Michael Jabara Carley
Dr. Michael Jabara Carley is a professor of history at the Université de Montréal. He teaches the history of Russia and the USSR, World War II, and the Cold War. His research is focused on the relations of the Soviet Union with the western powers between 1917 and 1945. He has worked extensively in Russian archives in Moscow as well as in archives in Paris, London and Washington, D.C. and he has published widely in North America and Europe. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages. Amongst other important publications, Professor Carley is the author of "Silent Conflict: A Hidden History of Early Soviet-Western Relations" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), translated into French (2016) and into Russian (2019) and of "1939: The Alliance That Never Was and the Coming of World War II", 2009.
The Real and Fake Histories of the Great Patriotic War
I teach a course on the Second World War to undergraduate students at the Université de Montréal. Most of them believe that the United States "won" the Second World War. The few who do not believe such ideas have usually had other courses with me.

So I play a little game with them on the first day of class. "How many of you," I ask, "have heard of Operation 'Overlord'? Please raise your hands." "Overlord" was of course the Anglo-Canadian-US landing in Normandy in June 1944. Everyone raises their hand. Then I ask, "how many of you have heard of Operation 'Bagration'"? I take note of the puzzled looks staring back at me. "Bagration" was the huge Soviet offensive in the centre of the eastern front that began two weeks after "Overlord". A few students raised their hands; they are the ones who have had other classes with me. Then I explain the differences in scale between the two operations, 20 divisions engaged in "Overlord"; 130 in "Bagration". It’s true that a Red Army division was smaller than a British or US division, but you get the idea. "Bagration" led to the destruction of the eastern front and a westward advance of some 600 kilometres while the western allies were still bottled up on the Normandy peninsula.

The Nazi Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 on a front stretching from the Baltic to the Black Seas. It was the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, 1418 days of unimaginable violence, brutality and destruction. From Stalingrad and the northern Caucasus and from the northwestern outskirts of Moscow to the western frontiers of the Soviet Union to Sevastopol in the south and Leningrad and the borders with Finland, in the north, the country was laid waste.
An estimated 17 million civilians, men, women and children died, although no one will ever know the exact figure. Villages and towns were destroyed; families were wiped out without anyone to remember them or to mourn their deaths
Some 10 million Soviet soldiers perished in the struggle to expel the monstrous Nazi invader and finally to track it down in Berlin at the end of April 1945. Red Army dead were left unburied in a thousand places along the routes to the west or interred in unmarked mass graves, there having been no time for proper identification and burial.
Of the boys born between 1922 and 1924 in the USSR, three out of a hundred survived the war
Most Soviet citizens lost family members. No one was left unaffected.

In the west people do not know much about the Great Patriotic War or even about the Grand Alliance of the Soviet Union, Britain, and the United States. The western mainstream media, Hollywood, television have rubbed out the Red Army’s colossal role in defeating the Wehrmacht. World War II is all about how Winston Churchill or the United States "won the war". The Soviet Union is invisible. The western erasure of the Red Army started early on. After the liberation of France in 1944 the French government published posters celebrating victory and showing three flags: French, American, and British. The Soviet red flag was absent. What ingratitude. In 1940 France had quit the war in ignominy and then collaborated with the enemy. A monument in London shows Churchill and US President Franklin Roosevelt sitting on a bench having a nice chat. Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin is nowhere to be seen. "No place for me?" one imagines him thinking.

Ironically, during the war, US and British public opinion knew very well who was carrying the great burden of fighting against the Nazi Wehrmacht. Cartoonists like David Low, Leslie Illingworth, Dr. Seuss, amongst others, had no trouble recognising the Soviet role in the war. While the British held down two or three German divisions in North Africa, the Red Army faced more than 200. In 1942, 80% of Axis divisions were arrayed against the Red Army. Let’s say that the western allies' 1.5% share of the burden of ground fighting against the Wehrmacht was not an equal distribution of sacrifice. North Africa was a sideshow; the main theatre of operations was on the Soviet front.

After the battle of Stalingrad which Roosevelt considered the great turning point of the war in Europe, the British, Americans, and Canadians did not have a single division fighting in Europe. Not one.
In March 1943 Axis losses at the hands of the Red Army were stupendous: 100 German, Italian, Romanian, Hungarian divisions destroyed, or mauled. At the same time the Anglo-American score of smashed German divisions was zero
It is true that the British had a sometime guilty conscience about sitting out the ground war in Europe and liked to point to the massive air bombardment of German cities. Everyone knew, of course, that fighting on the ground was far more costly in human lives than fighting in the air or at sea.

