Estonia Considers Its Monuments

Estonia’s Justice Minister, Urmas Reinsalu, said early in January that the government could take down the Soviet war memorial at Maarjamäe because it is falling apart and it is not on the official list of historic monuments. This led Prime Minister Jüri Ratas to suggest that the entire area, which includes a German cemetary and a memorial under construction to the victims of Communism, be designated a historic area.

The Soviet Union built many war memorials across its territory, particularly to commemorate World War II, or the Great Patriotic War, as they call it. I find those monuments moving; they are, after all, memorials to people who died in wars and who had families who grieved them. I’ve been to the Maarjamäe memorial a few times.

One of those times I visited with a graduate student who was studying monuments in the former Soviet Union. As we see now in the United States, monuments are a part of a country’s story of itself. The Soviet Union wanted to erase the past.

The Maarjamäe obelisk was built in 1960 to commemorate Russian troops killed in 1918, during Estonia’s war of independence. Before that, a German cemetry had been there since 1941. A newer memorial has been built by a German organization, with the names of those buried there. My friend and I started to read the names. The first was of a German woman. We looked at the dates. She was the same age when she died as my friend was then. We cried.

The German cemetery is on the right in this photo from when we were there in August 2000. During the construction of the new monument to Communism, more German graves have been found.

In 1975, other parts of the Soviet memorial were added, along with an eternal flame. The flame was below the hands . In 2000 there were graffiti, and plants were beginning to grow between the paving blocks. Most of this has been cleaned up.

In 2007, the Estonian government moved a Soviet World War II monument from central Tallinn to a cemetery outside of town. The monument, a statue of a soldier with unknown soldiers buried beneath, was on a busy road and usually graced with broken liquor bottles. I thought that putting it in a cemetery was an improvement.

But the Russian government didn’t agree and attacked Estonia’s electronic infrastructure. Estonia kept the statue in the cemetery, and the attacks ended after a couple of weeks.

It looks like the Maarjamäe monument will not be removed. The Russian government has not objected to the building of the new monument. But it is something they might use if they wanted to accuse Estonia of something.

 

In other news about Estonia, this looks like a good documentary about Estonia just after the fall of the Soviet Union. And it would allow me to practice my Estonian. With subtitles.

 

Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.

97 replies
  1. 1

    […] Cross-posted at Balloon Juice. […]

  2. 2
    randy khan says:

    I can understand why Estonians might not be too keen on a monument to Russian troops who were fighting Estonians, built by Russians on Estonian soil.

    It’s not exactly like white supremacists building monuments to people who fought to maintain slavery, but only because there aren’t a lot of Russians in Estonia now.

  3. 3
    Ladyraxterinok says:

    In the summer of 1962, as part of my 1st yr grad studies program , I visited the Soviet WWII memorial Treptow in the then East Berlin. It blew me away. Absolutely gigantic. The broad walkway to it also created the image of visitors being mere specks against the gigantic grandeur of the Soviet Union.

    One aspect I found bizarre was how if you only knew what was displayed in the memorial you would never know the UK, France, or the US had any part in defeating the Nazis.

    As we walked the long way to the memorial, we saw a large group of EGerman Young Pioneers leaving the memorial.

    Our group was in Berlin on the 1st anniversary of the erection of the Berlin Wall. Police and military were everywhere since no one knew what might happen on either side in the midst of tensions and a yr of people being shot trying to escape EGermay.

  4. 4
    Sm*t Cl*de says:

    @randy khan:

    there aren’t a lot of Russians in Estonia now

    They’re a significant minority. A majority, in some of the towns near the border. There are issues and grievances.

  5. 5
    Mr Stagger Lee says:

    The Soviet Union invaded and annexed Estonia as part of the Secret Protocols of the German-Soviet Non Aggression Pact. Then basically took over in the war, they were basically a colony. Estonians never asked for Communist take over. I would think many a Estonian will consider those Soviet monuments the same as we consider Confederate monuments.

  6. 6
    James E. Powell says:

    @Ladyraxterinok:

    One aspect I found bizarre was how if you only knew what was displayed in the memorial you would never know the UK, France, or the US had any part in defeating the Nazis.

    Is that kind of like the US memorials that don’t mention the Soviets?

  7. 7
    raven says:

    @Ladyraxterinok: Why was it bizarre, they had TWENTY MILLION casualties.

  8. 8
    NotMax says:

    Following up on the maritime catastrophe.

    An Iranian oil tanker has sunk after burning for more than a week following a collision on Jan. 6 in the East China Sea, Chinese state media said on Sunday, adding that large amounts of oil were burning in the surrounding waters.

