based on momentary policy priorities, rather than long-term strategies. Throughout 2014, Russia was“hardening its soft power policies” with greater priority given to media efforts. As a result, the vast majority of Russia’s international communication efforts are currently used to create an alternative to the way most global media frame the coverage of major international political events. Although potentially beneficial for the nation’s current policies, that approach does not contribute to greater international understanding or an overall framework of cooperation. Meanwhile, long-term public diplomacy instruments and institutions are essentially left out of the mix, as they
cannot react fast enough to affect current events. Therefore, international development is no longer a priority and the policy was tabled indefinitely. Besides, limited financial resources due to Western sanctions and the fall in the price of oil, make Russia less prone to engaging in international development. Changed attitudes toward Russia are yet another reason to rethink public diplomacy. According to surveys, Russia’s approach toward political developments in Ukraine has led to increased negative attitudes about Russia in other countries even before the start of fighting in the eastern part of the country. There is hardly any reason to think that situation has improved since then. Moreover, the Russian leadership’s changed rhetoric, implying that it intends to restore the “unity of historic Russia” shortly after Crimea was incorporated as part of Russia, also created tensions in relations with some neighboring countries. Russia’s soft power was greatly undermined.
What to do now According to Harvard Professor Joseph Nye, who originally coined the term “soft power,” the main resources of soft power are values, culture and policies. It is highly unlikely that Russia’s current policies will become more
popular than they are now, so over the short-term, soft power prospects for Russia are limited. No immediate public diplomacy solution can improve the country’s soft power without resolving the foreign policy troubles first. That means it will take a number of years for a breakthrough to be possible, which will give experts and practitioners time for a longer-term approach. The current situation, therefore, leaves Russian public diplomacy almost no options but to continue improving operational efficiency and establishing a platform for cooperation in the future. That means investing in education exchanges and second-track communication channels, as well as promoting language and culture. Sooner or later, when the crises are over, all sides of the current conflicts will need to be able to cooperate with each other, which could lead to a burst of soft power. It will not be possible if the groundwork is not laid now, however. That leaves Lyubov Glebova, who was recently appointed head of Rossotrudnichestvo, a surprising but apt choice as leader for the agency, given the circumstances. When there is not much money for development, one tries to makes more use of the resources that are already there and the education system is one of them. Despite certain drawbacks, Russia is still
among the top 10 countries in terms of attracting international students, and it also covers tuition for some 10,000 foreign students annually. However, both the admission process and selection of universities to send students to are far from transparent and efficient. Given Glebova’s prior experience in education management as a former head of the Federal Agency for Education Supervision, it is reasonable to expect that she will be focusing on bringing order to the system of international education exchanges. With almost no chances for immediate soft power results in the coming years, the national leadership also has a chance to rethink the overall approach, develop a public diplomacy strategy and design a coordination mechanism for all the various agencies involved in the process. Experts and practitioners have been correctly pointing out that clear KPIs and better interagency cooperation could radically improve soft power outcomes for the country. Last, but most important, Russia could use the current soft power slowdown to invest in better understanding of international attitudes toward the country and the factors that shape those attitudes. There is still much to be done in terms of listening to what the world has to say.
Michael Jabara Carley is a professor of history at the Université de Montréal and has published widely on 20thcentury international politics.
ACCESS ALL RUSSIA DIRECT REPORTS WITH ONE CLICK russia-direct.org/archive
April Brief: Russian Studies in the U.S.
Welcome to RD’s first ranking of Russian studies programs in the United States. We examine the results of this survey, which involved the opinions of hundreds of educators and experts from both Russia and the United States. We also look at the trends in AmericanRussian studies programs and at what the future holds for them as they attempt to strike a balance between increased interests and decreasing state funding.
RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES A global media project sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta www.rbth.com
EXAMINING THE LEGACY OF YALTA For some, the Kremlin’s behavior today is reminiscent of that of the Soviet Union after the war.
Discord already in Yalta At the same time, the viewpoint of the German historian Jost Dülffer was that despite“having reached separate compromises, the leaders were in complete disagreement”over the composition of the Polish government, the dimension of Germany’s reparations owed to the Soviet Union and other issues. “The factors that united the Allies were practically exhausted by 19461947,”Dülffer said during an interview on the German radio station DW. According to him, the “confrontation of ideologies — communism and capitalism — made the sides start constructing their spheres of influence according to their own images.” Dülffer notes another radical disagreement between Moscow and the Western capitals: “The Soviet Union had liberated Eastern Europe from Nazi Germany and consistently sought to have its interests followed in the liberated territories.” Other scholars place the responsibility for deviating from the compromise at Yalta on Stalin. According to the military historian Boris Sokolov, the West did not expect that the Soviet Union would dominate its sphere of influence so completely. Sokolov says the West thought“there would be something like Finland there, a country that was in the Soviet sphere, but that was independent and was not Sovietized.” And yet a third opinion holds that the Soviet Union simply wanted a buf-
fer zone on its border, to prevent the kind of invasion from the West it had experienced during the war. “Stalin never announced that these countries [Poland, Romania, Hungary and Czechoslovakia] would be Sovietized and their governments would be flooded by Communist leaders. Everyone (in the Soviet government) understood that in this case the West would counteract, especially in the economic sphere, since at that time Moscow was discussing the continuation of America’s post-war aid for the reconstruction of the destroyed country,”
Historians say they believe it is difficult to call the desire to compromise shown at Yalta an illusion. Surely the participants didn’t think so.