The British and Americans finally put divisions ashore on the European continent, in Italy, in September 1943. Stalin had long demanded a second front in France, which Churchill resisted. He wanted to attack the Axis "soft underbelly", not to help the Red Army, but to hinder its advance into the Balkans. The idea was to advance quickly up the Italian boot, then wheel eastward into the Balkans to keep out the Red Army. The way to Berlin however was north northeast. Churchill’s plan was a failure; the western allies did not get to Rome until June 1944. There were approximately 20 German divisions in Italy fighting against larger allied forces. In the East, there were still more than two hundred Axis divisions, or ten times those in Italy. That increased the Anglo-American share of the burden of fighting against the Wehrmacht from 1.5% to 10%, a large increase for the western allies.

You would think the post-Vichy French government could have made room on its propaganda posters for the hammer and sickle or that the British sculptor would have found a place for Stalin on that bench in London with FDR and Winston. But no, not so. In Soviet propaganda posters when the flags were brought out, one always sees the three, US, British, and Soviet. Not the French, of course, France had not earned its place with the others. Nevertheless, one should not forget the French resistance movement, the Francs-tireurs et partisans, who fought the Nazi occupier and the Vichy collaborators to redeem the honour of France, or the Normandie-Nieman fighter squadron which fought with the Red Army. The Soviet Union did not bury the exploits of its allies, nor does the Russian Federation.

It was the United States and Britain which sought to blot out the colossal contribution of the Soviet Union to victory against the common foe. No sooner was the war over than those same "allies" started to think about another war, this time against the Soviet Union.
In May 1945 the British high command produced Operation "Unthinkable", a top secret plan for war, reinforced by German POWs, against the Red Army. What bastards!
In September 1945, the Pentagon contemplated the use of 204 atomic bombs to destroy the Soviet Union. The godfather of the grand alliance, FDR, had died in April, and within weeks American sovietophobes were reversing his policy. The grand alliance was only a truce in a Cold War which had begun after the Bolshevik seizure of power in November 1917, and which resumed in 1945.

One could not restart the old policy of hatred against the Soviet Union by snapping one's fingers, or without erasing the memory of the Red Army's role in the victory over the common foe. It took a little time to do that. Like thieves in the night, Britain and the United States burgled the true account of the destruction of Nazi Germany. The British and Americans claimed laurels they did not earn… like soldiers wearing medals for valour which belonged to others.

Even now the shameless campaign continues. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Parliament in Strasbourg put the blame for World War II on the Soviet Union, read Russia and President Vladimir Putin, as the subliminal message. Adolf Hitler is almost forgotten in this welter of evidence-free accusations.
The Red Army’s extraordinary role in crushing the Wehrmacht has been transformed into oppression, rape, and brigandage
Behind the fake historical narrative are the Baltic states, Poland, and Maidan Ukraine, spewing out hatred of Russia. The Baltics and the Ukraine now remember Nazi collaborators as national heroes and celebrate their vile deeds.

In Russia, however, the west’s mendacious propaganda has no effect. On 9 May every year Russians remember the millions of soldiers who fought and died, and the millions of civilians who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis. The veterans, fewer each year, come out wearing uniforms that don’t fit quite right or threadbare jackets covered with war medals and orders. "Treat them with tact and respect," Marshal Georgii Konstantinovich Zhukov wrote in his memoirs: "It is a small price after what they did for you in 1941−1945."
If the west wanted to improve relations with Russia, it could start by dropping its fake history of World War II. It could disassociate itself from the rehabilitation of fascism in Eastern Europe
It could send high level delegations to Moscow and contingents of troops to march together with their Russian compatriots on 9 May to remember the common cause against Nazism. That would be a start.

But don’t think that in the Russian Federation you can ever win a propaganda war over memories of the Great Patriotic War.
On the use of information

All materials on this website are available under license from Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International and may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes, provided the source is acknowledged.

Demonstration of Nazi and fascist paraphernalia or symbols on this resource is related only to the description of the historical context of the events of the 1930−1940s, is not its propaganda and does not justify the crimes of fascist Germany.