Victory Day – 70 Years’ Anniversary of the defeat of Nazism in Germany


No one’s Forgotten
Nothing’s Forgotten

Today marks the 70th Anniversary of the Victory in WWII and Great Patriotic War.
Much can be said commemorating the sacrifice of the 27 million Soviet citizens, who lost their lives on the way to victory. But the best tribute to it is in the words and the imagery of the following immortal song of Lev Leshenko – Victory Day – performed by Iosif Kobzon (who is, incidentally, under the EU and US sanctions for his courageous and outspoken defence democracy, human rights and the right of peoples for self-determination).


Victory Day!

Victory Day how far away it was from us,
As a smouldering piece of coal in an extinguished fire.
There were miles, burnt and dusty, –
We hastened this day however we could.

This Victory Day
Has become permeated with the smell of gunpowder,
It is a celebration
With greying hair on one’s temples.
It is a joy
With the tears in one’s eyes.
Victory Day!
Victory Day!
Victory Day!

Days and nights in front of the hearth furnaces
Our Motherland didn’t shut her eyes.
Days and nights conducting a difficult battle –
We hastened this day however we could.

This Victory Day
Has become permeated with the smell of gunpowder,
It is a celebration
With greying hair on one’s temples.
It is a joy
With the tears in one’s eyes.
Victory Day!
Victory Day!
Victory Day!

Hello, mama, not all of us returned…
Would be nice to run barefoot on dew!
Half of Europe have we walked, half the Earth –
We hastened this day however we could.

This Victory Day
Has become permeated with the smell of gunpowder,
It is a celebration
With greying hair on one’s temples.
It is a joy
With the tears in one’s eyes.
Victory Day!
Victory Day!
Victory Day!


It is a slap in the face of those 27 million perished Soviet citizens, that some of the Western “leaders” decided to boycott the memorial parade in Moscow on May the 9th 2015. This especially shames Angela Merkel of Germany. This denial to commemorate the defeat of Nazism unpleasantly signals that the ugly head of Nazism is again rearing over Europe and USA. I just hope that this attitude is not representative for the people that those “leaders” are representing.

WWII Veteran Stanislav Lapin: “I had my own score with Hitler”

The article below is my translation from Russian of an account of one of the participants of the Victory Parade of 1945, as published in “Argumenty i Fakty” on the 6th of March 2015.


As we locate the still-living participants of the Parade, “AIF” will print their memories. The first word to Stanislav Vasilyevich Lapin – a simple but heroic soldier of the 3rd Belorussian Front.

If not for the war

– I am a kid from Moscow. Year of birth: 1923. At 16 I went to the factory. Got the fourth grade (proficiency). Everything would have been fine if it were not for the war… The factory produced military products. Therefore, for my grade I was given a reservation and was to be to sent, along with the machine, to the Urals. When the equipment was loaded onto the platform, I said, I’ll go for a walk. I left and never returned. Simply put, ran to the front. I could not be worse than all the rest! The very next day I got myself right to fight! Took the oath on November 4, 1941 – and strait to the battle of Volokolamsk. I also took part in the Battle of Moscow. I needed it, because in addition to the general, I had a personal score with Hitler. Before the war I had a girl. I called her “my Sonia”. Her and I loved to go for a walk around Moscow on warm evenings. But we were young and… never kissed. Just sat there and sometimes gently pressed against each other. And then came the war.

I went to the front, and my Sonia went to nursing courses. Then, to the front as well. And once, after a battle I was sitting on a halt. I see a supply cart, and on it – my Sonia. As she saw me, she ran up to me and started kissing me as never before. Our soldiers were looking at us in both envy and joy. And suddenly… a shot – my Sonia shuddered and began to sag in my arms. I cried in fright, and the boys rushed into the forest, where the shot came from. And there they saw a German in Russian boots and fur coat. He tried to escape. One of ours caught up with him and stabbed him with a bayonet. Other Germans who were there, did not have time to react – they too were finished off. Such was the hatred of our guys. Only I just sat there and held my Sonia. And still felt the ghost of her kisses.