says the Russian Military-Historical Society’s Myakhkov.
Repeating past mistakes? Dülffer says that the current situation in Europe reminds him of that period. “[Russian President Vladimir] Putin, in his policy and in the way he acts, is continuing the Stalinist tradition.”Dülffer says that Europe is again being divided into spheres of interest, which was not expected after 1989-1990. Not all political analysts, however, think that the driving force behind today’s conflict is Kremlin policy. “In a
geopolitical sense, the battle for spheres of influence that began in Yalta never really ended,” says Myakhkov. “It either raged or it subsided. Today we are witnessing the final act of this battle, when the West thinks that it has all the aces, while Russia after the 1990s will never get back up on its feet.” Myakhkov says that in order to solve the current problems a “new Yalta” is needed to establish rules in international relations and to re-assert the importance of the United Nations. Speaking at the conference “Yalta 1945: The Past, Present and Future,”
which took place at the Livadia Palace on Feb. 4, the British political scientist Richard Sakwa said today’s lesson of Yalta is that we need to move beyondYalta and establish a truly plural world order. “We must find a more secure system of world order and European stability,”said Sakwa, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti.“We are obligated to use diplomacy to find the best way forward.”
What would you say about relations between Stalin and his generals? During the war, Stalin changed his leadership style. He became less domineering and more collegiate, more a chairman than a managing director. He surrounded himself with talented generals and forged them into a highly effective supreme command. Some of these generals were over-awed by Stalin and did not always speak their minds. But others, like Zhukov, were not. Stalin encouraged truthfulness and honesty among his generals, but insisted on obedience and conformity once his mind was made up.
But neither he nor Stalin were profligate with their troops, which would have been an irrational attitude given that most of the time they lacked soldiers. There are many instances of efforts to extract troops from encirclement and an increasing willingness as the war progressed to withdraw or call off engagements in order to conserve forces. Stalin and Zhukov were hard men, but they were not unfeeling. Stalin lost a son during the war and Zhukov’s home village was captured and burnt by the Germans. The casualties were high not because they were callous but because of the nature and conditions of the Soviet-German war. In retrospect, it is possible to point to various ways casualties could have been reduced. For example, was it necessary for 80,000 Soviet soldiers to die capturing Berlin? Would it not have been better to lay siege to the city and force its surrender? At the time, however, the rapid capture of Berlin was seen as a way of ending the war as quickly as possible, of saving the lives of those who would have perished had the war dragged on. And who is to say that this calculation was wrong?
■ALEXEI TIMOFEICHEV RBTH
At the Yalta Conference in 1945, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill took on the ambitious challenge of creating a geopolitical system that would prevent future major global conflicts. From Feb. 4-11, 1945, the three leaders met at the Livadia Palace in Crimea and hammered out plans for the United Nations, as well as the division of Europe into the spheres of influence that defined the post-World War II era. In remembering the conference, several Russian historians expressed the opinion that the kind of openness and leadership shown atYalta could be useful for resolving the geopolitical conflicts facing Europe today. Miroslav Morozov, chief researcher of the Institute of Military History of the Academy of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, said that while Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt each had an agenda going into theYalta meeting, they were open to compromise, which made the success of the conference possible. Morozov called compromise the“decisive factor” in the discussions. “The ability to find a compromise allowed the leaders of countries that were part of the anti-Hitler coalition to make important decisions, which became the basis for a lasting peace,” he said, according to the news agency TASS. Another military historian, Vitaly Bogdanov, agreed that compromise was key to the meeting, and that the need for cooperation was clear before the discussions began. Soviet officials prepared their proposals for the conference in a way that would not alienate the West, while Roosevelt was betting on the influence of the strong U.S. economy to open up the Soviet Union after the war, Bogdanov said. Historians say that it is difficult to call the desire to compromise shown at Yalta an “illusion.” Surely the participants of theYalta Conference themselves did not think so, says Mikhail Myakhkov, scientific director of the Russian Military-Historical Society. “They [Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill] indeed wanted to agree on the rules of the game, about how the world would live after the war,”he said.“The main objective of the meeting was to prevent Germany’s future domination of Europe, prevent the appearance of Nazism and finish the war so that there would be a long period of peace. The Yalta Conference by and large realized this mission.”
