Russia, the West and World War II


When I lived in Moscow, occasionally Russians would fix me with a stern gaze and gravely pose the question ‘who won the war?’  Circumspectly, I would answer that Russia had without doubt borne the principal burden of vanquishing Nazi Germany. The question, however, was always imbued with an accusatory air, as though my response was expected to incriminate me in a conspiracy to conceal the true scale of Russia’s wartime exertions. This aggrieved tone can be jarring to a foreigner, leaving the impression that Russians are exercised to an unhealthy degree by thoughts of past military glory. Why, after all, should judgements about World War 2 still cause such affront now that the vast majority of its participants are no longer living?

It’s only natural that a conflict of such unprecedented proportions should figure saliently in the imagination many years after the event, but one would expect the emotions it arouses to become attenuated with the lapse of time. That the Russian fascination with WW2 has shown no tendency to abate, and has in several respects actually intensified, suggests this continuing fixation is a sign of some cultural peculiarity. This impression is liable to be heightened at the beginning of May of each year, when the incessant showing of war films and the din of military marches on TV signals the approaching anniversary of Germany’s defeat.

Victory Day is an immutable fixture in the national calendar, more an occasion, as the name implies, for expressing pride in the nation’s triumph over the Nazis than a sombre meditation on the vast losses incurred.  Flags and posters adorn every street, whilst for weeks in advance interminable lines of tanks and missile launchers file into Moscow in preparation for a grand military parade on May 9th. Last week’s parade typically illustrated the magnitude of these annual celebrations, comprising 11,000 servicemen and a massive array of military vehicles, topped off by an airborne performance of fighter jets to bring the events to a close.

Watching these martial displays and the accompanying cacophony of publicity, many in the West, raised on a diet of lingering Cold War stereotypes, will find it easy to conclude that long experience of dictatorship has implanted a deep attraction to its military trappings in the Russian national psyche, leading the population to revel in the opportunity May 9th affords for celebrating an epic feat of Russian arms. But though such spectacles may appear crass to an outsider, they are perhaps no less so than the image of WW2 cherished in the West, where citizens of Russia’s former allies have clung with equal tenacity to bracing memories of victory over an indomitable foe.

In Britain, the war inescapably brings to mind qualities for which the nation is considered famed, exemplifying British pluck and resolve in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Particular episodes, like the Battle of Britain or Dunkirk, are bywords for the incredible deeds of which Britons are capable once galvanised by the threat of impending disaster, and the improvisational skill with which we can extricate ourselves from even the most perilous situations, miraculously converting failure into resounding success. No doubt in the US the war has spawned a similar assortment of moving fables illustrative of the American commitment to freedom and democracy. In both countries, a plethora of Hollywood films has under girded our perpetual fascination with the war and sedulously promoted those myths that our sense of national pride finds so soothing.

In this endless recounting of wartime virtues scant attention has been devoted to the carnage on the Russian front, where much of the fighting was conducted and the war was ultimately won. The narcissistic tendency to consider only the exploits of one’s own nation as of any real note is pronounced among every people and hence unsurprising, but it happens that in Russia this tendency bears a greater correspondence to reality than in either Britain or America. You need only glance at the casualty figures to realise the titanic dimensions of the Soviet Union’s war and that the fate of Hitler’s schemes for domination was decided in the east. Every sinew of the nation was strained to repulse the German invader, resulting in the deaths of approximately 20-27 million of the USSR’s citizens, a large percentage of them Russians, compared to a total of roughly 450,000 Britons killed and 420,000 Americans.

Moreover, for three years between 1941 and ’44, as the Anglo-American forces sidled their way across North Africa and up the Italian peninsula, the Soviet Union was the only power directly joined in battle against the Third Reich, and its armies continued engage the vast bulk of Hitler’s forces (over 70%) even after the Normandy landings.[i] The two battlefield victories most prized by the Allies give some indication as to this difference in scale and the greater moment attaching to the struggle waged on Russia’s plains. At the battle of El Alamein in 1942, which Churchill dubbed ‘the end of the beginning’, British forces inflicted losses of 50,000 men on the Wehrmacht. By contrast, the battle of Stalingrad witnessed the destruction of the entire German 6th Army, comprising 330,000 men, and the capture of 144,000 Axis troops.