After the war I met her mother, who ran up to me and started kissing me as my Sonia back then… But I could not find the strength to tell her how it all happened. And she did not know – she kissed and cried that Sonia was killed. So during the Battler for Moscow I had a personal score with Hitler!

And one more thing… looking for water in a deserted village, we found… a well, jammed with children. Around them lay dead mothers. A child was nailed to the house door with a bayonet… How could have we treated Germans after all that we’ve seen?!

The main medal

I was first wounded near Rzhev in February 42nd. There were heavy battles, neither we could take the Germans, nor they us. It lasted for a long time, until ours prevailed.

In 1943 I was in the Orel-Kursk battle. Here again I was wounded, but lightly, so I quickly returned to the front. That’s infantry for you: to fight, heal the wounds and fight again. My first medal is for the Battle of Kursk. I fought in the infantry from 41st until to 43rd and know first-hand what it means to raise into the attack. When the command is issued, you have to get up and go forward under machine-gun fire, explosions and mortar shells. Next to you your comrades fall, but all the same you go ahead. Forward! It’s simple when told, but it is impossible to get used to. Each attack is a shock and an effort. Artillery helped, the Germans fled. And only then, when catching up with them, you feel you have won this battle, and there is an unexplainable feeling of victory!

Advancements usually occurred during the nights, while the Germans were asleep. We came out of the blue. We were killed, we killed, but we won! That’s the infantry for you. In the 43rd I was retrained and for the battles at Orel I became a mortar oprative. Although I was only a sergeant, I was entrusted to command the mortar platoon. We chose a place near some village, and took up a position, adjusted the mortars in advance, placed guards, and went to sleep. Well… By nature I used to get up early. And here I woke up even earlier, at about five o’clock – wanted to wash my head. Nearby there was a crane-well. It was summer. I pulled out some water, poured it into the helmet and only started to wash, when I heard the hum. Looked at the road, and there down the hill… a whole column of German cars! I threw down my helmet and to the mortars. Fired… And hit from the first shot! Straight into the hood of the front car.

It was correct that we adjusted the aim the previous evening, and did not put off until morning. The Germans did not expect us here. Panic. My guys woke up from my shot. And started firing from all mortars – no one was left! Many did not even have time get out of their cars. That’s where I got the first medal “For Courage”.

The third time I was wounded near Vitebsk in 1944 and until autumn… suffered in the hospital, because whatever you say, but it’s easier to wait for the end of the war at the front! There, at least ,something depends on you. Near Vitebsk the soldiers of the 3rd Belorussian Front did not spare themselves. Despite all German shooting, they still went forward, because as sometimes it happens, that there is no other way! Germans did not take it into account, so we drove them out of Vitebsk. That’s the second medal. I also have an Order, but I would not exchange the medal “For Courage” for any Order.

For my two medals “For Courage” I was awarded the right to participate in the first Victory Parade. My place in the parade is different from most other places. My companions and I were sitting in the back of the car ZIS-5. We were warned that, passing Mausoleum, we should not turn our heads. But how could we not turn them when there were Stalin and Zhukov?!

Repentance of Berlin.
After 70 years, the Germans have an unambiguous attitude towards the Soviet victory

Below is my translation of an article by Georgij Zotov, published in “Argumenty i Fakty” on the 6th of March 2015.


– Excuse me, but where is the monument to Soviet soldiers?

– Stay on the road. Walk a little further and you’ll immediately see the gates.

The memorial in Berlin’s Treptow Park is the largest outside the former Soviet Union, and one is immediately struck by its size. Police strolls by, watching order, cleaners gather fallen branches. People come here all the time – and, surprisingly, not only the residents of the former East Germany (GDR), but also quite the Westen Germans. I met a businessman from Hamburg, a 34-year-old Herbert Müller, who made a special trip to the monument – to lay flowers and pay tribute to the Soviet soldiers. A situation that is quite difficult to imagine in today’s Poland, Hungary or the Czech Republic.


