Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Posts tagged “Russians

Image

“Anti-Bolshevik Volunteer Army in South Russia”; January 1918

C__Data_Users_DefApps_AppData_INTERNETEXPLORER_Temp_Saved Images_mQMEm4I

Advertisements

How the Russians conquered Siberia:

Prior to the Mongol invasions, the Novgorodians had penetrated past the Urals. The Russians used northern routes to enter Siberia by land and sea, and by the mid-sixteenth century they had reached the mouth of the Enisei.

In the sixteenth century, the Stroganov family developed large-scale industries, including salt and fur extraction, in North-Eastern European Russia the Ustiug area (a bit right of the red area in this photo):

1092px-Map_of_Russia_-_Vologda_Oblast_(2008-03).svg

After the conquest of Kazan (see here), the Stroganovs obtained large holdings in the upper Kama region, where they maintained garrisons and encouraged colonists to settle. In 1582, the Stroganovs sent an expedition against the Siberian Khanate, consisting of around 1500 cossacks and some volunteers, and lead by a Cossack, Ermak. The Russians were massively outnumbered, but made good use of organisation, firearms and that famous Russian bravery to overcome the Khanate, and they ultimately seized the headquarters of the Siberian Khan. Ivan the Terrible realised the prospects of this, as Siberia was well known for the opportunities for fur trading, and sent reinforcements. Ermak died in 1584 however (before reinforcements arrived), and although they actually had to conquer the Siberian Khanate again, they began to consolidate their holdings.

In order to subjugate the natives and collect tributes of fur (iasak), which the natives were expected to pay, a series of forts were built at the confluences of major rivers and streams and important portages. The first among these were Tyumen and Tobolsk — the former built in 1586 by Vasilii Sukin and Ivan Miasnoi, and the latter the following year by Danilo Chulkov. Tobolsk would become the nerve center of the conquest. Essentially, from here on out, the Russians began to subdue minor tribes and further expand these forts and outposts. Of these, Mangazeya was the most prominent, becoming a base for further exploration eastward. It was a highly profitable undertaking for the Muscovite state, due to the furs extraction.

Following the khan’s death and the dissolution of any organized Siberian resistance, the Russians advanced first towards Lake Baikal and then the Sea of Okhotsk and the Amur River. Between 1610 and 1640, the Russian military and the Cossacks moved three hundred miles further into the southern steppe, in continuous conflict with the Crimean Tartars and other nomads. However, when they first reached the Chinese border they encountered people that were equipped with artillery pieces and here they halted. The treaty of Nerchinsk (1689) outlined the borders between the two countries and lasted until 1858. A small band of Cossacks, lead by Ivan Moskvitianin, reached the Pacific Ocean in 1639. After the conquest of the Siberian Khanate (1598) the whole of northern Asia – an area much larger than the old khanate – became known as Siberia and by 1640 the eastern borders of Russia had expanded more than several million square kilometers. In a sense, the khanate lived on in the subsidiary title “Tsar of Siberia” which became part of the full imperial style of the Russian Autocrats.


Soviet tank crewmen washing up with snow; ca. 1943.

 In the west, Russians are often stereotyped as being dour and pessimistic, but I disagree. Anyone who can sunbathe during springtime in Siberia or wash using snow and still have a smile on their face is a true optimist.

In the west, Russians are often stereotyped as being dour and pessimistic, but I disagree. Anyone who can sunbathe during springtime in Siberia or wash using snow and still have a smile on their face is a true optimist.


Viktor Bulla’s Pioneers in Defense Drill; ca. 1937

Gaxinil

“Viktor Bulla’s photograph of hundreds of children wearing gas masks was not meant to be ghoulish, a commentary on war or lost innocence, but rather exemplified a reason for pride—the country was blessed with well-trained, well-equipped and obviously courageous young fighters.”

