He who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it; Russians understand this fact better than any when they call to mind the storms of the WW2 and the bloody Seige of Leningrad. Russia can not afford to forget, more than 20 million Russians perished in the ‘Great Patriotic War’, which is more than the population of several modern countries including Romania, The Netherlands, Greece, and many more. Take a moment and imagine an entire country obliterated, that is how great the death toll was for Russia.
But those millions of Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Poles, other Slavs, and Soviet Citizens were not obliterated from existence. Their eternal memory and resolve gave the living strength, and with it, they endured as they always have, and they captured Berlin, ending the largest holocaust in human history.
By far one of the bloodiest battles in human history was the Siege of Leningrad (also called Petrograd and Saint Petersburg today). Casualties were around one million people…one million, for one city. The real number is possibly much higher, as many people were missing.
When the Russian President speaks the words you are about to hear, bare one thing in mind, remember it and never forget it…His brother was among the dead. President Putin’s own brother died of disease as a child during the terrible siege.
Here is what the President said to veterans and celebrants at the anniversary as reports TASS news:
“We must use every occasion to remind about this [the tragic events of the Great Patriotic War], so that we ourselves never forget about this, so that the entire world remembers this and so that nothing like this ever happens again in the destiny of our country and in the world as a whole,” Putin said at a meeting with war veterans and representatives of youth public organizations as Russia was marking 75 years since the breakthrough of the Siege of Leningrad.
There is an old Russian saying “The only time you’ll ever see the back of a Russian soldier is when he’s dead.” Russians in principle don’t take one step backward. As a result, to this day they still find the remains of Russian soldiers in the thick northern swamps of Saint Petersburg. Their weapons always point forwards towards the enemy. President Putin further commented on this:
“They did not retreat anywhere and they died with weapons in their hands in battle as they were marching forward,” the head of state said.
“Precisely this attitude to the Motherland is typical of our people and this is what we must seal for long years to come for all the future generations. This is what Russia has always relied on – self-sacrifice and the love for the homeland, especially during the difficult years of ordeals,” Putin said.
Next time you hear a western leader compare the Russian president in the lowest taste to Hitler, just remember that unlike almost all Americans, Putin’s family was actively under fire during one of the bloodiest battles of the bloodiest front of the bloodiest war in history. Remember that Putin’s own brother died in this conflict, buried in one of the unmarked graves of Leningrad. Just imagine what restraint it must require for him to not judo through those who make these comparisons across the room.
It is quite understandably in bad taste to make a holocaust joke, or to make light of the Jews killed, if any leader compared the Israeli prime minister to Hitler, their remark would be condemned by the highest echelon of western world order. There would be mass outrage, and so be it! Hitler, Nazis, and their supporters are despicable villains best left in the ashbin of human history.
The only question is why there is no outrage when Putin is compared to Hitler. Where is the outcry for the 20 million Russians killed? Applying a double standard to the deaths of millions is not “just” politics, there is only one word for it: “degeneracy”. Disgracing the honored dead can make a man just as guilty as their killers, because it’s also that kind of apathetic disregard for the writing on the wall, that allowed such wars to happen in the first place.
Should the world ever forget the horrors of the Great Patriotic War, they will not take steps to prevent another such conflict, and it will surely repeat itself. This is the message of the Russian President, that everything must be done to prevent this from happening, not just for Russia, but for all humanity.
TASS news also summarized the events of the Leningrad siege wonderfully. In the interest of understanding the history, you may feel inclined to check it out:
Siege of Leningrad
The siege of Leningrad started on September 8, 1941 and lasted 872 days.
On September 10, German Luftwaffe pilots bombed and burnt the city’s warehouses, as a result of which Leningrad was left without considerable food supplies. Gradually, fuel and water reserves were used up in the city and the supply of electricity and heating was halted. Hunger swept the city in the autumn of 1941. Rationing was introduced in Leningrad to provide residents with food. The bread rations had dwindled to 250 grams a day for workers and to 125 grams for the rest of the population by November 20, 1941.
During the blockade of Leningrad, the German pilots dropped over 107,000 incendiary and high-explosive air bombs and more than 150,000 artillery shells and about 10,000 buildings and structures were destroyed.
Despite the blockade, over 200 enterprises continued to work in the city, including seven shipyards that built 13 submarines. The industry of besieged Leningrad was producing 150 types of military products. Overall, during the years of the blockade, the Leningrad enterprises produced about 10 million shells and mines, 12,000 mortars, 1,500 warplanes, rolled out and repaired 2,000 tanks.
On January 12, 1943, the Soviet troops of the Volkhov and Leningrad Fronts launched an operation code-named Iskra and aimed at routing the grouping of German forces south of Ladoga Lake and restoring Leningrad’s land connection with the rest of the country.
On January 18, 1943, the Volkhov and Leningrad Fronts broke the city’s encirclement with the support of the Baltic Fleet and restored its land connection with the rest of the country. On the same day, the Soviet troops liberated the Shlisselburg fortress city and drove the enemy away from the entire southern coastline of Ladoga Lake. Railway and auto roads were laid across the resulting corridor during 17 days and already on February 7 the first railway train arrived in Leningrad.
On January 14, 1944, the troops of the Leningrad and Volkhov Fronts and the 2nd Baltic Front launched the Leningrad-Novgorod strategic offensive. On January 27, 1944, Leningrad was fully liberated. A salute of 24 salvos was given from 324 artillery guns in the city in honor of this victory.
No more than 800,000 residents were remaining in the city by the end of the blockade out of the 3 million people that had lived in Leningrad and its suburbs before the blockade. According to various estimates, from 641,000 to 1 million Leningraders died as a result of hunger, bombings and artillery shelling. Almost 34,000 people were wounded, 716,000 residents were left without shelter and 1.7 million were evacuated across the Road of Life and by air in 1941-1942.