This omission probably accounts for the edge of subtle reproach with which Russians keenly question foreigners as to the causes of victory. It is certainly responsible for breeding a number of misconceptions about the war’s prosecution that have coloured attitudes to Russia’s role in world affairs ever since. For example, it’s often supposed that the Western powers abjured political goals in the interests of defeating Hitler as swiftly as possible, in stark contrast to Stalin who strove at the earliest opportunity to supplant Nazi domination of Eastern Europe with his own. Yet this is contradicted by the war’s actual course, which may have been prolonged by the Anglo-American decision to opt for a strategy of attacking Europe’s ‘soft underbelly’ via the Mediterranean, postponing an invasion of France to the late date of June 1944.

The three year interval between both the US and Russia entering the war and Operation Overlord had an obvious reason.  For military planners, an amphibious landing and direct assault upon fortress Europe, so close to the German heartland, held out little prospect of gain and every possibility of becoming enmired in a bloody stalemate in fighting as intense as any on the Eastern front. A peripheral strategy had the attraction that it would enable Britain secure its possessions in North Africa and the Middle East whilst reasserting control over the Mediterranean – a traditional sphere of British interest. Within the British military establishment, the belief was persistently voiced that Germany must undergo a significant weakening before an invasion of France could be launched, and in the meantime the Red Army was the only force on land resilient enough to bear the main burden of rolling back Axis forces.[ii]

When Churchill assented in April 1942 to an American proposal for a landing in France, scheduled for the following year, his agreement was therefore tentative, marred by the important reservation that ‘it was essential to carry on the defence of India and the Middle-East.’[iii] The tepidness of his support for this strategy soon became transparent when he persuaded Roosevelt to commit troops to a joint invasion of North Africa at the end of 1942 – Operation Torch – in the full knowledge that it would mean calling off plans for a second front in Northern Europe due to insufficient resources.

The invasion of Sicily and Italy followed in 1943 at Churchill’s behest, further entangling the Allies in a tortuous sideshow that diverted vital troops and materiel from where they were most sorely needed to ameliorate the mounting pressure on the USSR. As late as October 1943, several months after he had been forced by the US to agree a definite date of May 1944 for an invasion of France, Churchill was still dragging his feet over the transfer of troops from the Italian theatre to Britain and agitating unsuccessfully for yet another delay in the projected landings to capitalise on the Allied position in the Mediterranean.[iv] It’s ironic then that for all these byzantine manoeuvrings to safeguard imperial influence the war resulted in Britain ceding its hegemonic position to the US, which imposed a heavy price in return for its collaboration.

The dilatory approach to the opening of a second front did not foster amity among the Big Three, in spite of their outward show of unified resolve. In angry telegrams, Stalin upbraided his fellow war leaders for being indifferent to the USSR’s fate, and in private speculated that western procrastination was part of a grand design to ensure success would prove pyrrhic for the Red Army, too sapped of strength by the internecine fighting to enjoy the fruits of victory and great power status.[v] He even conjectured that Britain was secretly conniving to arrive at a separate peace with Germany, reverting to its established policy of appeasement, as this was the only grounds that could account for its startling equanimity in the face of a Soviet collapse.[vi]

Although Stalin’s paranoid propensities may not have helped matters, he had ample grounds for doubting the Allied commitment to victory ‘whatever the cost’. Soviet queries about a second front elicited little more than rhetorical flourishes and vaguely framed pledges. In June 1942, Molotov’s visit to London had resulted in agreement on disembarking a small expeditionary force in Normandy before the year was out, as a precursor to the main invasion that was to come in 1943. The promise was hedged in with provisos and fell far short of the cast-iron commitment the Soviets desired, yet a joint declaration to the press had appeared to bind the Allies to the ‘urgent task of creating a second front…in 1942’ , making it difficult for them to later renege. Yet this is exactly what the western allies proceeded to do by planning for Operation Torch.[vii]

