This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Victory of the Soviet Union over fascist Germany. The war started by Germany in 1939 drew nearly 60 nations into the conflict. The estimated loss of life stands at 70 million. 27 million Soviet people lost their lives.
The sacrifices made by the Soviet Union to bring this war to an end was a subject of abiding interest. Every year, Russia marks May 9 as the day of remembrance to all soldiers who sacrificed their lives in WW-II . It is also rightly called the Victory Day.
The global economic depression was prevailing during 1929-1933. Almost all European countries such as Great Britain, France, USA, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Spain had colonies. Germany did not have any. The world was already divided into empires and colonies of the Industrial countries. Germany, too, being an industrial country wanted to have its colonies.
A socialist revolution took place in Russia in 1917. This revolution had a profound impact on the working people throughout the world. It was also an inspiration to the national liberation movements that were fighting the colonizers. The Russian revolution had enemies from the day it came into being. All capitalist countries wanted to destroy the Russian revolution so as to stop the spread of socialist ideology and the influence of Russia.
Adolf Hitler was elected in 1933 and became the chancellor. Hitler was well-funded by the rich. He had a plan called ‘Barbarossa’ to take over Russia by storm. The Soviet Union knew of Hitler’s plan and wanted to convince Great Britain, France and the USA to form an alliance against Germany. But the Europeans had different plans. They waited for Germany to start the war with the Soviet Union and for both the countries to bleed so as to capture them together. In 1939, on September 1, Hitler attacked Poland on a false pretext and later annexed Czechoslovakia through the notorious ‘Munich Agreement.’ In 1940, Hitler signed an agreement with Japan and Italy for a new world order known as the Axis powers.
On June 22, 1941, fascist Germany attacked Soviet Union violating all previous agreements of non-aggression. Hitler’s plan was to takeover Soviet Union in 14 days. In the first six months of the war, the Soviet Union lost 40% of its territory to Germany. All civilians who were taken prisoners were either killed or made to work as slaves. A rule of terror was established in the occupied territories.
The Soviet Union was compelled to rally its entire population to defend the motherland. It was called a peoples’ war. Towards the end of 1941, the advancing German army was halted in Smolensk. Within the first six months of war the Germans lost nearly 500,000 soldiers. Hitler’s forces needed a moral booster and tried to take Moscow. The German troops were only 25-30 km away from the Russian capital, but The stiff resistance of the Red Army pushed back the Germans by 200-300 km. This changed the course of the WW-II. The attacking Germans had only to mark time till the onslaught of the Soviet forces. The Battle of Volgograd (Stalingrad) pushed back the Germans further and put an end to Hitler’s dream of world domination. The Battles of Volgograd (Stalingrad), Kursk, St. Petersburg (Leningrad) are studied by military strategists all over the world.
"The Soviet Union was compelled to rally its entire population to defend the motherland and it was called a peoples’ war"
The opening of the second front to put an early end to Hitler’s madness was heeded only in 1944. The Normandy landing took place in June 1944. Till then the Soviet Union had to carry on the battle all alone. The opening of the second front after the Yalta Conference is of significant importance . It was at this conference that the three major powers -- USSR, USA and Great Britain decided how the post - war world order would be.
The three major war time conferences between leaders of USSR, USA, and Great Britain in Tehran (1943), Yalta (February 1945), Potsdam (August 1945) gave rise to the present United Nations Organisation. With the end of WW-II, many colonies tasted freedom. Many former empires had to give up their colonies to the freedom fighters. The USSR supported these countries to build up their economies and to choose a model suited to their countries.
The struggle for Independence of Sri Lanka intensified with the outcome and victory of the Soviet Union. The freedom fighters of Ceylon National Congress were all in support of the victory of Soviet Union and they were fighting for the Independence of Ceylon. There were British-educated locals who were planning the future of Ceylon. We had a British citizen in Ceylon who had a purpose of being sent to Ceylon. He was Ivor Jennings. He convinced some of the educated Ceylonese to accept partial independence unlike the Indians who wanted full independence. When Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru asked Mahatma Gandhi to get the advice of Ivor Jennings to draft the Indian Constitution but Gandhi flatly rejected it and appointed Dr. D.R. Ambedkar to lead a committee to draft the Indian constitution. Ivor Jennings drafted the constitution in such a way the leftists would never get a majority in the parliament. He was in Ceylon when the plantation sector people were deprived of their civic rights so that the leftists never dominate the parliament.
All countries that had close cooperation with the Soviet Union are better organised to face situations that arise in economic or social downturns. Countries such as India, China, Vietnam , Cuba, North and South Korea are classic examples of the cooperation that evolved by cooperating with Soviet Union. Now the Cold war is over. The world has not seen any Global wars since WWII. It is the achievement of all nation states as active members of the UN. The end of Cold war has also created a big divide among the haves and have-nots.
Presently COVID-19 has created a global pandemic. This has affected the livelihood of all people globally. The world needs to unite to face situations like this and help countries and governments to care for their people in a better way.
When Russia commemorates the 75th anniversary, we too can be proud of and cheer them for their respect for humanity. The best way we can serve our country is to have more economic, social and cultural cooperation with Russia.