    The stricken tanker, called the Sanchi, which had been adrift and on fire following the accident with the freighter CF Crystal, had “suddenly ignited” around noon local time, China Central Television (CCTV) said.
    [snip]
    A Chinese salvage team on Saturday recovered two bodies from the tanker. Another body, presumed to be one of the Sanchi’s sailors, was found on Monday and brought to Shanghai for identification.

    The Sanchi’s crew consisted of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis.

    Iranian officials said the remaining 29 crew members and passengers of the tanker were presumed dead. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sent messages of condolence to the families of the crew and called for an investigation into the accident, Iranian state media reported. Source

  9. 9
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Most Americans have no clue about the carnage of the Eastern Front in WWII. Most Americans think that the Invasion of Normandy was the greatest battle ever seen, and have no clue about Stalingrad or Kursk.

  10. 10

    @Villago Delenda Est: I learned a LOT I didn’t know about World War II when I went to Estonia.

  11. 11
    raven says:

    @NotMax: “”Currently it has already sunk,” CCTV said, citing the Shanghai maritime search and rescue centre.”

  12. 12
    Mnemosyne says:

    @James E. Powell:
    @raven:

    I think she found it bizarre because the memorial was in East Berlin, not in Moscow.

  13. 13
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @Ladyraxterinok:

    One aspect I found bizarre was how if you only knew what was displayed in the memorial you would never know the UK, France, or the US had any part in defeating the Nazis.

    Don’t forget Canada’s role in defeating Nazis. ‘Twas a true coalition of the willing.

  14. 14
    Ladyraxterinok says:

    @James E. Powell: Not familiar with memorials of which you speak. Don’t recall ever seeing any.

  15. 15
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Patricia Kayden: IIRC there was a Brazilian division fighting in Italy. Aussies and Kiwis in North Africa, in New Guinea.

  16. 16
    Mr Stagger Lee says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Hell Americans don’t know about the first World War (ask about the Some and Verdun), and wondered why the British weren’t so gung ho about fighting the Germans in the style of Patton in WWII. The British learned from WWI what kind of soldier Jerry was. Speaking of which, there is a series on You Tube called the Great War, which goes week by week about the fighting plus extra bonus stories, a good lesson of the first World War.

  17. 17
    raven says:

    @Mnemosyne: I guess I have reading problems “One aspect I found bizarre was how if you only knew what was displayed in the memorial you would never know the UK, France, or the US had any part in defeating the Nazis.”

  18. 18
    raven says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: My dad’s buddy on the landing boat said they had to point their weapons at the NZ troops to get them out of the boat. In their defense he did say they were awfully old to be making that kind of landing.

  19. 19

    @Villago Delenda Est: I asked my Russian friend when did the Russia recover from WWII? She said, it hasn’t. This was two years ago. Russia suffered tremendously in both the wars, under communism and not Putin. They* don’t seem to catch a break.

    * Citizenry not the ruling class.

  20. 20
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    I knew about Stalingrad, but not Kursk. I attended very good public schools, but the years I was in school coincided with the height of the Cold War, and in retrospect I realise that a lot of the history i was taught was either seriously slanted or simply not mentioned.

  21. 21
    The Moar You Know says:

    One aspect I found bizarre was how if you only knew what was displayed in the memorial you would never know the UK, France, or the US had any part in defeating the Nazis

    .

    @Ladyraxterinok: I hate saying this, given that my grandfather was second wave on D-Day, but America certainly didn’t do most of the heavy lifting as far as defeating the Nazis went. The Brits defended their island ably but that was really all they could do, and France…well, a great number of the French had thrown in their lot with Hitler, ugly truth be known. The Soviets lost more people than all other combatants combined.

    America was not sitting around with their thumbs in their asses, however. We, with some help from Australia (there just were not that many of them but they gave it their all) fought and defeated Japan. Who were just as large and able as the Nazis were. And kept them off of Russia in the east, same as the Russians kept the Nazis off the West’s back. All this a very long winded way of saying that the Russians certainly can’t be blamed for taking a few solo victory laps. They did most of the dying.

  22. 22
    Mnemosyne says:

    @raven:

    Given that Berlin was a divided city with the US/UK in West Berlin and the Soviets in East Berlin, that’s what makes it odd to have the memorial in East Berlin talk about how the Soviet Union single-handedly defeated the Nazis. I guess they couldn’t leave any room for the East German schoolkids to ask why that huge wall ran down the middle of their city.

  23. 23
    raven says:

    @The Moar You Know: Why, the truth is the truth.

  24. 24
    Mnemosyne says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    All this a very long winded way of saying that the Russians certainly can’t be blamed for taking a few solo victory laps. They did most of the dying.

    It’s still pretty dickish to put a giant memorial to your greatness and sacrifice in the middle of the city that you’re occupying as a conqueror.