Soviet annoyance was magnified by additional assurances that the western powers had no intention of fulfilling, but which temporarily slated the Soviet thirst for action in the medium term. Later in 1942, Churchill was to travel to Moscow and notify Stalin in person that though an assault on France could not now be contemplated for that year, an invasion in 1943 was still on the cards. This was in flagrant defiance of his own Chiefs of Staff, who had advised him that an invasion of North Africa rendered plans for the following year unfeasible, nor did it comport with Churchill’s later enthusiasm for following up Operation Torch with the conquest of Sicily and Italy.[viii]

The Soviet Union was not alone in rebuking western leaders for their perceived apathy. Calls for a second front resonated with the British and American electorates, which were equally at a loss to explain the dallying of their political representatives, when the capitulation of Russia threatened to imperil the entire war effort and irretrievably damn Anglo-American chances of ever defeating Germany. There was also associated with this strategic reasoning a strong sense of moral obligation. The valiant exertions of the Red Army had afforded Britain a reprieve from the threat of invasion, and enabled America to prepare its armies for an extended campaign, so it was only right that they should reciprocate at the earliest opportunity by moving to the offensive, striking Germany where it mattered in Northern France. In Britain the left-wing newspaper Tribune gave vent to the popular mood in a series of stinging criticisms of government policy, noting that ‘everywhere where men gather together one subject is fiercely debate – when are we going to back up in Europe the Homeric resistance of the Soviet Union?’[ix] In America, where 48% of the public favoured the immediate opening of a second front, numerous newspaper letters and rallies added to the voluble calls of well-known writers and senators to come to Russia’s aid.[x]

These appeals were to no avail, as neither Roosevelt nor Churchill could be swayed from their decision to cling steadfastly to a Mediterranean strategy first and a Second Front later.  Unfortunately, the sad truth is that they were not seriously affected by the concerns aired by ordinary people or some of their own advisers, seeing the Soviet war effort as a welcome boon but possibly not fully fathoming the consequences of a Russian defeat. Britain especially was guilty of this attitude. In late 1941 as the Wehrmacht advanced to within a hair’s breadth of taking Moscow, Stafford Cripps, the British ambassador to the USSR, had lamented that fears for Russia’s survival did not seem reflected in the forebodings of officials in London, and remonstrated with his government that a concerted effort must be made to save the Red Army from perishing beneath the successive hammer blows of the German offensive. Adding his endorsement to Stalin’s plea for assistance, he wrote in September ‘We have unfortunately considered the war as no direct responsibility of ours…. I fear it is now almost too late unless we are prepared to throw everything into an effort to save the front.’[xi] Only meagre assistance was forthcoming in that first year, and a request that 25-30 divisions be dispatched to fight in Russia if no front could be established in France was rebuffed out of hand.[xii] By the time lend-lease aid began to arrive on a large-scale in 1943, the key victory at Stalingrad had taken place and the German army was being forced into retreat.[xiii]

Russian pride in Soviet arms during WW2 is thus comparatively less shrouded in mythology than the Western obsession with its own wartime role, given wide currency by Hollywood and nigh on unchallengeable status in popular histories and documentaries. The historian Norman Davies concludes:

…the soviet effort was so overwhelming that impartial historians of the future are unlikely to rate the British and American contribution to the European theatre as much more than a sound supporting role. The proportions were not ‘fifty-fifty’, as many imply when talking of the final onslaught on Nazi Germany from East and West. Sooner or later people will have to adjust to the fact that the Soviet role was enormous and the Western role was respectable but modest.[xiv]