Traffic controller Katya Spivak at the crossroads of Berlin. May 1945. Photo: RIA Novosti / Jacob Ryumkin

“The monstrous meat grinder”

– On the 9th of May I always think about the suffering of the German and Soviet soldiers, who were involved in a terrible slaughter, the bloodiest in human history – Herbert tells me. – Do you know what angers me the most right now? Politicians in Western Europe forgot about the Second World War and are aggressively pushing us for a showdown with Russia. They learned nothing from 50 million victims. How would supplies of modern weapons to Ukraine help to maintain truce in this country? We can not change anything in the last war, but we can prevent the next: that’s what we have to think about!

Herbert Mueller never saw his grandfather – he was killed near Moscow in December 1941. The same story, with a few exceptions, will be told by almost every German – grandfathers in the service in the army, the SS, the Gestapo, fighting in the Volkssturm. Some died at the front, some were captured, and some even hanged as war criminals: I got to talk to a woman, whose grandfather served in the Majdanek concentration camp. However, I heard nothing negative with regard to the Victory Day, in contrast to our former friends from Eastern Europe. Of course, for the Germans, the 8-9 May is not a national holiday, but rather an occasion for mourning for the dead relatives. Something that no one has forgotten, is the bombing of Berlin and other cities by the Anglo-American aviation. “40,000 civilians were killed in Hamburg in 1943, two years later in Dresden – 25,000. We can’t even put a memorial to them – the “allies” of Germany will misunderstand – says businessman Volker Heinecke, who in 1942, as a two-year child, was kidnapped by the Nazis from the USSR and placed in an SS child centre “Lebensborn”. – I was five years old, but I remember very well how residential neighbourhoods of Hamburg burned: the bombs fell nearby”.

“How many Russians died?”

At the same time, after having communicated with pupils and students in Berlin, I realized with sadness – the victims from the Soviet Union in World War II have become half-forgotten over the past 25 years. “How many Soviet citizens died? – A group of students at the Brandenburg Gate repeats the question. – Uh-uh … a million? No? Five million? I’m sorry, we have to look it up on the Internet”. Nowadays German schools teach the exact number of Jews and Gypsies put to death by the Nazis, but it is not known to the Germans about the three million Soviet POWs who died in captivity (falling under the definition of the Holocaust in a broad sense) – as well as about a million victims of the siege of Leningrad, and about thousands of burnt villages in USSR.

On the other hand, the guides in Berlin tell school groups about how many people were shot dead by GDR border guards while trying to scale the Berlin Wall, and, pointing at the Soviet flag (next to the checkpoint “Charlie” – the former checkpoint at the entrance to the American sector), explains: “Here began the territory of the Kremlin and ended with the territory of freedom.” Who said that the Cold War is over?

– I want to emphasize – the vast majority of Berliners do not question that the Soviet Union played a significant role in the collapse of National Socialism, – said in an interview to “AIF” Florian Schmidt, press officer of the Mayor of Berlin. – Although occasionally neo-Nazis try to desecrate the monument to the Soviet soldiers in Treptow Park, we are determined to prevent such actions. For us, this monument is the evidence of the end of a terrible war, a sign of liberation from Nazi dictatorship, and the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazism is an important anniversary for the people of the united Germany. On the 8-9 May they plan in Berlin, at the state level, to hold a series of celebrations, organize exhibitions and public readings of novels about the war.