  25. 25
    raven says:

    @Mnemosyne: Well it doesn’t really matter but “the one aspect” she found bizarre had nothing to do with where the monument was.

  26. 26
    Yarrow says:

    @Mnemosyne: It’s completely consistent with what conquering countries have done throughout history.

  27. 27
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Yep. Many nations took part in defeating the Nazis including Caribbean soldiers and those from the Indian subcontinent. That’s probably why it was so shocking to many of us when Trump defended Neo Nazis in Charlottesville. Sigh.

  28. 28
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @Ladyraxterinok: I visited that memorial in 1991, not too long after the unification of Germany and only a few months before the end of the Soviet Union (the Moscow coup happened while I was on that trip, in Paris).

    It was strange seeing all that laudatory quotation of Josef Stalin, but given all the dying the Soviets did in the war, I found it mostly moving.

  29. 29
    satby says:

    @schrodingers_cat: The countries of the eastern front had so many who died during WWII, I read somewhere that 25% of some populations were lost. Watch the audience reactions to the story being told by the artist in this clip of a Ukrainian talent show from 2009, and you can see the pain is still very real to people who were born decades after the war ended. Powerful stuff to watch.

  30. 30
    Mnemosyne says:

    @raven:

    I disagree — she only found that aspect odd because the monument was in East Berlin rather than in Russia. I doubt she would even have noticed the same lack on a monument in, say, Stalingrad.

    @Yarrow:

    Well, sure, but it’s still pretty dickish.

  31. 31
    trollhattan says:

    Estonia should ebay that statue. Free marketz, bitchez!

    Seattle’s Fremont District sports a Very Large bronze(?) Lenin. He could use some company.

  32. 32
    Another Scott says:

    @raven: Um, she said “one aspect”, not “the one aspect”.

    Dunno why so many are jumping all over her about her comment.

    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  33. 33
    Mike in NC says:

    Memento Park in Budapest contains a lot of Communist period statues and sculptures. We didn’t get an opportunity to see it when we visited.

  34. 34

    @Patricia Kayden: They are of course chopped liver, and invisible. Their contributions seldom recognized and often ignored.

  35. 35
    raven says:

    @Another Scott: Nobody is jumping on anybody.

  36. 36
    zhena gogolia says:

    @schrodingers_cat:

    Definitely true. I’d add they haven’t recovered from WWI, revolution, civil war, famine, terror, more terror, FOLLOWED by WWII.

    ETA: Reading more carefully, I see you mentioned the first war.

  37. 37
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Mnemosyne: Being a conqueror is pretty much an exercise in dickeshness in the first place. The Soviets wanted to make it clear to the Germans that German ass had been kicked, and given all the Germans did to the Russians by invading in the first place, it’s hard to not understand why the attitudes are so severe.

  38. 38
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @schrodingers_cat: There are towns in Germany that have never recovered from the 30 Years War, and that was fought over three and a half centuries ago. Russia has been through so much over the past century.

    War can really, really screw one up.

  39. 39
    eemom says:

    @Ladyraxterinok:

    if you only knew what was displayed in the memorial you would never know the UK, France, or the US had any part in defeating the Nazis.

    I see this is already the subject of a moronic argument about so-called context, but I’m with raven et al. The statement displays a mind-blowing ignorance of history, not to mention americentrism.

    What were your graduate studies IN, pray tell?

  40. 40
    James E. Powell says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Soviets were nothing if not dickish, but she didn’t say it was dickish, she said it was bizarre. Considering the enormity of the Soviet losses coupled with the fact that US, UK, and France were Cold War enemies, it would have been bizarre if a memorial to Soviet dead would have included a shout out to the former allies.

  41. 41
    James E. Powell says:

    @zhena gogolia:

    Is that similar to the way the USA hasn’t recovered from the Civil War? Or as others might put it, hasn’t finished fighting the Civil War?

  42. 42
    Another Scott says:

    @Mike in NC: I was going to mention that as well. We didn’t get out to Memento Park when we visited Budapest many years ago, but even on the Citadella there were Soviet era statues (most since moved, I think) beyond the Liberty Statue.

    Conquerors put up big monuments to their victories and their dead in the lands that they conquer. This isn’t surprising in intellectual terms, but it can be kinda jarring to see for yourself – especially when they’re on a massive scale.

    At least it was for me. YMMV.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  43. 43
    Yarrow says:

    Thanks for the photos and post, Cheryl. Very interesting.

    In 1975, other parts of the Soviet memorial were added, along with an eternal flame. The flame was below the hands . In 2000 there were graffiti, and plants were beginning to grow between the paving blocks. Most of this has been cleaned up.