Impartiality is difficult to attain, particularly when so vital a matter to national prowess as victory in war is at issue. Nationalist ways of thinking subtly insinuate themselves into our outlook and become difficult to dislodge, so that fresh evidence is invariably refracted through a governing set of assumptions. I remember feeling nonplussed when informed by a friend that there was a perception among Russians that Britain was a crafty power that had, by its inaction, sought to encourage Hitler’s pursuit of empire in Eastern Europe, fomenting the conditions for the onset of conflict with the Soviet Union. I was familiar with appeasement, but was disposed to think, in common with most British people, that Britain’s leaders had pandered to Hitler out of a visceral dread of repeating the follies that had plunged Europe into the slaughter of the Great War, not so as to contrive a confrontation between Communism and Nazism. If anything the charge of bringing on WW2 was more appropriately laid at the Soviet Union’s door, which had supplied the proximate cause for the invasion of Poland by concluding a non-aggression pact with Germany.  In any event, why would Britain have guaranteed Poland if its intention was to enable Hitler to run rampant through Eastern Europe? But perhaps interpreting the failings of 1930s British foreign policy as simply a product of wrong-headed pacifism is as baseless as seeing in it the elements of a conspiracy.

Britain’s attitude to Hitler certainly displayed schizophrenic traits.  Concerned to limit German expansion, yet hampered by an ideological opposition to Communism more fervent than its dislike for Nazism, Britain forewent the opportunity to conclude a military pact with the USSR that could potentially have deterred Hitler from further aggression and averted the outbreak of war. Russia was not invited to Munich to debate Czechoslovakia’s fate, and the Soviet offer of a military alliance to guarantee the states of Eastern Europe immediately following the conference was rejected. Belatedly, as Hitler’s intentions regarding Poland became clear, Britain and France entered into negotiations in 1939, yet even at this late stage the prospects for an alliance were vitiated by Western reluctance to conclude a fully reciprocal pact, with Lord Halifax initially proposing a Russian declaration to aid Britain and France if they became involved in a conflict over Poland but not vice versa.[xv] When the Anglo-French delegation stalled over negotiating the treaty’s military details,   Stalin felt confirmed in his belief that they were not serious in wanting cooperation and instead were ready to abandon the USSR at the first sign of trouble, leaving Soviet troops to pull their ‘chestnuts out of the fire’. Many historians agree that the Nazi-Soviet pact was a last-minute compromise affected after talks with the west had reached an impasse, and was designed to secure more time for the Soviet Union in which to ready its forces for war.[xvi]

If, however, the impulse to lionise its role has led the West to overlook inconvenient features of WW2, how much more enticing is this temptation in the case of Russia where national boasts are more firmly rooted in reality? The sheer scale of what was accomplished has unfortunately outshone events that are less easy to reconcile to the grand narrative of a war waged for defensive purposes. The invasion of Eastern Poland and execution of Polish officers, the annexation of the Baltic states and imprisonment of potential dissidents, the deportation of minorities to the Soviet interior, and the establishment of a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe are all episodes that have attracted far less attention than they warrant.

Obeisance to the deeds of one’s forbears can also be excessive, suggesting a society which believes its chief glories to lie in its past rather than its future. Bereft of a sense of purpose, people alight readily on a consoling instance of former greatness to find relief from the disorienting challenges of the present, which tax the mind with their apparent insolubility. Much as Britain’s decline in global status fostered an even more fervid attachment to victory in WW2, there are complex reasons, unconnected with the monumental scale of the Soviet experience, for why the war continues to engage the minds of millions of Russians in worshipful reverence for the years 1941-5.  The social dislocation attendant on the Soviet Union’s sudden collapse, and the precipitous decline in living standards that followed, have no doubt played their part in investing that period, when Russians combined to resist a common threat, with a halcyon glow. In his speech last Thursday, Putin played upon these perceptions, accounting for the longevity of WW2 by arguing: ‘The might behind this righteous unity is love for Russia, our home, our relatives and our family. These values bring us together today. Our entire nation fought valiantly to defend them.’