(From “Propaganda and Dreams: Photographing the 1930s in the USSR and the US” by Leah Bendavid-Val)


Image

Russian Soldiers playing a Piano in the ruins of a building during WWII

IQOBQqp


Shooting of demonstrators in Petrograd, Russia; ca. July 1917

7PQgOwl

July Days – clashes between Russian Provisional Government and Bolsheviks. The military attacked the peaceful demonstration and engaged in repression against the Bolsheviks. Lenin went into hiding, while other leaders were arrested. The outcome of the July Days represented a temporary decline in the growth of Bolshevik power and influence in the period before the October Revolution. 716 killed or wounded from demonstrators side, 94 killed or wounded from Government side.


“Only Tanya is left.”

Tatiana Savicheva (January 25, 1930 – July 1, 1944) was a Russian child diarist who died during the Siege of Leningrad in the World War II. Her diary is one of the most tragic symbols of the Siege of 1941-1945.

The symbol of the Leningrad Blockade tragedy.

Twelve-year old Tanya Savicheva started her diary just before Anne Frank. They were of almost the same age and wrote about the same things – about the horrors of fascism. And, again, both these girls died without seeing victory day – Tanya died in July of 1944 and Anne in March of 1945. “The Diary of Anne Frank” (which was a carefully kept journal over a period of two years) was published all over the world and she has become one of the most renowned and most discussed victims of the Holocaust. “The Diary of Tanya Savicheva” was not published at all – it contains only seven scary notes about the deaths of her family members in Leningrad at the time of the blockade.

Leningrad Siege 

Leningrad (modern-day St Petersburg) was in the midst of a devastating 900-day blockade that lasted from September 1941 until January 1944. The German army had laid siege to the city, bombarded it and cut off all supplies in its attempt to ‘wipe it off the map’, as Hitler had ordered.

The Savicheva family had all answered the call to help bolster the city’s defences. Tanya, only 11 years old, helped dig anti-tank trenches. On 12 September 1941, the largest food warehouse, the Badayev, was destroyed, bombed with German incendiaries. Three thousand tonnes of flour burned, thousands of tons of grain went up in smoke, meat frazzled, butter melted, sugar turned molten and seeped into the cellars. ‘The streets that night ran with melted chocolate,’ said one witness, ‘and the air was rich and sticky with the smell of burning sugar.’  The situation, already severe, became critical.

Road of Life

As winter approached, Lake Ladoga, to the east of the city, froze. From December 1941, supplies of foodstuffs, fuel and medicine came through by convoys of trucks, a hazardous journey over thin ice and through enemy bombardment. What was brought in on this ‘Road of Life’, although vital, was only ever a fraction of what was needed.

Within the city, as that first winter progressed, whatever could be eaten had been consumed – pets, livestock, birds, vermin. And whatever could be burnt had been used for firewood. Tanya had kept a thick diary but this, as with every other book in the household, had been used for fuel – except for a slim notebook.

The youngest of five children, Tanya Savicheva’s father had died when she was six. Tanya, her mother and her five siblings, in common with every citizen of Leningrad, suffered terribly from hunger and cold. One winter’s day, Tanya’s sister Nina, 12 years older, failed to return. The family assumed that like so many hundreds of others, she had succumbed and died. In fact, Nina had been evacuated out of the city across Lake Ladoga at a moment’s notice. She returned to the city only after the war.

‘Savichevs died’

One by one, the remaining members of Tanya’s family died, and it was recording of each death that constituted the notebook.

The first entry recorded the death of her sister, Zhenya, who died at midday on 28 December 1941. Others were to follow until the sixth and final death, that of Tanya’s mother, on 13 May 1942. A neighbour described the tragic figure of this young girl:

‘When Tanya lost everyone, she became deranged with grief. She would clutch at a small house plant, which had only a few withered leaves left, and was virtually dead. Somehow, it seemed to remind Tanya of her family. She would stand by her stove, swaying from side to side, holding it close to her, in a terrible trance. She was trying to bring it back to life.’ 

Tanya herself was eventually evacuated out of the city in August 1942, along with about 150 other children, to a village called Shatki. But whilst most of the others recovered and lived, Tanya, already too ill, died of tuberculosis on 1 July 1944.

Her notebook was presented as evidence of Nazi terror at the post-war Nuremberg Trials, and today is on display at the History Museum in St Petersburg.