In the GDR at the monument to Soviet soldiers there were crowds of people. Today – much less. But still they come and bring fresh flowers. Photo: RIA Novosti (left), AIF / Georgy Zotov (right)

“We’re not stupid”

Only once (in 1992) the Senate of Berlin raised the question whether to remove the quotes of Stalin from the monument in Treptow Park. But it was immediately hushed: in Germany they behave differently than our neighbours in Eastern Europe, and understand that such things CAN NOT be touched. In Berlin I talked both with Western and Eastern Germans: so different in character, they often agree on one opinion – the Soviet Union had the right after the defeat of the Third Reich to remain on German soil. “And what were the options then? – A journalist of one of the leading newspapers in Germany asks me in surprise. – The Americans put their bases in the German west, Russians – in the east. Now in Eastern Europe they are trying to remove monuments to Soviet soldiers, but we do not imitate fools. We must keep in mind that for the Russians, the theme of the war is painful still – the Germans killed in the USSR more people than in any other country. Unfortunately, people start to forget about it…”

According to polls, 72% of young people from Eastern Germany were able to name the date of the end of World War II, on the other hand 68% of young from the Western part of the country failed to do so. Only 18% of the population of Germany know how huge were the human losses suffered by Soviet Union. “It is bad that modern Germans are not aware of the terrible fate of 15 million Soviet civilians killed by the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe and the SS – sighs the businessman from Hamburg Volker Heinecke. – In my opinion, these people deserve a separate memorial complex in the heart of the German capital, in memory of their suffering. But neither the former Soviet government nor the current German thought of it…” However, at least one thing in Berlin remains unchanged. “We believe that Russians did not conquer, but liberate us – said to AiF the guitarist of the popular band “Rammstein”, Paul Landers. – And there is no other opinion about this among my friends.”

Prague Winter.
What is the Czechs’ attitude towards the coming 70th anniversary of the Victory?

Below is my translation of an article by Georgij Zotov, published in “Argumenty i Fakty” on the 27th of February 2015. The title is a play on concepts. “Prague Spring” was a period of political and cultural liberalisation of Czechoslovakia in 1968.


Over the last 25 years they repeatedly tried to rewrite history in the Czech Republic so as to show – Prague was liberated by whoever, but not by the Soviet troops. However, this period is now referred to by some citizens of the country as “madness”.

– When was Prague liberated? We celebrate the Victory Day on 8th of May. I do not know what happened there. It seems that the Americans wanted to help the Czechs, who revolted against the SS. But they were prevented by the Russians. Anyway, that’s what we were taught.

“They kissed hands of the Russians”

18-year-old student Vaclav does not know Russian, and standing on the Old Town Square in Prague, the guy is talking to me in English. He’d be happy to answer the question, but he’s not sure about the correct answer. Over 25 years too much has changed in the views of the end of World War II in the Czech Republic – and not for the better for our side. Although Soviet troops entered Prague on the morning of May 9, 1945, Liberation Day is celebrated here on May 8 – with the motivation: “If the whole of Western Europe celebrates on the eighth, so will we.” And the very fact of the liberation is questioned by the Czech press and politicians.

– Since 1990 we learned a lot of “new” from the articles of Czech newspapers and statements of historians, – says ex-employee of the TV Czechoslovakia Tatiana Ditrihova. – Especially about the uprising in Prague that erupted on May 5, 1945. For example, it was reported that the Russians did not allow the US Army to rescue the residents of Prague. Although it was the Americans themselves, who ignored calls for help, not wanting to get involved in heavy fighting. Other “experts” claimed – Vlasov’s fighters helped rebels more than the Soviet soldiers. Yes, hoping for amnesty, Russian units of the Wehrmacht joined the revolt, but already two days later they left Prague residents to fend for themselves by fleeing to the Americans. There were printed even such views as saying that on May 9 Russians entered the empty city, that armed Czechs liberated the capital on their own. This is nonsense. Prague Radio begged Marshal Konev: “An SS division moved out against Prague, we are being bombarded from the air, they press us out with tanks, we run out of ammo.” On the 8th of May, Nazi commandant of Prague, General Rudolf Toussaint, accepted the surrender of the guerrillas – the Germans crushed the uprising. When the Red Army entered Prague on the next morning, many Czechs were crying from happiness on the streets and kissed the hands of Soviet soldiers.