But why should people seek for national greatness in war? However moral the inspiring  ideal, however inarguable the necessity for armed conflicted is depicted as being, war is still war, consisting of mass murder on an industrialised scale. All the springs of human ingenuity are devoted to the malignant end of discovering more effectual methods for killing larger numbers of people. Scientists create more effective weapons, economists strive to maximise the production of armaments, and journalists seek to rouse the populace to a state of savage fury against the enemy. For the ordinary soldier, experience of combat is unadulterated by any comforting reflections that the butchery is required in the furtherance of a just cause, and actions he would ordinarily look upon with disgust he is now encouraged to view as the height of valour. Paul Fussell, an American officer during WW2 and later a famous professor of literature, recorded that as an unblooded soldier the effect of stumbling upon a clearing strewn with the corpses of German soldiers was to suddenly deprive him of his ‘adolescent illusions’, instilling an abrupt realisation that:  ‘I was not and never would be in a world that was reasonable or just.’ Wryly commenting on the hellish conditions his platoon encountered during their advance he noted: ‘Getting it over was our sole motive. Yes, we knew about the Jews. But our skins seemed to us more valuable at the time.’

Examples of heroism can be discerned amid the bloodletting, but they testify more to the durability of the human spirit than the noble passions war unleashes. Overwhelmingly, war presents an image of human beings at their most degraded, not at their most heroic, and the fact some individuals are occasionally able to overcome the debasing circumstances in which they find themselves should not obscure the basic truth that during war the nation’s citizens are fundamentally engaged in a murderous enterprise, the emotional impact of which is more likely to be traumatising than ennobling. Indeed, certainly in Britain, commitment to the values Putin cites – of family and home – led veterans to eschew speaking of what they had endured rather than continually to advert to it as though the moral peak of their existence had been reached during those years, remaining silent about their experiences until pressed to open up decades later by children and grandchildren eager to preserve their memories for posterity.

Undoubtedly, veterans did not conceive of such an exercise in mass killing as the summit of what their society could achieve. At best, it was the odious prelude to an age where the barbarism of war would be displaced by achievements of a peaceable and far more creditable character. In each of the victorious powers, the immediate post-war years were marked by an upsurge in hopes and expectations. In Britain, the Conservative party was ousted from power in a landslide victory for Labour, which embarked on an extensive program of social reforms. In America, Henry Wallace advocated the ‘century of the common man’, campaigning in the 1948 presidential elections on a platform of fostering good relations with the Soviet Union and redressing social grievances at home.[xvii] In Russia, people hoped for a relaxation of authoritarian controls and an end to the repressions, show trials, and arbitrary arrests that had blighted life during the ‘30s.  These hopes were, by and large, not realised, as the shaky dedication of political leaders to social justice swiftly gave way to the imperatives of rearmament. Above all, war remained a perennial feature of international relations, with WW2 perversely appropriated by governments to furnish a basis for further conflicts in the supposed interests of spreading freedom abroad. The starry-eyed tendency to view the war as the apex of our national histories is a pitiful reflection on our failure to vindicate the ambitions of those who fought in it.

The historian Howard Zinn, himself a former bombardier and member of the ‘greatest generation’, reacted to the cult of WW2, and the concomitant glorification of its participants, in the following terms:

I refuse to celebrate them as “the greatest generation” because in so doing we are celebrating courage and sacrifice in the cause of war. And we are miseducating the young to believe that military heroism is the noblest form of heroism, when it should be remembered as only the tragic accompaniment of horrendous policies driven by power and profit. Indeed, the current infatuation with World War II prepares us – innocently on the part of some, deliberately on the part of others – for more war, more military adventures, more attempts to emulate the military heroes of the past.

