There has been much discussion about the trophies used by each side in the current conflict in Ukraine. For this reason, it is worthwhile to return to World War II and examine the captured weapons used by the Red Army to its advantage. The following article, originally entitled “Red Army’s Trophies: What Did Our Fighters Take from the Germans?” was translated as is. Exceptions include 1) using “Soviet” or “Red Army” instead of “our,” and “World War II” instead of the “Great Patriotic War” for an English-speaking audience; 2) minor clarifications on weapons’ names; 4) a clarification about the incident with Vasily Vatanam; 4) two inset stories about Vasily Vataman and Mikhail Devyatayev, respectively, written specifically for this translation by me or translated from another source.
Nazi German Weapons as Trophies at the Service of the Red Army in World War II
By Boris Semionov
We have already written about trophies in the global history of wars and conflicts and that the trophy business is an important part of any war.
Now let us consider World War II, in which both warring parties gladly used captured enemy weapons or equipment. Today we will discuss the preferred types of trophy small-caliber firearms and other weapons manufactured by the enemy that also served the Red Army in the liberation of the Soviet Union and Europe from the Nazi invaders.
Undoubtedly, the most important aspect of World War II for the Soviet Union was the large-scale land battles along the entire front from the Baltic to the Black Sea. And, of course, they would not have been possible without the small-caliber firearms. During the war, such firearms were actively developed and improved as dozens of new models emerged. Yet the warring parties approached the question of arming and supplying their infantrymen in completely different ways. By the way, we should note that the Red Army was better armed in almost all categories.
Nevertheless, in the massive battles of the Second World War, the Red Army collected a multitude of trophy firearms.
The original article was entitled “Stories from Oles Buzina: Bandera—the Cat Strangler” written by a prominent Ukrainian journalist Oles Buzina and published on January 29, 2010. Buzina was a Ukrainian patriot who believed Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarussians were triune. He was critical of the gradual imposition of the minority Galician (western Ukrainian) identity onto the majority of Ukraine even before the 2014 Maidan. For example, in this article, the author criticizes Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yushchenko brought to power through the so-called Orange Revolution in 2004. Some consider the 2004 event to be a proto-regime change in that country that succeeded in 2014. In 2010, Yushchenko posthumously granted Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera the Hero of Ukraine title. Bandera lived in Polish-controlled Galicia outside the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in the 1920s-1930s and then in Munich, Germany.The latter is an early negative-identity example along the same trajectory as the post-2014 attempts to “cancel” the Russian language and heritage and even remove monuments to the Soviet WWII military leaders.
«Any politician who tries to impose Bandera as Ukraine’s hero will not only destroy his personal career…but will also destroy the country.»
Oles Buzina, in “Unheroic ‘bandera’,” January 2011
In April 2015, Buzina was assassinated outside his Kiev home—allegedly for his vocal criticism of the Maidan. The murder was one of the first key signs of political radicalization in Ukraine. I have previously translated him here.
The article is presented in its entirety. The only deviation from the original is using the first name the first time each new individual is mentioned. Square brackets are editorial clarifications.
Stepan Bandera—the Cat Strangler
by Oles Buzina
It’s too bad that [Ukraine’s President (2005-2010)] Viktor Yushchenko doesn’t know history very well. With his decree making Stepan Bandera a national hero [of Ukraine], he spat in the soul of animal rights advocates all around the world by awarding an animal abuser.
As a writer, what impresses me the most in the story of the newly minted “hero of Ukraine,” is the completeness of the gastronomical theme. On Bandera’s order in 1934, the Interior Minister of Poland, Bronisław Pieracki, was assassinated as he entered a cafe in Warsaw to grab a bite to eat. The mastermind and organizer of this “attentat” (what they call assassination attempts in Galicia [Ukraine]), the half-educated student Bandera was only 25 years old. He was halfway through his life path which he did not suspect.
