Significance of the great patriotic war

Thursday 16th May 2019 05:13 EDT

Reading the reams of Indian print, one would conclude that nothing truly mattered in world beyond the trans-Atlantic sphere. Is not India’s ‘privileged strategic partnership’ with Russia fit subject for serious cogitation? Yet none was forthcoming as Russia celebrated the 74th anniversary of the ‘Great Patriotic War’ together with many of the nations of the former Soviet Union, on May 9. Thousands upon thousands of Russians of all ages – men women and children - marched with pictures of their grandfathers, fathers, grandmothers, mothers, aunts, uncles, friends and comrades-in-arms, who fought in the Red Army in defence of the Motherland, then as destroyers of Hitler’s infamous Third Reich trapped in its Berlin lair. Thus was human civilisation itself saved from defilement like no other.

 Addressing Parliament in London, Britain’s wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill declaimed: ‘The advance of their Armies from Stalingrad to the Dniester river...constitutes the greatest cause of Hitler’s undoing...not only have the Hun invaders been driven from the lands they ravaged, but the guts of the German army have been largely torn out by Russian valour and generalship. The people of all the Russias have in their supreme ordeal of agony a warrior leader, Marshal Stalin, whose authority enabled him to combine and control many millions upon a front of nearly 2000 miles.’

Churchill in one sentenced captured the scale and grandeur of the Soviet war effort: ‘generalship,’ best describing Soviet mastery of the higher conduct of war, at the operational and strategic level.

Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke, Chief of Britain’s Imperial General Staff, having watched Stalin’s performance at the Tehran conference with Churchill and Roosevelt in November 1943, made the following entry in his War Diarie: ‘During this meeting and the subsequent ones which we had with Stalin, I rapidly grew to appreciate that he had a military brain of the very highest calibre. Never once in any of his statements, did he make any strategic error, nor did he ever fail to appreciate all the implications of a situation with a quick and unerring eye.’

On hearing from Churchill, the details of the planned ‘Operation Torch’ in North Africa by the Anglo-American forces, Stalin asked a few questions before making a concise summary of its strategic implications. Churchill relates: ‘I was deeply impressed by this remarkable statement. It showed the Russian Dictator’s swift and complete appreciation of a problem hitherto novel to him. Very few people alive could have comprehended in so few minutes the reasons which we all had so long been wrestling with. He saw it all in a flash.’ (Winston Churchill, The Second World War, Volume IV)

Averill Harriman, President Roosevelt’s Ambassador in Moscow, in 1943-45, was to reflect decades later, ‘Stalin the war leader was popular and there can be no doubt that he was the one who held the Soviet Union together ...I do not think anyone else could have done it ... I’d like to emphasize my great admiration for Stalin the national leader in an emergency – one of those historical occasions when one man made such a difference. This in no sense minimizes my revulsion against his cruelties; but I have to give you the constructive side as the other.’

Colonel Albert Seaton, in his study of ‘Stalin as Warlord,’ was critical of his military leadership in the first two years of the war, said, ‘he must be allowed the credit for the amazing successes of 1944... when whole German army groups were virtually obliterated with lightening blows, in Belorussia, Galicia, Rumania and the Baltic, in battles that were fought not on the wintry steppes, but in midsummer in Central Europe. Some of these victories must be reckoned as among the most outstanding in the world’s military history.’

When the Nazis suggested the release of Stalin’s son Yacob, a sergeant in the Red Army, in exchange for German Field Marshal Frederick Paulus, the Soviet leader turned down the offer, with a comment to his deputy Marshal Zhukov, that a sergeant for a field marshal was unthinkable, with almost every family in the land bereaved. It was thus Yacob’s fate to die in the line of duty. His German captors shot him.

 It was scarcely surprising, therefore, that many of those who thronged the Moscow streets held aloft banners in tribute to Stalin’s memory, to his extraordinary role in the greatest conflict ever witnessed on Planet Earth.

The true genesis of the Cold War was the Russian revolution of October 24, 1917 (Old Style ), November 7 (New Style). The great powers, Britain France, the United States and Japan, attempted to throttle the regime at birth and restore the Tsarist monarchy. Capitalist versus communist hue, for a time, masked the deeper significance of the struggle for the Eurasian landmass as key to global dominance.

The old USSR was isolated by the West in the 1920s and 30s, studiously ignored during the Czech crisis of September 1938, when Britain and Franced acquiesced in Hitler’s occupation of Sudetenland. In March 1939, Prague was occupied and Czechoslovakia was swallowed by the Nazi Reich. As war loomed, Britain and France engaged in spurious talks in Moscow on the possibility of a common front against the German threat. To ‘keep ‘Russia in play,’ was the British goal, said Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary in London. Stalin called his bluff with a neutrality pact with Berlin to buy time. Hitler pre-empted him with his invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. Churchill expressed Britain’s solidarity with the latest victim of Nazi aggression, with the barest expectation of successful Soviet resistance. The formal alignment of the USSR, the UK and US was sealed by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

The death of President Roosevelt in mid April 1945, a few weeks prior to Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender dissipated Allied trust, reopening old wounds and the struggle of East and West, and an intensifying nuclear arms race between Moscow and Washington.

The Soviet Union has long disappeared, but not so NATO encirclement of the Russian Federation. The Cold War, having completed its first hundred-year cycle, has crossed the threshold of the second.

History is truth, not fiction

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan recently turned his attention to Tipu Sultan, the late eighteenth century despot of a southern kingdom of the subcontinent. Tipu fought the British and lost his life in battle.

As a Muslim ruler in a largely non-Muslim environment, Tipu proclaimed his primary loyalty to the sultan of the Ottoman Empire based in Istanbul. The image of him as Indian patriot is ludicrous. There were Marathas, Sikhs, Jats, Mogul pretenders and European soldiers of fortune, all jockeying for power across the subcontinent.

 Premier Imran hailed Tipu as a patriot against British ‘enslavement’ - of Indians and Pakistanis? Khan’s Indian confederate, Shashi Tharoor tweeted his unflinching support. The sanctity Tharoor once enjoyed as UN Communications Director in the dispensation of the late Secretary General Kofi Anan, has long dissipated. He lost face and place as administrator in cricket’s Indian Premier League, and is presently facing a charge of assisting in his wife Sunanda Puskar’s suicide. He was reportedly having an affair with a Pakistani journalist.

Tharoor belched a bellicose critique of the Raj, demanding that contemporary Britain pay India an indemnity for its misdeeds – a brand of patriotism described by the great lexicographer and Cham of English letters, Dr Samuel Johnson, as the ‘last refuge of a scoundrel.’

Nineteenth century Indian reformers and liberals viewed the Pax Britannica, warts and all, as a period of seedtime and remedy, after the horrors endured in the previous hundred years. The Indian awakening led directly to recognition of Indian identity. Tharoor’s bid to arrest a career in free-fall with steroids of chauvinism is doomed.

Novel compound for cancer cells

India will eventually stand or fall by the strength or weakness of its economy, its science and technology. Backward political India is also an advanced space power and s0ftware behemoth, encapsulating the Indian paradox.

 Recently, in Kolkata, researches at the Institute of Chemical Biology and the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science have designed and synthesized around 25 quinoline derivatives that potent ant-cancer activity. The compounds were tested in vitro against Topoisometric I activity and their efficacy in killing cells was carried out using breast, ovarian cervical and colon cancer cell lines. The results were published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. The success of the project indicates further successes in the future

comments powered by Disqus

to the free, weekly Asian Voice email newsletter