Die Geschichte der Wlassow-Armee
General Wlassow: Russen und Deutsche zwischen Hitler und Stalin
Vlasov and the Russian Liberation Movement: Soviet Reality and Émigré Theories
As Gorbachev consolidates his power in the Soviet Union, there are signs that glasnost may be beginning to have a liberating effect upon Soviet historiography. Names and topics that have long been taboo are beginning to creep into print. Not so long ago, a senior historian writing in the pages of Pravda admitted that Leon Trotsky was not the enemy of the Revolution and socialism that he had been described as being for the past sixty years, and went on to give a not uncritical account of his ideas and to praise him for “not breaking, as many others did, before Stalin’s dictatorship.” In August, in the official newspaper of the Communist youth organization, Komsomolskaya Pravda, a five-column article by the military historian V.M. Kulish attacked the myths surrounding the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939, pointing out that it was not a defensive ploy, as Party doctrine has held. Instead it was a naive attempt by Stalin to make a permanent alliance with Germany, which succeeded only in giving Hitler a free hand in the West and then making the Russian campaign a one-front war, with dreadful consequences. Commenting on this, and on Kulish’s further charges that Stalin’s obsessive hatred of the German Social Democrats and his orders to the Communists to attack them rather than the Nazis helped bring Hitler to power in 1933, Frederick Starr wrote in The Washington Post, “The Kulish article attests to a new readiness in Moscow to pull even the most horrifying skeletons from the national closet.”
One will be more inclined to agree with this when Soviet scholars dare to attack the most jealously guarded of the historical myths of World War II, that of the invincible solidarity of the Soviet people and their leadership in the face of Nazi aggression. This was given its classic formulation by the propagandist Ilya Ehrenburg, when he wrote in a 1941 article called “There is No Fear” (later reprinted in the British series “Russia at War” in 1943): “This war is no civil war. It is a national war for Russia (that is, for the Soviet Union). There is not a single Russian who is against us, or who would support the Germans.”
Read in Germany, that statement would have been greeted with derision. The fact of the matter was that in the course of the Russian campaign the almost incredible number of 5.24 million Russian officers and men surrendered to the Germans (of whom, by German calculations, more than three million died in camps), that in 1943 hundreds of thousands of Soviet subjects were serving the Germans as volunteer workers or in military units, and that during the war’s last years numbers variously estimated but probably exceeding a million men were being organized by former Red Army generals and staff officers into an army that hoped to overthrow the Stalin regime. This was the ROA or Russian Liberation Army, also called the Vlasov Army, after its leader, Lieutenant General Andrey Andreyevich Vlasov, a heroic…
This article is available to online subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print premium subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all all content on nybooks.com.
Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.
Purchase a trial Online Edition subscription and receive unlimited access for one week to all the content on nybooks.com.