Cynical efforts to recast the sordidness of war in a patriotic guise have been pronounced under Putin, who ever since his inauguration as President in 2000, timed to take place two days before May 9th, has been especially alert to the political utility of associating himself with Russia’s travails and ultimate triumph in WW2. Whether speaking of the hardships faced by his parents during the siege of Leningrad, or issuing largely hollow promises about raising the living standards of veterans, he has lost no opportunity to cultivate a connection between his administration and the halo attaching to the Great Patriotic War. The Victory Day parade in 2008 was the most expensively staged one since the fall of the Soviet Union, showcasing Russia’s armed might in a colossal display of military hardware. At this year’s celebrations no expense was spared, with the Moscow authorities even setting aside money to ensure the clouds were properly seeded, in anticipation of a repeat of the rainy weather that marred last year’s events. After briefly falling into abeyance during the ‘90s, Victory Day has been revived on at least as grand a scale as during the Soviet era.[xviii]

Russian cinema has echoed the government’s renewed interest in WW2 by indulging in a number of kitsch interpretations. Interestingly, some of the best Soviet films resisted the urge to rhapsodise about the staunch qualities of the average Soviet citizen, painting a nuanced picture of the agonising realities of conflict. Unlike such Western productions as Saving Private Ryan, where the battle scenes, vivid as they are, serve to embellish the underlying leitmotif about the war’s sacrificial character, the best Soviet films were so relentlessly unleavened by idealism, so subtle in their depiction of the contrary motives, some ignoble and some noble, that contended for mastery within the breasts of participants, and so poignant in their portrayal of the irreparable emotional toll exacted on the survivors, that it is not at all easy after watching them to quell one’s doubts about the war’s virtuous qualities by taking refuge in patriotic guff. Movies like Ivan’s Childhood (1962), which follows a 12-year old boy cynically exploited by his commanding officer who dispatches him on dangerous reconnaissance missions, or the Cranes Are Flying (1959), with its plot about a young woman who marries a draft evader whilst her boyfriend is away fighting at the front, only to later be reduced to an emotional wreck by feelings of guilt, give a glimpse of the mundane, squalid pressures which primarily make up war.[xix]

Nuanced, however, is not a word that could conceivably apply to present-day films made in Russia, which compare to the very worst Hollywood movies in their superficial approach to WW2. One recent such film Match, loosely based on real events, focuses on a group of Soviet POWs who beat their Nazi captors in a symbolic game of football. Predictably, it abounds with stock characters and shallow patriotic appeals. The film’s makers openly styled it as a ‘historical patriotic drama’, and it was released last year to coincide with the Victory Day celebrations in May.

There is no reason to suspect that remoteness from WW2 will cause future generations to recall it less avidly than we do now, when our direct connection with that period is already tenuous. The interest the state has in preserving the war as a source of national pride is too strong for it to be permitted to fade from memory. In every former Allied country, people will continue to be entranced by the spectacle of the nation in its ‘finest hour’, and states will continue to emphasise how the war illustrates signal virtues like unity in a time of crisis and faith in the righteousness of armed force.

The state’s active involvement in commemorating WW2 is a particularly disturbing phenomenon, for without the advent of the state, with its regular bureaucracies and total command over people and resources, wars would not be so utterly devastating and far-reaching in their effects. States are as intrinsic to the waging of modern war as tanks or machine guns. Indeed, the sorrowful affectations of political leaders for the dead of past conflicts and their efforts to endow state commemorations with an atmosphere of deep emotion mask the fact that the mass slaughter of war is underpinned by the cold, calculating processes of impersonal authority. Millions of people are forcibly enlisted into the army, torn from their families and compelled to fight in circumstances not of their own devising.

George Orwell once wrote an article criticising some of his fellow Britons for their moral opposition to the RAF’s bombing of German civilians. The flaw in their stance, he contended, was that they implicitly assumed war could be conducted in a humane fashion, and were seemingly oblivious or unconcerned by the fact that:

‘normal’ or ‘legitimate’ warfare picks out and slaughters all the healthiest and bravest of the young male population. Every time a German submarine goes to the bottom about fifty young men of fine physique and good nerves are suffocated. Yet people who would hold up their hands at the very words ‘civilian bombing’ will repeat with satisfaction such phrases as ‘We are winning the Battle of the Atlantic’. 