At the Yalta conference, which took place in February 1945 in Crimea, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Josef Stalin hammered out a compromise on the structure of postwar Europe.
INTERVIEW GEOFFREY ROBERTS
Stalin as a wartime commander and his role in the victory In an interview with RBTH, the historian Geoffrey Roberts, a professor at Cork University in Ireland and an expert on Stalin, spoke about the complex legacy of the Soviet leader. How would you characterize Stalin’s contribution to the victory? The war was won by a combination of Stalin’s leadership, the role of the Red Army and its generals, and the colossal sacrifices of the Soviet people. It is also important to recall the important contribution of the Soviet Union’s Western Allies, especially during the latter years of the war. The centrality of Stalin to the allied victory in the Second World War was widely recognized at the time, by his enemies as well as his friends, but that
perspective was lost during the Cold War. To argue that Stalin was a great warlord is not to deny that he was also a brutal dictator nor that he made many costly mistakes or pursued excessively harsh policies. The great paradox of Stalin is the way he changed the course of history for both good and ill. How would you characterize Stalin’s skills as a planner of military operations? All the Soviet generals who worked closely with Stalin during the war had a high opinion of him as a supreme commander. According to [Marshal Georgy] Zhukov,“Stalin mastered the technique of the organization of front operations and operations by groups of fronts, and guided them with skill.
He had the knack of grasping the main link in a strategic situation… Stalin’s merit lies in the fact that he correctly appraised the advice offered by the military experts.” It was [Chief of the General Staff Alexander] Vasilevsky’s “profound conviction that Stalin… was the strongest and most remarkable figure of the strategic command… As supreme commander, Stalin was in most cases extremely demanding, but just.” After victory, however, Stalin got somewhat carried away with his importance as a generalissimo and encouraged a postwar cult of his military genius. Among the victims of his arrogance was Zhukov, his deputy supreme commander, who was banished to the provinces for claiming too much personal credit for Soviet victories.
Heirs uncover forgotten medals thanks to project Igor Rozin, RBTH Soviet schoolteacher Vasily Maslenkov managed to send 150 letters from the front, but he himself never returned home to his wife and daughter – he was killed in August 1943 at Smolensk. But in 2015, his daughter Tamara Maslenkova, a teacher just as her father had been, learned that he was posthumously awarded the Order of the Patriotic War, 2nd Class. The discovery was made possible thanks to a special Internet database called Stars of Victory (Zvyezdy Pobedy). The database, which is available only in Russian, is published on the website of the Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper with support of the Russian Ministry of Defense. During the nearly four years the Soviet Union fought World War II, soldiers of the Red Army were awarded over 38 million various orders and medals. Unfortunately, in many cases the award never made it to the person who earned the honor. Now the families of veterans and in some cases the veterans themselves, can check online to see if there are awards that belong to them. In the 70 years that have passed since the end of the war, its survivors and their descendants have scattered all over the world. The goal of the Stars of Victory Internet project is to provide a way for these far-ﬂung former Soviet citizens to receive their honors. There are more than 8,200 names listed in the database, which can be read in Russian at rg.ru/zvezdy_pobedy. With the help of readers, RBTH editors have already found the families of ﬁve women listed in the database. Unfortunately, any honor or award issued during World War II can be legally given only to the person who actually won the award. If the person was killed or lost in the war, or has since died, the heirs of the person have the right to receive a certiﬁcate noting the honor won by their loved one upon presentation of the relevant documents. THE UNKNOWN HEROES HAVE TO BE FOUND! CHECK IF SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS AMONG THE FORGOTTEN AWARD WINNERS AT UNKNOWNWAR.RBTH.COM
It’s often said that Stalin and other Soviet military commanders did not pay much attention to human costs while fighting Nazis, therefore creating high casualties among Soviet troops. Do you think such statements are justified? In English, you would say that the troops were considered to be“cannonfodder” but I don’t think this is true of Stalin and his generals. True, they were ruthless in pursuit of their goals and prepared to pay a high price to avoid defeat and achieve victory. When Zhukov was asked if he and Stalin had been cruel during the war, he said yes they were, because they had to be.
LIVES AT WAR: THE UNTOLD STORIES Every person who lived through World War II has a story to tell, whether it be a story of suffering, great strength, love, hatred or liberation. This time was perceived differently by every person, and it was one of the world’s greatest tragedies. We must remember the war, so that such a conﬂict can never happen again. We want to make sure that each story from this time gets told. Send the war stories and photos of your family and friends and help build our archive. Email our editorial team at email@example.com and be part of this project, preserving this important part of history.
■ALEXEI TIMOFEICHEV RBTH
Published on May 6, 2015