The joy of the people of Prague. Photo: RIA Novosti

How to uproot memory

The first to burst into Prague was the tank of 25-year-old Lieutenant Ivan Goncharenko. A fight broke out. On Manesov bridge T-34 was hit and Goncharenko died, becoming the first of the Soviet soldiers who died for the liberation of the capital of Czechoslovakia. On July 29, 1945, on ​​Stefanik square there was unveiled a monument to Goncharenko: tank “IS-2” raised on a pedestal. He has long been a symbol of the liberation of Prague, but now the tank is no longer there – coming to Stefanik (now called Kinsky Square), on the site of the monument I see a crudely made fountain. On April 28, 1991 an avant-garde artist David Black mockingly repainted the tank in pink. And so it began … the combat vehicle was deprived of the status of “cultural monument”, dismantled and its pedestal destroyed – they even destroyed the flower bed in the form of a five-pointed star. When I ask the Prague residents about the tank, they feel uncomfortable. “We have nothing to do with it – sighs an elderly passerby on the Kinsky square. – We were not asked, and I am ashamed of hysteria in relation to Russian. Why the monuments in Berlin and Vienna do not trouble anybody? The new authorities explained their actions as follows: like this tank now only represents the Soviet intervention during the Prague Spring.

Of course, the decision by Brezhnev in 1968 to suppress the rally of the Czech people is a “black page” in the history of the USSR; back then 108 citizens of Czechoslovakia were killed. However, in the six years of the Nazi occupation, there were killed 325,000 Czechs, Slovaks, Jews, Roma (90% of them – civilians). Only in 1943, 350,000 people were driven to work in Germany. Only in one day of the American bombing of Prague on the 14th of February 1945, 700 residents were burned alive. I want to ask Czechs what is more important to them – the memory of an idiotic act of Brezhnev, or respect for the people who, by giving their lives, saved millions of others? However, since 2011 they already hold discussions in the Czech press: Should the tank be returned to its place for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Prague? Alas, it doesn’t go further than mere talk.

Before
After
Stefanik Square in Prague before and after.
Photo: Commons.wikimedia.org / ŠJů; AIF / Georgy Zotov

End of insanity

– For me, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Prague, is of course a celebration – said to “AiF” Maria Dolezhalova-Shupikova, one of the few surviving residents of the village of Lidice that in 1942 was obliterated from the face of the earth by SS punishers. – I was sent to be raised in a German family, forbidden to speak Czech, I had almost forgotten my mother tongue. If the Soviet army didn’t come, I would not have returned home and would not have found my mother. Of course there are problems between the Russians and the Czechs, there are differences of opinion. But this is not a reason to forget about the events that took place in Prague seventy years ago.

On May 11, 1945 a war correspondent Boris Polevoy conveyed report from Prague to “Moskovskaya Pravda”: “Near an overturned truck there lay a body of a girl with such a beautiful face, which it seemed that even death could not change. Next to her, with arms spread, a mighty Red Army tanker lay on the ground on his back, killed by a stray bullet that hit him in the forehead just at the moment when he probably wanted to rush to the aid of the girl. They lay here, head to head, surrounded by a silent crowd, as a symbol of the brotherhood of Czechoslovak and Soviet people. Brotherhood designated by a bloody seal.” There is, perhaps, no more brotherhood – it disappeared with the collapse of the USSR and Czechoslovakia. But the memory remains the same: after the “short madness,” as the situation was aptly described by one of Prague citizens, respect for Soviet soldiers is returning. The graves of our soldiers on Olshansky cemetery in Prague are restored at the expense of the authorities, flowers are brought to the gravestones.

On the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the capital of the Czech Republic they plan celebrations, during which they promised to reflect the role of the Red Army in the rescue of the city. Is Prague winter finally over? I hope so. Oh yeah, I forgot. Avant-garde artist David Black, who in 1991 defaced the Soviet tank, did not respond to my request for an interview to the “AiF”. Perhaps he simply had nothing to say…

Blood and Vienna.
Even After 70 Years the Soviet Soldiers Are Respected in Austria

Below is my translation of an article by Georgij Zotov, published in “Argumenty i Fakty” on the 20th of February 2015. The title is a play on words. “Vienna” is written the same as the word “vein” in Russian.