    Interesting. It’s interesting what happens to memorials like that when loyalties and leaders change.

  44. 44
    raven says:

    @Yarrow: Yea, ask Saddam.

  45. 45
    cain says:

    @NotMax:
    The Iranian president has done more in terms of decency for the fallen crew than our own president would have.

  46. 46
    Feathers says:

    @Mnemosyne: considering that the US and Britain held back and let the Russians do the deadly work of actually capturing Berlin (it was going to be under Soviet control after the war), I’m not surprised they erected a monument to the 80,000+ dead, 250,000+ casualties the city cost them.

    One of the things I always got a kick out of when watching Hong Kong films was the Vietnam War movies without white people in them.

  47. 47
    Schlemazel says:

    @James E. Powell:
    70% of all German casualties came at the hands of the Soviet military. Their focus on their role to the exclusion of others is a bit more understandable and more so than our ignoring the role the British empire played.

  48. 48
    Mnemosyne says:

    @James E. Powell:

    Soviets were nothing if not dickish, but she didn’t say it was dickish, she said it was bizarre. Considering the enormity of the Soviet losses coupled with the fact that US, UK, and France were Cold War enemies, it would have been bizarre if a memorial to Soviet dead would have included a shout out to the former allies.

    Hooray! Someone finally acknowledges that it was a Cold War memorial set up by the Soviets in a conquered country and that’s why the rest of the Allies were omitted.

    Now I finally feel like we’re all on the same page.

  49. 49
    low-tech cyclist says:

    @SiubhanDuinne:

    I knew about Stalingrad, but not Kursk.

    Same here. I’ve known about Stalingrad since my teens, but Kursk? Probably sometime in my 40s or early 50s.

    And even then, I didn’t have a clue as to what the battle of Stalingrad was really like. When I think ‘battle’ I think of something that happened in a day, maybe two or three. Stalingrad was street-by-street fighting for months. It must’ve been like hell on earth.

  50. 50
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Another Scott:

    Also, this:

    Conquerors put up big monuments to their victories and their dead in the lands that they conquer. This isn’t surprising in intellectual terms, but it can be kinda jarring to see for yourself – especially when they’re on a massive scale.

    Just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s not odd to see it for yourself. And, yes, I do think that the “Confederate” monuments to white supremacy in the South were designed to serve the same purpose as this Soviet monument in East Berlin.

  51. 51
    Dmbeaster says:

    @cain: Heck, he would have just noted that the sailors on US merchant ships were mostly from sh!thole countries.

  52. 52
    raven says:

    @low-tech cyclist: Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad
    by William Craig

    Stalingrad, the bloodiest battle in the history of warfare, cost the lives of nearly two million men and women. It signaled the beginning of the end for the Third Reich of Adolf Hitler; it foretold the Russian juggernaut that would destroy Berlin and make the Soviet Union a superpower. As Winston Churchill characterized the result of the conflict at Stalingrad: ” the hinge of fate had turned.”

    William Craig, author and historian, has painstakingly recreated the details of this great battle: from the hot summer of August 1942, when the German armies smashed their way across southern Russia toward the Volga River, through the struggle for Stalingrad-a city Hitler had never meant to capture and Stalin never meant to defend-on to the destruction of the supposedly invincible German Sixth Army and the terror of the Russian prison camps in frozen Siberia. Craig has interviewed hundreds of survivors of the battle-both Russian and German soldiers and civilians-and has woven their incredible experiences into the fabric of hitherto unknown documents. The resulting mosaic is epic in scope, and the human tragedy that unfolds is awesome

  53. 53
    debbie says:

    OT, but nice.

  54. 54
    satby says:

    @debbie: the Bush girls turned out pretty well. That was sweet.

  55. 55
    Dmbeaster says:

    @low-tech cyclist: Worse than hell on earth.

    Approaching this place, [Stalingrad], soldiers used to say: “We are entering hell.” And after spending one or two days here, they say: “No, this isn’t hell, this is ten times worse than hell.”
    Vasily Chuikov [general in charge of the successful defense]

    It is without doubt the bloodiest fight in history, with over 2 million combined casualties (incl. civilians) in five months of fighting. Dead is probably over a million when you add in the fact that an estimated 90 to 95% of the captured German troops perished later in captivity.

    Estimated dead on both sides is over a million, particularly when you factor in that

  56. 56
    eemom says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Someone finally acknowledges that it was a Cold War memorial set up by the Soviets in a conquered country and that’s why the rest of the Allies were omitted.

    But that “why” is not what the comment in question was addressed to. The statement at issue, to which I and others take exception, was

    if you only knew what was displayed in the memorial you would never know the UK, France, or the US had any part in defeating the Nazis.