His argument contains more than a kernel of truth. Outrage against particular atrocities can obscure the fact that war itself is an outrage. This danger is equally if not more apparent in concentrating on the supposed heroic aspects of war: seeking to divine in the carnage some higher purpose, and dressing it in the garb of a moral crusade. As a result of the celebratory approach to remembering WW2 favoured by the victor nations, people are in danger of forgetting what war actually is.

Joseph Richardson is a writer living in London.


[i] N. Davies, Europe at War, 1939-1945 (Macmillan, 2006), p.485

[ii] For a detailed analysis of British military strategy see T. Ben-Moshe, Winston Churchill and “The Second Front”: A Reappraisal (The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 62, No.3, 1990)

[iii] Ibid. p. 511

[iv] Ibid. pp. 523-528

[v] R.C. Grogin, Natural Enemies: The United States and the Soviet Union in the Cold War, 1917-1991 (Lexington, 2001), p. 36

[vi] G. Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953 (Yale University Press, 2008), pp. 141-142

[vii] Ibid. pp. 134-143

[viii] T. Ben-Moshe, Winston Churchill and the “The Second Front”: A Reappraisal, p.515

[ix] M. Foot, Anuerin Bevan (Victor Gollancz, 1997), p.179

[x] O. Stone and P. Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States (Erbury Press, 2012), p.108

[xi] H. Hanak, Sir Stafford Cripps as Ambassador in Moscow, June 1941-January 1942(The English Historical Review, Vol. 97, No. 383, 1982), pp.335-336

[xii] Ibid. pp.334-335, see also for valuable insights into Britain’s attitude to the Soviet Union in the periods before and following the German invasion G. Gorodetsky, The Origins of the Cold War: Stalin, Churchill and the Formation of the Grand Alliance (Russian Review, Vol. 47, No.2, 1988), H. Hanak, Sir Stafford Cripps as Ambassador in Moscow May 1940 to June 1941 (The English Historical Review, Vol. 94, No. 370, 1979) and D. Watson, Molotov, the Making of the Grand Alliance and the Second Front 1939-1942 (Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 54, No. 1, 2002)

[xiii] N. Davies, Europe at War, 1939-1945, p. 484

[xiv] Ibid. p.483

[xv] D. Watson, Molotov’s Apprenticeship in Foreign Policy: The Tripartite Negotiations in 1939 (Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 52, No. 4, 2000), p.699

[xvi] The metaphor ‘war-mongers who are accustomed to have others pull chestnuts out of the fire for them’ comes from a speech Stalin gave to the 18th Party Congress in March 1939.  See G. Roberts, The Soviet Decision for a Pact with Nazi Germany (Soviet Studies, Vol. 44, No. 1, 1992), G. Roberts, Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953, pp. 30-60, T. J Ulricks, War, Politics and Memory: Russian Historians Reevaluate the Origins of World War II (History and Memory, Vol. 21, No. 2, 2009) and J. Haslam, Soviet-German Relations and the Origins of the Second World War: The Jury is Still Out (The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 69, No. 4, 1997) for further analysis and a summary of the historiography.

[xvii] For an interesting account of Wallace’s opposition to the Cold War, the public support he enjoyed and how his presidential campaign may have force Truman to veer to the left see O. Stone and P. Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States, pp.199-204 and pp.220-222

[xviii] For more details see E.A. Wood, Performing Memory: Vladimir Putin and the Celebration of WWII in Russia (The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review, Vol. 38, 2011). Also, for analysis of post-Soviet treatment of WWII monuments during the 1990s see B. Forest and J. Johnson, Unraveling the Threads of History: Soviet-Era Monuments and Post-Soviet National Identity in Moscow (Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 92, No.3, 2002), pp. 530-532

[xix] For a fascinating analysis of this corpus of films see D.J. Youngblood, A War Remembered: Soviet Films of the Great Patriotic War (The American Historical Review, Vol. 106, No. 3, 2001)