Eighty Anniversary of the World War II
The Anguish of War
From the previous issue
As a result of the battles that began in 1940 in North Africa and particularly as a result of the victory at El-Alamein at the end of 1942, the Anglo-American troops were able to rout the Germans and Italians from Egypt, Ethiopia and the Maghreb in May,1943. Fighting alongside their forces there were also soldiers recruited in African colonies, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, India as well as the French and Greeks. The total number of servicemen from the Union of South Africa and the African colonies of England, France and Belgium, drawn, as in 1914, into an "alien" war and sent to North Africa and Southeast Asia was approximately 1.4 million people. Nearly 290 thousand of them were from East Africa, including 100 thousand from Tanganyika.
The third stage of the war is considered to be crucial. Military operations at this stage differed in scale and intensity. The opening of the Second Front in Western Europe kept on being postponed indefinitely, and Germans then thrust all their might to gain a strategic initiative on the Eastern Front, that is against Russia.
The fate of the whole world war was decided in the battle for Stalingrad on the Russian river Volga and in the grand tank- battle in the fields near Kursk in the heart of Russia. With tension and hope, the world closely followed up progress of these battles which were unparalleled in their scope and bitterness.
In the Battle of Stalingrad (17thJuly, 1942 - 2ndFebruary, 1943) the two sides deployed a total of more than 2.1 million soldiers, tens of thousands of artillery guns and thousands of tanks and aircraft. Both sides suffered huge losses but the Soviet Army won and a crucial turn in the course of the war happened.
In summer of 1943, with a hope of regaining the strategic initiative, Germany worked out an offensive tank operation in central Russia. The tank battle at Kursk (5thJuly - 23rdAugust, 1943), due to its scale, power and deployed resources, tension, outcome, military and political consequences, became one of the key battles of the Second World War. It is considered the largest tank battle in world history. It involved about 2 million people, 6 thousand tanks, 4 thousand aircraft and it paved the way for the great Red Army offensive of the year 1944-45.
The crack in the course of the war which was started at Stalingrad came into complete break in the Battles for Kursk as well as Dnieper. The shattering victories of the Soviet troops in 1943 became a strong mobilizing stimulus for the whole world, for activation of the struggle against Nazism and fascism. Nevertheless, active action of the Allies on the Western Front was still distant. They were waiting for further weakening of the German forces which were engaged in severe battles on Russian territory.
On 25thJuly, 1943 Italy quit the war and the Italian fascist government was liquidated. The new government now declared war against Hitler. The fascist union began to fall apart.
In June 1944, the Soviet Army began operations to liberate Eastern European states. It became clear to everyone, and above all to the German generals themselves, that Germany had lost the war. On 6thJune, at last the Second Front was opened. 156 thousand soldiers from the USA, England and Canada landed on the west coast of France - in Normandy. More active action of the Western allies now began.
At the end of April, 1945 the Soviet Army entered the "den of the nazi beast" - Berlin and hoisted the Red Flag of Victory over the roof of Reichstag - parliament building of Germany. So the joint actions of countries constituting the anti-Hitler coalition led to total defeat of Nazi troops and final surrender of Germany.
However, war in the Far East and in Southeast Asia raged on. Japanese forces continued to threaten the Soviet border. The end of the war against Germany enabled the US to strengthen its forces which were fighting against Japan. The Soviet Union, loyal to its obligations set with its allies, transferred its divisions to the Far East and within 15 days in August 1945 defeated the Japanese troops in Manchuria. The war in the Far East and in territories of Southeast Asia ended on 2nd September, 1945. In this war the United States used nuclear weapons against Japan.
Results and effects of the Second World War
Victory over fascism should be considered as the main result of the Second World War. The threat of enslavement and partial extermination of mankind disappeared.
The Soviet Union bore the brunt of the German army and suffered the greatest losses as the Nazis had deployed two thirds of their troops on the Eastern Front. More than 26 million Soviet people perished. The aggressors and their accomplices burned down and destroyed 1,710 cities and towns, more than 70,000 villages, completely or partially destroyed 1.5 million buildings and structures as well as 31,850 industrial enterprises. 25 million people lost their homes.
Loss and destruction did not bypass any nation. More than 6 million people died in Poland and 5.5 million in Germany. The British Empire lost 4 million 190 thousand people, the French Empire - 2 million 685 thousand people, the United States - 1 million 421 thousand people. A huge part of the European Jewish population was wiped out. Many millions of people perished in China, Indonesia and Indochina. 2.5 million Japanese died. The list of sad data can go on and on.
This war could have led to the collapse of civilization. Through court proceedings at Nurnberg the world condemned the war criminals and the fascist ideology.
Victory in the war promoted the Soviet Union to the rank of the world leading powers prompted the rise of its authority and prestige on the international arena. The social transformation in Asia and Africa accelerated and the processes of decolonization on these continents received a strong impetus.
A new political map of the planet emerged, there occurred a social split of Europe, which again divided the world into two camps and became a cause of extreme tension. The political and social polarization in the world magnified, confrontation of liberal and socialist models which is commonly called the "cold war", intensified. This is a multifaceted struggle for geopolitical interests which the former allies of Russia began to wage against it almost immediately after the end of the World War. Today, even after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, this struggle is still intensifying. The world is witnessing attempts of Western countries to rewrite the history of the Second World War. The main objects of the "revision" are the most important problems of the war - the history of the pre-war period, the war skills of the Soviet Army command, the role and importance of the various fronts, Soviet losses in the war, the price of victory, etc.
Falsifications on these and other problems spread through circulation of millions of copies of books, articles, were aired on television and radio programs and in movies. The purpose of all this is to belittle Russia's moral and political authority on the international arena, isolate it, and for this purpose, present the Soviet Union alongside with Germany as being responsible for unleashing the war, belittle the contribution of the USSR and its army in the defeat of the fascist bloc and at the same time glorify the role of the Western allies in the anti-Hitler coalition in achieving victory. But if the new generations of people won't know the truth about this war, if they won't understand the danger to world peace being posed by those who are trying to glorify the Nazis, then the world may again be on the verge of a great tragedy ...
Based on results and effects of the Second World War, we can name its main lessons:
o A Third World War should not be allowed as there will be no winners in it but only ruins of civilization will result;
o The deepening crisis of mistrust between states should never be tolerated since lack of collective security will give rise to a situation of gradual drawing of mankind into war or localized conflicts;
o Based on the bitter experience of the war, it is impossible to pursue a policy of "appeasement" of the aggressor, unprincipled deals and secret protocols, to erase the difference between democracy, fascism and neo-nazism as that creates conditions for emergence of armed conflicts;
o It is impossible to ensure your own country's security at the expense of other countries and that it is necessary to constantly maintain the interdependence of politics and morals;
o It is unacceptable to set up totalitarian regimes with their ideology and practice, militarism, imperial ambitions and formation of aggressive military blocs, as this can lead to a large international conflict.
Mankind has no right to allow the tragedy of "collective suicide" to recur. Any global problems of mankind, first of all preservation of peace, can and should be solved only through joint efforts, even despite serious contradictions that exist in the modern world.
Since the beginning of the Second World War 80 years have passed, but we should never forget about it. It is one of the most important events in the history of mankind, an event that determined the course of this history and therefore disputes about it will not subside through many years to come.
The writer is the Counsellor, Embassy
of the Russian Federation, Bangladesh
and Director of the Russian Center
for Science & Culture in Dhaka.