In contrast to our former allies in Eastern Europe, it is well understood in Austria: in 1945 Soviet troops freed their country from the regime of Adolf Hitler.

A very old, completely grey-haired man tells me how to get to the ​​Schwarzenberg square. “You have an interesting accent. Are you Russian?” – “Yes.” He immediately switches over to my mother tongue, pronouncing some words with difficulty. “My name is Helmut Hurst, for two years I was with you as a … war-time-prisoner. Got mobilised to the Volkssturm straight from school in April forty-five, when your troops entered Vienna. No training, got handed a rifle with no bullets – and forward into the fray for the great Fuhrer. I’m not dead only thanks to the Russians, although I was captured with weapons in my hands. Thank you.”

USSR saved us

After the statements of the Republic of Poland and the Baltic states that the anniversary of Victory is not a liberation, but the beginning of a “new occupation”, you come to Austria as if to another planet. A completely different attitude. The press service of the capital gladly told me: for the 70th anniversary of the entry of the Red Army into Vienna, they plan to lay flowers at the monument to Soviet soldiers, conduct a memorial service at the site of the Mauthausen concentration camp, open the Museum of the liberation of Vienna, and even stage theatrical performances.

The Red Army entered the city on April 5th 1945, and already on April 13th the remnants of the Nazi army in the capital of Austria (then part of the Third Reich) surrendered. Soviet troops remained in Vienna for a little more than a decade – they left after the restoration of the sovereignty of Austria as an independent state.

– Austrians seriously differ from Eastern Europe in terms of the perception of the Second World War – explains historian and researcher Gerhard Zauner. – In 1945, Poland and Czechoslovakia met Russians with flowers, rejoicing and shouting “Hurrah!”, the girls hung on their necks of your soldiers. 70 years later the Poles and Czechs pretend that there was no liberation at all, that only “new occupants” came to them. It’s completely different in Austria. Brainwashed by Goebbels’ propaganda, people were waiting: that any moment bearded Cossacks will appear on the streets of Vienna and will devour the Austrian babies. Back then we did not consider ourselves to be victims of Nazism, because Austria welcomed Hitler and fought together with the Germans. However, after 70 years, many of our citizens are grateful to your people.

First, the USSR rescued a small nation from further destruction – hundreds of thousands of Austrians have already been killed and the Western and on the Eastern Fronts. Secondly, Vienna was not subjected to massive air strikes, and this is preserved the historical neighbourhoods. Third, at the demand of the USSR, Austria became a neutral state, and later our guys did not die in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Flowers on the graves

Austrian press has organized an opinion poll: “Do you want to dismantle the monument to Soviet soldiers?”. 91%(!) of Austrian voted against. And while our former friends in Eastern Europe are now publicly announcing May 9, 1945 as the beginning of the “Soviet tyranny”, for millions of people in Austria, this date is the liberation, and not a conquest. Austria finances maintenance of military cemeteries, where Soviet soldiers are buried (in the storming of Vienna 40,000 people were killed), and restoring monuments at their own expense. Driving through the eastern part of the country, I saw with my own eyes how the villagers (and not only the elderly ones) bring flowers to the graves of our soldiers. When I asked them why they do this, they were amazed by the question: “These are our liberators!”

But there is a fly in the ointment. For six consecutive years, on the eve of May 9th, hooligans poured paint on monument to Soviet soldiers on Schwarzenberg square: either black, or (on the last occasion) yellow-blue. The fence behind the monument, as well as containers for projectors are covered by graffiti. Attackers have not been found, although in Vienna City Hall assured me that now the perimeter is covered by video cameras: the crime is unlikely to happen again.


Foto: Aif, Georgij Zotov.