    The outrage of that assertion from the perspective of history has nothing to do with where the memorial was.

    That said, I know from previous experience that you’re prepared to argue your beside the point “point” for the rest of the evening, and I have work to do. So, yeah, whatever.

  57. 57
    Ladyraxterinok says:

    @raven: Basically as a pretty naive 22yo, I found pretty much everything i saw and experienced in 6 months in 62 in WGermany (and 2 weeks in EGermany) rather strange and somewhat bizarre. From the almost daily rain in Hamburg, the fact that the Germans I met who spoke English spoke it with a British accent, real dishes of whipped cream with chocolate shavings in Italian ice cream parlors, women wearing heels and hose on the beach at Blankenese, American westerns on tv with cowboys speaking German, Baptist church groups drinking beer and stating coca cola was more damaging than beer (I was straight out of SoBapt churches in OK and TX). The list goes on

    Also it was only 17 yrs after the war. The war was very real to me; I grew up on stories and movies about it. There was still a lot of war damage in Berlin.

    In Hamburg there were numbers of buildings with plaques marking that the previous building had been destoyed in the intensive firebombing of the city in the war. Several stores on side streets had posted photos of the destruction of Dresden.

    Amid all these reminders if the war, I found it upsetting at times to see the numbers of men wearing uniforms. Even when most were postmen or other workers, it would nevertheless give me a brief shock at times.

    The speaking, reading, listening, and to some extent thinking in German was a real strain. I felt like I had made a major break through after about 2 months when one of the girls in the dorm room at a retreat said I was speaking in German in my sleep.

  58. 58
    Temporarily Max McGee (may or may not be a myth) says:

    @schrodingers_cat:

    Russia still hasn’t gotten over being invaded by the Livonians.

  59. 59
  60. 60
    NotMax says:

    Short rundown of the history of Jews in Estonia.

    In 1925, the Act of Cultural Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities was enacted in Estonia, giving minority groups consisting of at least 3,000 individuals the right of self-determination in cultural matters. Financial support was provided by the state. Thus, in 1926, the Jewish cultural autonomy was declared – first of its kind in the world.…

  61. 61
    Ladyraxterinok says:

    @Another Scott: Than@eemom: Apologies to everyone who has taken offence at this comment. It was mostly a reflection of my feelings at the time.

    I don’t remember hearing much about Soviet suffering in the war. When I was growing upthe Russians were THE enemy.

    All this is not an excuse. Simply trying give some context for the reactions of one who was born during WWII and heard anti Soviet propaganda thru much of my pre grad school life.

  62. 62
    zhena gogolia says:

    @Ladyraxterinok:

    I don’t think anyone is offended. People here just like to argue.

  63. 63
    Yarrow says:

    @Ladyraxterinok: Thanks for sharing more details of your experience. It must have been a very interesting time for you and interesting in general given the time in history. I can understand how all sorts of things seemed strange and bizarre. That’s one of the great things about travel and living in other countries–how much we learn about other cultures, the world, and ourselves.

  64. 64
    Temporarily Max McGee (may or may not be a myth) says:

    @Mr Stagger Lee:

    Hell Americans don’t know about the first World War (ask about the Some and Verdun), and wondered why the British weren’t so gung ho about fighting the Germans in the style of Patton in WWII. The British learned from WWI what kind of soldier Jerry was.

    Yeah, that was part of it, but the lesser part. The larger problem was demographic: The Brits had lost so many soldiers during WW I that they didn’t have a significant baby boom following it. This meant that there was a smaller pool of men of fighting age from which to draft. They could call in Canadians and Anzacs to fight the Axis powers in Europe and North Africa, but the flow of Anzacs stopped with the Japanese entry into the war. Forget the Indian troops, because even before December, 1941, the Subcontinent was a tinderbox. So it was pretty much only soldiers from the UK and Canada who were available to them, and there weren’t many of them available.

    I get that about their situation. The problem is that when it was time for Monty to get his soldiers’ butts moving quickly- at Falaise, and later, during Market Garden- he couldn’t do it. He wouldn’t do it. Even though Market Garden was his baby, and the plan was predicated on surprise and speed. And because he hesitated, he took more casualties than he would have had he gone in speedily.

    That said, the Americans could have used some of Monty’s caution in ’44. We have somehow forgotten- or perhaps never really learned of- the Battle of Hurtgen Forest, and Patton’s god damned assaults on Metz.

  65. 65
    Temporarily Max McGee (may or may not be a myth) says:

    @Schlemazel:

    “70% of all German casualties came at the hands of the Soviet military. ”

    Logistical ability supplied by the USA by way of Studebakers and railroad rolling stock made by Americans, transported in ships built by Americans.

