Written by Viktor Stoilov exclusively for SouthFront
June 22, a date that marked the beginning of the German offensive against the Soviet Union and the Great Patriotic War for the Soviet peoples. At 4 am in the morning, with 134 frontline divisions and 73 more supporting them, totaling a number of 3 800 000 soldiers, Operation Barbarossa began. The most important and bloody stage of WWII began.
We won’t go into the details about the number of casualties, destruction, military tactics, diplomatic battles and people’s tragedies. Enough historians have already done this. Rather than that, we’ll focus on the symbolism of this day, the power which it still holds and the lessons we should learn from it.
June 22 is not your typical day in Russia. Millions of people across the country gather, talk but never celebrate. There is something special about this date. A date which yet again showed to the world that nothing can destroy the Russian spirit when enemies are at their borders.
For years, what kept the world in relative peace was the memory of the most devastating war. For years, people’s fear kept their countries from going into large military conflicts just so that they never witness anything similar to the destruction of a world war.
Yet, time has passed. Operation Barbarossa started 78 years ago and since then the witnesses of these immense horror remained way too little. The new generation politicians and the people who elect them have never been to war. The generals in charge of commanding most of the countries’ forces have also fought in a large-scale war.
And this is very dangerous.
When you forget what the true face of war is and what it could bring to the world, it becomes easier to provoke conflicts. 30 years since the fall of the Eastern bloc, the voices for war have been raising their tone year after year. Today’s politicians and generals don’t have the fear of their fathers and grandfathers had knew very well the horror of WWII.
For this reason, it’s more than important to remember dates like June 22. The Russian society, in spite of time, still remembers very well what June 22 brings. The Immortal regiment that takes place all across Russia and even beyond, with millions of people holding the portraits of their relatives who’ve fought in the war, is the strongest proof that this society has not forgotten.
The Russians call June 22 a day for remembrance and sorrow. People gather to talk about the heroism of their relatives. Concerts take place where nobody is having fun, everyone is there to pay tribute to those who’ve sacrificed themselves for the existence of their Motherland.
I feel like every single year, the Russian society is actually paying way more tribute to their heroes. It seems like their society is becoming way more united when it comes to date like these. And unfortunately it seems like the Russian society is preparing itself for Operation Barbarossa II.
If history has taught is something, it is that the Russian society, in spite of all of its troubles, has a great sense of self-preservation. It’s always uniting when danger is upon them, even if nobody else is sensing it.
In 1931, Stalin delivered a speech which perfectly showcased that. He said that they (the Soviet Union) are 100 years behind the West, and that if they don’t catch up for 10 years, they’ll be destroyed. 10 years later June 22 happened.
In today’s time, Putin had a very strong case in 2007 at the Munich Security Conference. Since then, Russia is again openly seen as “the enemy” by the West. The Arab Spring and the Ukrainian crisis were moments when the WWIII almost happened. What preserved the world from a major war, including the possibility of a nuclear war, was the sober thinking of the Russian administration and military elite. They very well know the consequences of such actions exactly because of dates like June 22.
Today, the whole world has to remember this date and what it led to. We also have to remember that today’s weapons have nothing to with the ones in 1941 and Einstein’s words that “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
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