Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Don't. Invade. Russia.

Having been reading for my senior research on the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, let me just take this opportunity to talk about something that I have observed that won't make it into my senior research - for reasons that will become apparent shortly.

In brief, my thoughts are these: don't invade Russia. Just don't do it. Take Vasili's advice:

"You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders - The most famous of which is "never get involved in a land war in Asia"

Obviously this is glib, but seriously.  Napoleon tried it on 24 June, 1812 with his Grand Armee and made it all the way to Moscow (the Russians just let him have it).

It was at this point that the Cossacks burned essentially EVERYTHING in Napoleon's path in one of the greatest exemplars of scorched earth warfare in history, and upon reaching Moscow, the Russian General ordered it evacuated, refused to send a delegation to Napoleon to officially surrender the city, and then set Moscow on fire as well. 

This whole situation might not have been so bad except for the fact that Napoleon was now 1700 miles away from Paris, and he had forgotten that Russia in the winter gets really, really, really cold (as low as 30-40 degrees below zero, Fahrenheit).

Demoralized, defeated, starving, freezing and utterly aware of how short he was, Napoleon was forced to retreat with the Cossacks and peasant partisans at his heels, followed closely by the regular Russian Imperial Army who nipped at Napoleon's heels until he crossed back over the Berezina River. Napoleon had entered Russia with almost half a million men in his Grand Armee, and returned with approximately 27,000.

Almost exactly 129 years later, this guy thought it'd be a great idea to try and do the same thing:

... he did nazi what he was getting into.

 When Hitler made the decision to invade the Soviet Union on 22 June, 1941, it would set off the bloodiest war in modern history. Estimates for German casualties are around 5 million, and the Russian estimates are anywhere from 15-30 million between June 1941 and May 1945.

(When Stalin heard about the invasion, historical sources say he stroked his glorious mustache and laughed)**

Timothy Snyder coined the term "Bloodlands" talking about the area of Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, because of the number of people who died on that land.


This ties into my senior research insofar as I am investigating the instances of partisan violence in the Soviet Union when the Nazis invaded. The German military used the trope of "anti-partisan" warfare to justify so-called "reprisal killings" for German soldiers who had been KIA. Essentially this boiled down to a weak justification for killing civilians indiscriminately. There are two cultural trends that come to a head in this instance between 1941 and 1944 (after 44 they were mostly out of Russia and the invaded territories).
The first trend is the long history of Russian irregular troops utilizing guerrilla fighting methods to harass and pick apart invaders (of which Napoleon was only one). The second is the Prusso-German military's extended history (which actually started with Napoleon) of despising and utilizing excessively brutal tactics against irregular military forces that they deemed dishonorable. These two trends found their ultimate expression in the bloodbath that was the Eastern Front in WWII. In the end, they should have just learned from history: Don't invade Russia.

**not really

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