  66. 66
    Mnemosyne says:

    @eemom:

    I realize that removing a single paragraph from its context and arguing that that one out-of-context paragraph is objectively wrong is just what we do around here, but it’s a pretty egregious excision even for you:

    In the summer of 1962, as part of my 1st yr grad studies program , I visited the Soviet WWII memorial Treptow in the then East Berlin. It blew me away. Absolutely gigantic. The broad walkway to it also created the image of visitors being mere specks against the gigantic grandeur of the Soviet Union.

    One aspect I found bizarre was how if you only knew what was displayed in the memorial you would never know the UK, France, or the US had any part in defeating the Nazis.

    As we walked the long way to the memorial, we saw a large group of EGerman Young Pioneers leaving the memorial.

    Given that the VERY NEXT PARAGRAPH is about the East German teenagers she saw visiting the memorial, I’m really not sure how anyone missed her point, but you all managed it.

  67. 67
    Temporarily Max McGee (may or may not be a myth) says:

    @eemom:

    Hey! Back atchya!

    Last scans were good- no growth. Addressing an eye issue- pre-existing condition exacerbated by med-related dry eye- a week from Wednesday. Which is great, because the blurry vision and generally uncomfortable feeling are driving me nuts.

  68. 68
    WGG says:

    @low-tech cyclist: I think the only WW2 comparison to Stalingrad is Guadalcanal, where the Marines and Japanese had at it for six straight months – the details of which I only know about because I’m going through Richard B. Frank’s 800 page ‘Guadalcanal’. Of course the number of combatants was vastly different; hundreds of thousands in Stalingrad, vs ~ 30 – 40k at Guadalcanal.

  69. 69
    eemom says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (may or may not be a myth):

    So glad to hear it. Please keep us posted.

    And come around more often! As you can see, there are a vanishingly small number of old timers with whom I don’t have some kind of intermittent feud going…. 😈

  70. 70
    Sloane Ranger says:

    @schrodingers_cat: When I visited the Caribbean last year I made a point to visit the war memorials on the islands I visited to pay my respects and say a short prayer. I found them all very well maintained.

    @Temporarily Max McGee (may or may not be a myth): Conveyed on Royal Navy ships in the Artic convoys.

  71. 71
    Temporarily Max McGee (may or may not be a myth) says:

    @Sloane Ranger:

    And on American ships, through the Persian Gulf, northward through Iran.

  72. 72
    BruceJ says:

    When I was in College, my physical chemistry teacher was an Estonian, who had been in high school in the 40’s. He was one of four men who survived the war from his HS class. He once told us the story of his Uncle, who was in the Estonian resistance, being on the run from the Gestapo and the NKVD at the same time.

  73. 73
    Temporarily Max McGee (may or may not be a myth) says:

    @eemom:

    There are times I try, but I can’t get this MacBook to save my cookies for the site, so every time I do maintenance on my history/cache then try to comment here, I have to wait for one of the FPers to free up my next comment. So it can be a pain in the ass.

  74. 74
    Sloane Ranger says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (may or may not be a myth): Fair point. Also forgot that Canadian ships were involved.

  75. 75
    Temporarily Max McGee (may or may not be a myth) says:

    @WGG:

    Iwo Jima. Peleliu. Okinawa. All scaled down, of course, but very hard, close combat. If you never could figure out why Truman had two atomic bombs dropped on Japan, just read up on those three battles. And remember that Iwo Jima and Okinawa were fought in 1945, when it was obvious to anyone with half a brain that Japan was doomed to lose the war badly.

  76. 76
    James E. Powell says:

    @Schlemazel:

    I’m unable to discern the connection between your reply comment and my comment to which you replied.

  77. 77
    Temporarily Max McGee (may or may not be a myth) says:

    @Sloane Ranger:

    Sure, but much of what the Canadian and British navies were carrying/protecting were supplies going to North Africa, Italy and to the UK in preparation for Overlord. The ability to build ships in the UK was very low, many of the shipyards threatened by German bombing raids. And while Canadian shipyards were more safely situated, their capacity, compared to that of the US, was quite low.

    This was a big reason for the Lend-Lease Agreement.

    The US really was the arsenal of democracy, and ship building wasn’t shuffled to the back. Check this out: Both of my grandfathers remained in Muskegon during the war. My maternal grandfather was a little 41-year old father of, at the time the US entered the war, 8 0r 9 children (not sure if Aunt Jeannie was born yet). They weren’t going to take this old 5’2″ guy. My paternal grandfather, OTOH, was in his early 20s, with one child. He was, however, a skilled woodworker in a city on the Great Lakes. He had more value building the wooden decks of ships than he had as a cook, a mechanic, a truck driver, or as a frontline grunt in the foxhole next to Willie and Joe. He built ships’ decks because the world needed men who could build ships’ decks. There were ships being built in cities up and down America’s four coasts. New Haven, Newport News, Mobile, New Orleans, Long Beach, San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland…And Muskegon. And that ain’t all of ’em. Not even close

  78. 78
    Origuy says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (may or may not be a myth):

    Russia still hasn’t gotten over being invaded by the Livonians.

