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70 Years Ago The Soviets Crushed The Nazis

January 18, 2015
Via RIA Novosti/Anatoliy Garanin

Via RIA Novosti/Anatoliy Garanin

It was a cataclysm that shaped mankind’s destiny.

From June 1941 until May 1945 a titanic struggle took place along the edge of Europe. Two pitiless regimes sent vast legions to annihilate each other in the steppes, the cities, the forests, the frozen seas and eternal skies.

One side thought of it as seeking Lebensraum. For the other, it was sheer survival.

The Allies called it the “Eastern Front.” For 40 million people–German, Russian, and everyone else–it was a graveyard.

It was in this same Eastern Front, the merciless wasteland where savage industrial might slew entire races, where most of World War Two’s fighting and dying happened.

In material terms, the Soviet Union bore the brunt of the Nazi war machine.

In human terms, the sacrifices of the Soviet Union’s Red Army, its soldiers and workers, proved so great monuments to them were erected in 20 different countries after the war.

Seventy years later, it’s time to tell all their stories, from the beginning to the end.

Doing so passes along a heritage to a modern audience who live modern lives vastly separated from this distant modern upheaval.

Remember. This 2015 marks seven decades since the Red Army’s tanks rolled into Berlin on April 20, 1945, and the final bloodletting commenced.

During the previous 11 months the Red Army’s counteroffensive devastated Eastern Europe, leaving innumerable dead. From April 20 to May 2 in Berlin, vicious street battles managed to kill thousands more, raising the toll from the relentless bombardment, with roaring Soviet guns and endless rocket salvos hammering the Nazi capital into submission.

An Invincible Juggernaut

It was Soviet troops who stormed the Reichstag and raised their flag upon its roof, victorious. It was Soviet troops who surrounded Hitler’s bunker.

It was these same Soviet troops who exacted a terrible revenge on the people of Berlin, committing arson, plunder, and rape on a scale so staggering, its veracity is still controversial today.

These Soviet troops composed of Russians, Mongols, Uzbeks, Kazahks, Tatars, Cossacks, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Armenians, Georgians, and a dozen other nations formed the Red Army. The largest ground force ever assembled.

Being one half of the crushing jaws that fell upon Germany in June, 1944, their total numbers could have reached 12 million-strong by the Fall of Berlin.

But the Red Army was never just a European affair. In 1978 the Soviet Union released a documentary series, with 20 episodes total, titled The Unknown War. Its purpose was to educate Americans about the Soviet contribution to World War Two.

It showed how, on two separate occasions, the Red Army humbled Imperial Japan. First in Khalkhin-Gol and second in the reconquest of Manchuria.

This meant the Red Army played an unquestionable and critical role in defeating the Axis powers. It took punishing losses, battles waged on an epic scale, and, as always, much sacrifice.

The author and historian Max Hastings described the human caliber of the Soviet Red Army best:

“They were brutes, for none but brutes could have prospered in Stalin’s world, steeped in blood.”