Death of a Soviet Hero

Spotted this in the Guardian, the death of one of the three Soviet soldiers photopgraphed hanging the Red Flag over the Reichstag (the picture was of course posed as a replacement had to be put up after the original flag was shot down). Abdulkhakim Ismailov died aged 93 on Tuesday in his native village. After the war, he was in the Communist Party and was a chairman of a collective farm. As time moves on, and we are left with fewer and fewer of the survivors of the Great Patriotic War, it is always worth taking a moment to recall the enormous sacrifices required of the Soviet peoples and their allies in order to defeat fascism.

Last year marked the 70th anniversary of the fall of the Spanish Republic, and next year marks the 75th anniversary of the start of the Spanish Civil War. Already, commemorative events are being organised by left groups in Ireland, such as the Charlie Donnelly commemoration and The Workers’ Party is organising a trip for next year as well. The Spanish Civil War of course remains a matter of great debate and not a little bitterness on the left. No need to go into the arguments now, but there is no doubt that that war proved the vicious and brutal nature of fascism – the last ditch defence of capitalism – and was a warning that too many people ignored, especially in the west.

2011 also sees the 70th anniversary of the Nazi assault on the Soviet Union – Hitler’s attempt to kick in the front door of Soviet socialism in the fundamentally mistaken belief that what he called the whole rotten structure would collapse with it. Instead the peoples of the Soviet Union rallied in defence of Socialism and against the fascist barbarians who were slaughtering their comrades in the occupied territories, with the all too enthusiastic support of local ultra-nationalists, anti-semites and fascists. It took an unpredecented effort to halt the Nazi advance and then drive them back to Berlin, the Red Army crushing their resistance the only way possible – ruthlessly. With the death of Abdulkhakim Ismailov, another link to that past is broken. But their sacrifice, their bravery and their heroism will never be forgotten. The smears of the enemies of the Soviet Union, then and now, can never tarnish the glory of the soliders of the Red Army.

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18 Responses to “Death of a Soviet Hero”

  1. yourcousin Says:

    Jesus man, I just stopped in to see what you’re up to and read this, puts a man right off his dinner.

  2. Garibaldy Says:

    I’d never want to deprive a man of his dinner YC. Even one who can’t appreciate greatness when he sees it 🙂

  3. LeftAtTheCross Says:

    Iconic photograph that second one, one of the great images of the 20th century, and good to hear some of the human story behind it.

  4. John O'Neill Says:

    A great post. I think the extent of sacrifice that the working class of the USSR made to defeat nazism/fascism is largely forgotten in the west. Reformist historians tend to underplay the fact that over 27 million soldiers and civilians died in the USSR and that German soldiers had orders that any communist found in occupied parts of the USSR was executed on the spot during the Nazi genocidial ocupation of the USSR.

  5. LeftAtTheCross Says:

    Sometime in the early 80s there was a documentary series on TV called “The Unknown War” (maybe on RTE, I don’t recall exactly) similar to the ITV series “The World At War” but made from a soviet perspective and narrated by Burt Lancaster. I was in my mid-teens at the time and recall it being very inspiring.

  6. Garibaldy Says:

    Thanks guys. Appreciate the comments. I agree with John entirely that lots of reformist historians deliberately downplay the scale of the Soviet sacrifice, and the brutality of the Nazis there, often in an attempt to make a false equivalence. We have to remember the sacrifices and struggles against fascism or we must hang our heads in shame.

    LATC,

    Hadn’t heard of that Unknown War programme, so thanks for that. Did you ever see War of the Century that the BBC did? Utterly fantastic. I’ll never forget it, nor seeing a veteran of Stalingrad talk about how in the fighting there a shovel was more useful than a submachine gun. Brought home the brutality of the fighting more than anything else could.

  7. LeftAtTheCross Says:

    No, I didn’t see that BBC series unfortunately.

    As a kid I had the usual kiddy interest in military stuff, airfix models, action men and all of that (living in Dublin there wasn’t the militarism in your face that you had in the north), including the Warlord and Battle comics. Then as a young teenager my grandad gave me some documentary war magazines, one of them was a special on Stalingrad. In keeping with the cold war times the article seemed to feature more the German side than that of the Soviets, without being overtly pro fascist or anything. I remember one photograph taken of a German soldier hunkered behind a wall, looking into the camera. His eyes told a thousand stories, fear and hunger were obvious, and my imagination filled in the rest. Like you said, something you don’t forget for the rest of your life. No more war comics for me after that.

    It’s in my head to someday drive to Volgograd to visit the Motherland memorial, to pay respect to the heroes of the Red Army, and to remember their sacrifice for all of us.