The text of Tanya’s notebook reads as follows:

Zhenya died on Dec. 28th at 12:00 P.M. 1941

Grandma died on Jan. 25th 3:00 P.M. 1942

Leka died on March 5th at 5:00 A.M. 1942

Uncle Vasya died on Apr. 13th at 2:00 after midnight 1942

Uncle Lesha on May 10th at 4:00 P.M. 1942

Mother on May 13th at 7:30 A.M. 1942

Savichevs died.

Everyone died.

Only Tanya is left.

The Kroll Opera House in Berlin on April 28, 1939. Hitler makes keynote address answering Roosevelt’s appeal to avoid war.

I play a little game, a variant of “where’s Waldo”, with pictures like this.
The challenge is to try and figure out everyone in the photo who will be dead or in jail by 1946. It’s quite gratifying.

Hitler’s speech that day was a response to a letter sent by Roosevelt to get Hitler’s assurances that it would not attack other countries. You can read it here.

Roosevelt asked for Hitler to give assurances that he would not invade a number of specific countries, mostly British possessions and European neighbors, most of which became involved in the war anyway. Hitler’s view of peace seemed to be between the major powers, and that Germany should be entitled to expand into Poland and Czechoslovakia if it wanted to. He was telling Britain, France, the US and Russia to stay out of Germany’s area so that he could continue his ambitions. This is not at all what those other countries, especially Poland wanted.

In my understanding this letter came at a time when the world had already geared up for war. Although it hadn’t been declared yet, all the major powers were building up their stockpiles and constructing more and more weapons, like bombers. Even the US, which wouldn’t join the war for another 2 years was already preparing for it.

There were a few warning signs that that just got ignored. One that I think should not be forgotten is that most Western countries did not raise their immigration quotas and allow more Jewish refugees to enter their countries until late in the war. Anti-semitism and fear over immigration in general led to refugees being rejected until public opinion turned around 1944. Even though their was ample evidence of violence and discrimination, the US and Britain still refused to increase their quotas. It saddens me to think about the lives that could have been spared by a bit of bureaucratic empathy.

It is possibly the greatest tragedy of human history that the Second World War happened with so much warning, yet nothing was done to truly stop it.

(Here’s some of the speech, with subtitles.)


“YOU ARE FIRST AND FOREMOST A WOMAN.”

Image

Women’s experience during the siege of Leningrad: Leningrad’s women, 16-45, were mobilized by the thousands. Women were the majority of the half-million civilians who dug anti-tank ditches and defense fortifications and1,500 women were mobilized to work in peat bogs to provide the city with fuel.

The long-suffering women of Leningrad suddenly realized that on them lay the fate not only of their family, but of their city, even of the entire country. Aware of the burden placed upon them to protect their city, able-bodied Leningradian women between 16- and 45-years-old were mobilized in numbers reaching the hundreds of thousands. Women formed the vast majority of the approximately half-million civilians assembled to build anti-tank ditches and defense fortifications along the Pskov-Ostrov and Luga rivers, and 1,500 women were mobilized to work in peat bogs to provide the city with fuel.

The death of men in Leningrad during the war made the siege of Leningrad a woman’s experience. In the face of the men’s absence, women were expected to replace men in the factories, prepare defense fortifications, and protect the city from incendiary bombs, among many other traditionally male duties. All the while, women also fulfilled their traditional responsibilities, such as maintaining home and hearth and preserving societal morality, all increasingly difficult tasks during the severe conditions of the siege. Women managed to assume both roles, all while suffering from starvation, the disintegration of relationships, and alienation from their own bodies. Their experience of the siege illustrates how the ideology of the “new Soviet woman” — woman as man’s professional equal, fulltime worker, loyal Communist citizen, and devoted mother and wife — persisted in the darkest days of the siege of Leningrad.


Survivor from the Siege of Leningrad

There are a ton of survivor testimonials on the siege of Leningrad on YouTube.

  • The siege of Leningrad lasted 872 days. Civilians in the city suffered from extreme starvation.  750 000 people died, which represented between quarter and a third of the city’s pre-siege population. It was the greatest loss of life experienced by a modern city.

I got 2 minutes into this one before I couldn’t take any more.