    I don’t think Russians have yet gotten over being invaded by the Golden Horde.

  79. 79
    tybee says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    They did most of the dying.

    and a lot of that dying was due to poor leadership from stalin and the general staff.

    if the allies hadn’t invaded north africa in ’42, the russians would have run out of troops in late ’43 or so.
    hitler had to move a lot of troops out of russia to protect southern europe and if it hadn’t been for that, the russian successes in ’43 would not have occurred.

    the u.s. did one hell of a lot to aid the rooskies (look at the sheer number of aircraft, trucks and artillery shipped, at great cost to the convoys, to the rodina) and do recall that the russians didn’t declare war against the japanese until the last week or so of wwii, they didn’t fight a two front war. the allies did.

    they did a lot but they didn’t win it all by themselves, either.

  80. 80
    Temporarily Max McGee (may or may not be a myth) says:

    @Origuy:

    LOL! I thought about going there, but their attention has been more focused westward than any other direction over the last 400-500 years. Not entirely, but other than that defeat at the hands of the Japanese just over a century ago, they’ve had there way looking eastward. And yes, I’m figuring Afghanistan in there, because I’ve never been sold on the idea that they went in there to do more than try to clean up the mess made by two factions that had both found support in the Kremlin.

  81. 81
    Sloane Ranger says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (may or may not be a myth): I’m not arguing that the ships weren’t built in the US, just that their crews were British. I have seen the veterans from the Artic convoys march past the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday since I was a child. The point I was really making is that that the UK also played a part in supplying the Soviet Union during the war.

  82. 82
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Origuy: Especially because the Mongols invaded in winter…and won!

  83. 83
    Sm*t Cl*de says:

    @trollhattan:

    Estonia should ebay that statue.

    They have a nice collection of statues of Stalin & Lenin (and sundry collaborators) kept in the basement of the Museum of Occupations.
    It is not about vocational guidance.

  84. 84
    qwerty42 says:

    @Ladyraxterinok: … One aspect I found bizarre was how if you only knew what was displayed in the memorial you would never know the UK, France, or the US had any part in defeating the Nazis. …
    I’ve been there too. Very moving. It seemed a very direct message to the Germany of that time. The marble used for the statues was taken from the Reich Chancellery before the building was demolished.

  85. 85
    J R in WV says:

    @zhena gogolia:

    Definitely true. I’d add they haven’t recovered from WWI, revolution, civil war, famine, terror, more terror, FOLLOWED by WWII.

    Hell, they haven’t ever recovered from the Tsar, his kulaks, and the Mongols before them. Those people have never had a chance, ever. Serfs were tied to the land, could never leave and could be beaten to death at the whim of the local boss Sound familiar?. Look up “knout” for the tools used to keep the serfs tame and obedient.

    Never mind, from Brittanica; “The Russian knout, consisting of a number of dried and hardened thongs of rawhide interwoven with wire—the wires often being hooked and sharpened so that they tore the flesh—was even more painful and deadly.”

  86. 86
    J R in WV says:

    @zhena gogolia:

    You’re kidding!!! Right?!!! Argue, here? US !?! That’s crazy talk!~!

    ;-)

  87. 87
    Sm*t Cl*de says:

    @Origuy:

    Russia still hasn’t gotten over being invaded by the Livonians.
    I don’t think Russians have yet gotten over being invaded by the Golden Horde.

    It’s awkward for them. The same Patriotic Hero who beat the Livonian Knights was also the collaborationist who sold Russia out to the Golden Horde.

  88. 88
    J R in WV says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (may or may not be a myth):

    Hell, they built landing craft in little boatyards all up and down the Mississippi and the Ohio, probably the Tennessee, etc.

  89. 89
    J R in WV says:

    @Sm*t Cl*de:

    Thanks for that detail. The broad knowledge here is awesome!

    Were the Golden Horde Mongols or Tatars? Is there a difference?

  90. 90
    James E. Powell says:

    @J R in WV:

    The Tatars are a Turkic people from Central Asia who cliqued up with the Mongols. Where everybody originally came from I do not know.