The new START treaty officially called the Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, was signed by Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev and American President Barack Obama in April 2010 in Prague. This nuclear arms reduction agreement entered into force, after being ratified, a year later. In fact, this agreement is the only remaining treaty between the U.S. and the Russian Federation on the subject of nuclear arsenal regulation. Yet, on February 21, 2022, President Vladimir Putin announced its suspension in an annual address to Russia’s Federal Assembly. According to Putin, this suspension is not a complete withdrawal. To resume its participation, Russia will have to account for NATO’s combined strike arsenal among other issues. What is the history and the implications of this move?
World War II
To understand the present, we must return to the past and the history of nuclear arms usage and control. The U.S. ran the secret Manhattan Project during World War II to develop nuclear weapons. President Harry Truman, who replaced Franklin D. Roosevelt upon his death in April 1945, was tasked with completing the war effort in the European and Asia-Pacific theaters. He learned about the first successful—and successfully destructive—atomic test in New Mexico at the last wartime Allied conference in Potsdam in July 1945. One of the key issues discussed at Potsdam was Japan’s unconditional surrender. Truman decided to inform Joseph Stalin about this new powerful weapon, but the Soviet leader seemed uninterested. Behind the scenes, however, Stalin was already aware of the American project through Soviet intelligence. Indeed, the Soviet nuclear-research counterpart began in 1942, and now Stalin, too, wanted to expedite his project.
The Soviet Union fought against the followers of a convicted terrorist and Nazi German collaborator Stepan Bandera in western Ukraine—first during World War II and then as an insurgency. As a result, many were tried and incarcerated in Kazakhstan, the Arctic Circle, and the Urals. Yet in 1955, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev pardoned and released Banderites in the tens of thousands. Why did this mass-scale amnesty happen, and what long-term consequences did it have?
This question is especially perplexing considering who Stepan Bandera was—a fascist leader of the terrorist OUN, Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (faction B named after Bandera), established in 1929. During World War II, the organization collaborated with Nazi Germany since the area was under their occupation as Reichskommissariat Ukraine from mid-1941 to late 1944.
In 2014, Kiev banned the Russian-made mini-series The White Guard (2012) based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s 1925 novel for “demonstrating disregard for the Ukrainian language, people, and statehood.” This ban turned out to be one of many after the Maidan that year in an attempt to root out the Russian language and culture in the region long before the 2022 military escalation. Yet what do Mikhail Bulgakov and The White Guard, specifically, have to do with the present conflict in Ukraine?
Mikhail Bulgakov, the Russian author best known for The Master and Margarita, was born in Kiev in 1891. His literary genius makes him one of the most famous historical figures from that city. Yet in 2022, there were even calls to close the Kiev Bulgakov museum.
This interview initially appeared in Komsomolskaya Pravda on December 7, 2022. It was entitled, “A Pilot of the Russian Aerospace Forces: ‘We decided not to give up. The navigator took the grenade, and I pulled the ring out of it.'”
The Story of a Real Man by Boris Polevoy (1946) referenced below is about Soviet fighter ace Alexey Maresyev (1916-2001). During World War II, Maresyev’s plane was shot down but he managed to return to the Soviet side. He was injured so severely that both of his legs had to be amputated above the knee due to gangrene. Not only was Maresyev able to recover but he returned to flying a year later, in 1943, despite his disability. In total, he is credited with 80 combat sorties. Maresyev earned Hero of the Soviet Union. In 1947-48, renowned composer Sergei Prokofiev turned Marasyev’s experience into an opera.
In the original Russian title, “man” refers to a “person” (chelovek), but the standard English translation is “man.”
Pilot Pyotr Kashtanov, awarded Hero of Russia, defeated the enemy and escaped being captured. Kashtanov successfully carried out his combat mission and destroyed enemy equipment. However, the crew was hit and catapulted into enemy territory. The “nationalists” were close by, while his comrade was unconscious…
On the eve of Heroes of the Fatherland Day [December 9], Komsomolskaya Pravda journalists met with an officer whose airplane was shot down over enemy territory. Yet he completed his combat mission and, despite being wounded, led the crew to rejoin the Russian troops.
