There is so much discussion of the Russians in the news . . . in particular their demonizing by a Democrat party that, when the jackboot of the then-USSR was firmly upon the necks of the Eastern Block countries back in 1983, decried Ronald Reagan as a provocateur and even mad for calling them what they were: an evil empire. A quarter century after the Berlin Wall came down and the Cold War a distant memory, the Left has finally found a reason to dislike the nation that Stalin, the greatest mass murderer in history, created. But it’s not because of any outrage they feel over the hundred million dead at the hands of Communism. Rather, it’s ostensibly due to their meddling in our electoral process and even collusion (yet to be proven as of this writing) with the Trump campaign to win him the White House — for them the only rational explanation for Trump’s impossible triumph in 2016 — that has them so furious over our long-time enemy. It’s safe to say the word “Russia” has never been uttered with so much contempt by so many on the Left before in its long, dark, history (I mean Russia’s, of course).
But I wonder. How much Russian history does the average American (especially on the Left) even know? What is the source of that nation’s systemic paranoia and sinister hegemony? Why do they feel a need to control so much of the world’s machinery, including the elections of their modern enemy, the United States? The Cold War Russian psyche can be directly linked to a watershed event: the German surprise attack on their homeland in 1941 that broke Stalin’s cynical non-aggression treaty with Hitler and plunged the two callous dictatorships into a total war that in size and scale and bloodshed was unlike any ever seen before. For four years, gargantuan Soviet and Nazi formations engaged in battles so large over a landscape so expansive that they dwarfed any fought in any war. Yet most Americans only know of the Western theater of World War II. It should be noted that even at the height of the Anglo-American efforts in North Africa and Western Europe, our forces engaged 175 Wehrmacht divisions. The Red Army faced off against over 600 divisions. In fact, for every ten Wehrmacht personnel who died in World War II, eight were killed by the Red Army. This single fact should bring some perspective to the Russian experience of a war many Americans seem to believe began on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor and climaxed on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
The victory in Europe, it is often said, was brought about by “British brains, American brawn, and Russian blood.” A lot of Russian blood. They still remember that. The first step toward fighting an enemy is knowing him. As this is the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad, the pivotal battle of the pivotal campaign of the pivotal front in the war against Hitler, it seems fitting to reflect on the experience of our enemies and understand how they became who they are by reviewing this fight that cost so many Russian and German and other Axis power lives and determined not just the ultimate outcome of the war, but shaped the uneasy peace throughout the second half of the 20th Century and beyond. Though World War II is a distant memory for us, save the homages of Hollywood and cable, for the Russians — and the Germans too — over seven decades later, it is still very much a part of their national character.