  91. 91
    Temporarily Max McGee (may or may not be a myth) says:

    @J R in WV:

    They were Mongols first, then Tatar, then Turkic. But the Tatars themselves were some sort of transitional people between Mongol and Turkic language and culture. All of those different peoples that came out of the shadows of the Altai mountains seem to be transitions between those who preceded and those who followed. My favorites are the Khitan, particularly the Qara Khitan, if for no other reason than the way those words roll off the tongue.

  92. 92
    Sm*t Cl*de says:

    Looks like the description of the Golden Horde as “Mongols” or “Tatars” was primarily a function of when and where an author was writing. So they might be Tatars for a historian who wanted to emphasise that these were occupiers who had been occupying Russia for long enough to become civilised.

  93. 93
    Sm*t Cl*de says:

    @J R in WV:

    Hell, they haven’t ever recovered from the Tsar, his kulaks, and the Mongols before them.

    The sad thing is that the Rus’ city-states were progressing nicely out of feudalism in the 12th century. The key part of the Alexander Nevsky story is that he was leader of Novgorod because the city’s merchants and boyars elected him. The city-states had constitutions that sound like the Magna Carta, in terms of restricting princely power.

    Then the Mongols came in and everything went to custard.

  94. 94
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    One day you’re giving Russia excuses for past dickishness, and the next day you’re excusing genocide by Bosnian Serbs. The converse of “we have to remember the grievious suffering of our Soviet superiors” is endless bloodshed and ethnic cleansing in Eastern Europe. Clearly there does have to be a statue of limitations on historical grievances.

  95. 95
    Uncle Cosmo says:

    @The Moar You Know: Just FTR, the US did not “keep the Japanese off the Russian backs in the Far East.” Japan had decided well before Pearl Harbor to strike south to collect the desperately needed raw materials there rather than north from “Manchukuo” into Siberia. The Rising Sun had clashed in fairly significant numbers with the CCCP at Khalkhyn Gol in 1939 & had gotten its tukhis kicked – which had to figure into the decision as well – but mostly it was about the oil & rubber.

    Also FTR, this decision was made known to the USSR by RIchard Sorge, a Soviet spy working as a journalist in the German embassy in Tokyo. That information allowed Stalin to send the bulk of the Red Army guarding the Siberian border west in autumn 1941 – which forces provided vital part of the counteroffensive that kept the Wehrmacht out of Moscow as the year ended.

    (You’re very welcome!)

  96. 96
    Uncle Cosmo says:

    @Mnemosyne: There is (or was) also a Soviet war memorial in what was West Berlin, on the north side of the Strasse des 17. Juni , the boulevard that runs from the Siegesaule to the Brandenburger Tor.(which was just east of the Wall). In the BOGOD (the Bad Old Good Old Days) that edifice was blocked off to casual pedestrians; Soviet vehicles had special permission to cross the intracity boundary & make the mile-long RT to rotate the Red Army soldiers who stood guard there.

    FTR, the Soviet war memorial I found most interesting was the one (still in existence IIUC) in Vienna. It is not widely known in the USA that Austria, like Germany, was divided into four occupation zones after WW2, & Vienna itself divided a la Berlin (though without a wall) – joint 4-powr patrols operated through the entire city). During the first postwar “thaw” in the Cold War, the USSR decided to allow the reunification of Austria, with a few conditions – the most significant that the resurrected state would be nonaligned in perpetuity between East and West.

    One of the less drastic conditions was that the Soviet war memorial also had to stay there, in perpetuity. The Austrians were not happy about this (when I first visited in 1980 I was told by a native that the Germans were the second-most hated ethnic group in Austria, second only to the Russians, “who celebrated their liberation of us by raping every woman between 8 and 80”) but considered it a small price to pay for getting their country back.

    But they did get theirs back in a charmingly catty fashion. The memorial sat (sits? )just outside the Ring, between the Upper and Lower Belvedere Palaces further out and a large fountain right at the Ring. At night the palaces were brightly floodlit. So was the fountain, shooting water 20-30 m into the night. The war memorial was left in total darkness. Which I verified myself. Eerie – & dangerous; I’m lucky I didn’t trip over a step in the gloom & break an ankle.

  97. 97
    Captain C says:

    @Schlemazel:

    bit more understandable and more so than our ignoring the role the British empire played.

    I wonder if some of that has to do with the Patton-Monty rivalry and suchlike. Maybe I was a more avid history reader growing up than most, but I was always given the impression that the Brits heroically fought on alone until the US came in (albeit that once that happened, the US was the more important partner). The books I read (not in school) also made sure to at least point out the Soviet role in defeating the Nazi war machine, and that they did so at great cost.

    That said, if I relied on my school texts, I would not have gotten this impression. Also, I didn’t really learn about Operation Bagration until, oh, probably my 20s or so.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Cross-posted at Balloon Juice. […]

Comments are closed.