Not very tall, humble, and seemingly very young, the senior lieutenant tries to be sociable and relaxed.
– Pyotr, he extends his right hand.
Based on his weak handshake, as if it were unnaturally constrained, we understand that the pilot has not yet fully recovered. In September, his Su-34 fighter bomber was shot down over enemy territory, while on a combat mission in the Special Operation zone [during the international conflict taking place in Ukraine]. The situation was hopeless. He had a broken arm, while the navigator had a compression fracture of the spine. There were enemies all around. Yet by some miracle, both managed to get out and reached their own comrades.
And now, sitting in front of us, as if descended from the pages of Boris Polevoy’s The Story of a Real Man, is Pyotr Kashtanov, a Russian officer. The star of the Hero of Russia sparkles on the chest of this 31-year-old…
Those who know me personally are aware of my long-standing interest in Japan. Translating a piece on a surprising and worthwhile story that took place during the Russo-Japanese War is one way of showcasing it.
The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 was to prove advantageous for Japan and its Western maritime backers Britain and the United States, while the conflict was a multifaceted disaster for Russia. Amidst the bloodshed, however, were found moments of chivalry exemplified by the warriors of each side. Here is one such account:
Hunter and scout Vasilii Timofeevich Riabov was born in 1871 and grew up in the village of Ivanovka outside Penza. Almost a century and a half has gone by, yet his memory persists through the centuries.
After his discharge from active military duty and joining the reserve, Riabov relocated to the neighboring village of Lebedevka. He was a brave and active man, he loved the theater and his wife, even though he sometimes hit her after drinking. And sometimes he used other people’s things without permission. That happened too. But he atoned for all his sins with his act…
Veteran chief of the KGB’s elite Alpha Group Maj. Gen. Gennady Nikolaevich Zaitsev recounts the 1977 operation to arrest CIA intelligence officer Martha Peterson, who worked out of the US Embassy under diplomatic cover. Peterson had been handling a valuable agent – Aleksandr Ogorodnik, code-named Trigon, a highly-placed staffer at the Soviet Foreign Ministry. Little did Peterson know at the time that Ogorodnik had already been arrested and committed suicide in custody with poison supplied from Langley. The trap carefully laid by the KGB’s Second Chief Directorate was set…
It so happened that I had the opportunity to participate in an arrest of a spy even before joining the spetsnaz Alpha Group. At that time, I served in the Seventh Directorate of the KGB of the USSR. Do you remember the film TASS is Authorized to Declare …? It told the story of how the KGB exposed Trigon, an enemy agent…
Instead of the triumph of democracy and progress, we got violence, poverty and social disaster — and nobody cares a bit about human rights, including the right to life. I cannot help asking those who have forced that situation: Do you realize what you have done?
-Vladimir Putin addressing the United Nations in September 2015.
March 22, 2016 entered contemporary history as another day made dark by a new terrorist act in Europe. This time it took place in Brussels, Belgium roughly following the general pattern of its Parisian predecessor in late 2015 by targeting multiple heavily populated areas: a major metro station and the city’s airport. These violent acts resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries and were later attributed to the so-called Islamic State terrorist group, although at the time of writing the criminal evidence is just making its way into the media.
SYMBOLS OF EUROPEAN POSTMODERITY
Whereas some described the Paris attacks as targeting the very heart of European culture and civilization, the 2016 bombing of Brussels symbolizes the war against the capital of the European Union and all it represents, as well as the NATO headquarters, the most powerful military alliance in the world. Indeed, border closures alone in the wake of such crises undermine the very idea of this Union and thus send a strong message. Terrorism’s raison d’être is to cause maximum disorientation and fear among the civilian population, which is why, it seems, the perpetrators chose public spaces rather than government buildings.