“Enough Christmas trees for all”

– First of all the suspicion falls on neo-Nazis – we have more and more problems with the radicals of the right-wing movements, – thinks the ex-worker of the Communist Party of Austria, Alexander Neumann. – There is a version that vandals are visitors from Poland or Ukraine. Although, of course, Austria is responsible for such incidents. But, you must agree, it’s a couple of cases – not a mass phenomenon. When the memorial on the square Schwarzenberg was spilled with paint last year, dozens of volunteers organized a vigil at the monument, and one of them vowed to “punch the face the Nazis are not respecting Russians.”

Austrian politicians are delicate in their comments on the topic og 70th anniversary of the appearance in Vienna of the Soviet troops. According to the press service of the Parliament, “different views are expressed: most people would say that this was a liberation, a minority – that a military defeat, but no one would call the entry of the Red Army in Vienna for and illegal occupation. In Austrian history school books, the point of view is clear: 1945 is a year of the liberation of Austria, and nothing else.”

“We must admit, all kinds of things happened, – says the former soldier of Volkssturm Helmut Hurst. – Soviet troops stayed with us for 10 years, there were love affairs, Austrians gave birth to children, and then classmates teased the poor kids as “ferfluhter russen” – “cursed Russians”. My neighbour did not like the Russians – a Soviet truck damaged his lawn. Another neighbour scolded bureaucracy: to move from one area of Vienna to another, you had to obtain five commandant seals of the USSR. However, after seventy years, we are grateful to the Russians for getting rid of Hitler. In captivity, I worked in a sawmill. Since then, if someone is talking about a possible war with Russia, I say, “No problem. Russians taught us to fell trees in the POW camps … there are a lot more Christmas trees there – enough for everyone!”

The Hungarian Amnesia

Below is my translation of an article by Georgij Zotov, published in “Argumenty i Fakty” on the 13th of February 2015:

Despite the fact that Hungary joined Hitler and attacked the USSR, the position of the local historians is often the same: in 1945 the country became a “victim of Soviet tyranny.” Is this true? An “AiF” observer is trying to make sense of the situation.

In number 3 of “AiF” we published a report from Poland “The Sorrow of a Warsaw Woman” (English translation here): why Polish politicians and the media ignored the memory of Soviet soldiers who liberated Warsaw. The article caused an unprecedented surge of responses and questions from readers: how do things stand with memory in other European countries? In this regard, commemorating the 70th anniversary of Victory, “AIF” begins a series of reports from European capitals that the Red Army occupied after Warsaw: on February 13, 1945 it liberated Budapest.

Soldier with PCA was removed

– Of course, we are absolutely not like Poles – a freelance journalist Laszlo Kovacs, who in 1981-1986 studied in the USSR, politely starts the conversation. – In Hungary, there is no general negative attitude towards Russia, our Prime Minister is in favour of the construction of the “South Stream” and the cessation of the EU’s anti-Russian sanctions. However, as in the rest of Eastern Europe, our media since 1989, hammered into people’s minds the same thing, that in 1945 the evil Russians came here and brought on tips of their bayonets the communist regime. We tend to forget that in fact it was Hungary that joined Hitler and declared war on the Soviet Union and sent to the Eastern Front hundreds of thousands of soldiers – during the Battle of Stalingrad a whole Hungarian army perished there. We took the land of the neighbours in Romania, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia. In just one year the Hungarian police and SS together with the Germans destroyed 450,000 local Jews and 28,000 Gypsies. It’s just awful. The Red Army saved Hungarians from becoming a Nazi monsters.


Before and after: a monument to our soldiers completely anonymised. Photo: RIA Novosti, AIF / Georgy Zotov

And what is the gratitude for the salvation? Stepping carefully on the steep stairs, I climb Mount Gellert: in 1947 there was a monument to 80,000 Soviet soldiers killed in the battle for the capital of Hungary. You can see in my photos what’s left of it – a bronze figure of a soldier with the PCA has been removed, five-pointed star is removed, the names of all 146 who died in the battle for Gellert carefully erased from the marble stella – a monument was simply made impersonal. And not far from another obelisk to the soldiers of the USSR in the center of Budapest (at Freedom Square), there is even a monument to… an ally of Hitler – dictator Miklos Horthy. And even though this initiative is not coming from the government, but from the far-right party “Jobbik”, the closeness is quite disgusting.

– I want to emphasize – the installation of a bronze likeness of Horthy has caused a storm of protest in Budapest!, explains historian Istvan Hegedyush. – Yes, it should be recognized: Hungary acted badly when it comes to the monument on Gellert Hill – in the nineties the politicians were vying to portray themselves as fighters against “communist tyranny.” Hungarians then tempered… signed an agreement with the Government of the Russian Federation on the status of military graves: the graves of the soldiers are looked after, kept clean, fresh flowers are put there. Recently, we have restored the Soviet military cemetery Kerepesi Cemetery and invited relatives of soldiers buried there to visit Hungary without a visa. Hundreds of young people are involved in scouting forces, searching for the remains of the Red Army, so as to bury them with honour. But, of course, the attitude of the Hungarians to the Victory has strongly been influenced by the sense of offence, as a popular uprising in 1956 was drowned in the blood by your army. Then many viewed Russians not as liberators Russian from Nazism, but as occupiers.


Hungary’s capital in ruins. Restoration will be done at the expense of the USSR. Photo: RIA Novosti / I. Ozersky

The revolution, suppressed on Khrushchev’s orders, cost the Hungarian people 2652 killed citizens. The war on Hitler’s side claimed the lives of 300,000 Hungarian soldiers and 600,000 civilians – 10 percent (!) Of the total population. This is not to mention the following: the Soviet Union “shelved” the facts of Hungary’s participation in punitive operations in 1941-1944 in our country. Executions of women, burnt villages, the executions of the partisans, torture of prisoners of war – tens of thousands of victims. Documents are still kept in Russian archives: take only one case among many. On May 28, 1942 Hungarian soldiers shot 350 people in the village of Svetlov in Bryansk region “for helping the partisans”. Peasant woman gave E. Vedeshina gave testimony about it, the punishers killed her four children – 11, 8, 5 and 1 year(!) old. She miraculously survived, lying in a hole under the children’s corpses. Why am I saying this? Seems like we must forgive these kinds of atrocities, but our mistakes in Eastern Europe, no one at all forgets and is still reminding us about at every step.

“There’s nothing to thank for”

It can hardly be disputed, that after the Victory, Stalin established a regime, unpleasant for most Hungarians. However, in 1945 the Soviet Union didn’t treat Hungary as a country-aggressor (which it had the rights to do): reparations were symbolic, unlike Germany, the state was not dismembered, the government of the USSR financed the rise of the capital of Hungary from the ruins in 1950-1960s, rebuilt five bridges across the Danube. Maybe these facts should be remember too along with the “tyranny”? But no. Supporters of the label of “Soviet occupation” are ill with an interesting kind of amnesia: everything that the Soviet Union did wrong, they remember very well, but what was good, is forgotten.

After 70 years, Hungary views its liberation differently than Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic States: the war with the monuments has seized, and the former SS men have no respect. Although the theme of Victory remains difficult for the local community. Hungarian Embassy in Russia, once promising to help with the interview on the topic of February 13, 1945, didn’t find a single person(!) who wanted to comment on this event, and I had to look to the interlocutors. Often we hear such opinions: “It’s enough to reproach Russian for past, but also there’s nothing to thank Russia for”. Fortunately, there are enough people with a sense of gratitude living in Hungary – the descendants of the Jews saved from the concentration camps, veterans from among thousands of Hungarian military who switched to the side of the Red Army in 1945, the participants of the anti-fascist organizations. IT will be them, who will put flowers on the graves of Soviet soldiers on the anniversary of the liberation of Budapest. Only those who wish so themselves are ill with amnesia in Eastern Europe…