  8. Justin Says:

    Hail The Reds!

    http://www3.sympatico.ca/sr.gowans/reds.html

  9. Drithleóg Says:

    There was another documentary in the late 1970s about the 900 day siege of Leningrad – I think it was actually called the “One Thousand Days Siege” or something like that. Really stirring stuff.

    I visited one of the huge Soviet war graves at Khatyn near Minsk around 1989 – very impressive. It is a monument to the 618 Belorussian villages which were razed to the ground by the Nazis as “punishment” for local guerilla and Red Army defence against the Fascists.

    The planting of the Red Flag over Berlin marked the end of the Nazis rule.

    Khatyn Memorial website http://www.khatyn.by/

  10. Justin Says:

    Elem Klimov’s 1985 film “Come and See” is about the events that Drithleog describes. A remarkable piece of cinema.

  11. Carlist anti-fascist Says:

    “No need to go into the arguments now, but there is no doubt that that war proved the vicious and brutal nature of fascism”

    Ever hear of the Red Terror?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Terror_%28Spain%29

    In the course of the Red Terror, 6,832 members of the Catholic clergy, 20% percent of the nation’s clergy, were killed. The figures break down as follows: Some 283 women religious were killed. Some of them were badly tortured. 13 bishops were killed from the dioceses of Siguenza Lleida, Cuenca, Barbastro, Segorbe, Jaén, Ciudad Real, Almeria, Guadix, Barcelona, Teruel and the auxiliary of Tarragona. Aware of the dangers, they all decided to remain in their cities. I cannot go, only here is my responsibility, whatever may happen, so said the Bishop of Cuenca. In addition 4,172 diocesan priests, 2,364 monks and friars, among them 259 Claretians, 226 Franciscans, 204 Piarists, 176 Brothers of Mary, 165 Christian Brothers, 155 Augustinians, 132 Dominicans, and 114 Jesuits were killed. In some dioceses, the number of secular priests killed are overwhelming:

    * In Barbastro 123 of 140 priests were killed, about 88 percent of the secular clergy were murdered, 66 percent
    * In Lleida, 270 of 410 priests were killed. about 62 percent
    * In Tortosa, 44 percent of the secular priests were killed.
    * In Toledo 286 of 600 priests were killed.
    * In the dioceses of Málaga, Menorca and Segorbe, about half of the priests were killed”

    In 2001 the Catholic Church beatified hundreds of Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War and beatified 498 more on October 28, 2007.

    In October 2008, the Spanish newspaper La Razon published an article on the number of people murdered for practicing Catholicism.”

    May 1931: 100 church buildings are burned while firefighters refuse to extinguish the flames.

    1932: 3000 Jesuits expelled. Church buildings burned with impunity in 7 cities.

    1934: 33 priests murdered in the Asturias Revolution.

    1936: just a day before July 18, the day the war started, there already have been 17 clergymen murdered.

    From July 18 to August 1: 861 clergymen murdered in 2 weeks.

    August 1936: 2077 clergymen murdered, more than 70 a day. 10 of them bishops.

    Septiembre 14: 3400 clergymen murdered during the first stages of the war.

    1939: end of the war; a total of 7000 clergymen and 3000 religious people murdered for practicing Catholicism.

    * Murder of 6,832 members of the Catholic clergy and religious orders as well as the killing thousands of lay people.

    * The parish priest of Navalmoral was put through a parody of Christ’s Crucifixion. At the end of his suffering the militiamen debated whether actually to crucify him or just shoot him. They finished with a shooting.

    * The Bishop of Jaén and his sister were murdered in front of two thousand celebrating spectators by a special executioner, a woman nick-named La Pecosa, the freckled one.

    * Although rare, it was reported that some nuns were raped by militiamen before they were shot. However, according to Antony Beevor, the 1946 nationalist indictment of Republican atrocities contained no evidence for any such incident.

    * The priest of Cienpozuelos was thrown into a corral with fighting bulls where he was gored into unconsciousness. Afterwards one of his ears was cut off to imitate the feat of a matador after a successful bullfight.

    * In Ciudad Real, the priest was castrated and his sexual organs stuffed in his mouth.

    * There are accounts of the people connected to the Catholic Church being forced to swallow rosary beads, being thrown down mine shafts and of priests being forced to dig their own graves before being buried alive.

    * An eyewitness to some of the persecution, Cristina de Arteaga, who was soon to become a nun, commented that they “attacked the Salesians, people who are totally committed to the poor. There was a rumor that nuns were giving poisoned sweets to children. Some nuns were grabbed by the hair in the streets. One had her hair pulled out …”

    * On the night of July 19, 1936 alone, 50 churches were burned. In Barcelona, out of the 58 churches, only the Cathedral was spared, and similar events occurred almost everywhere in Republican Spain.

    * All the Catholic churces in the Republican zone were closed, but the attacks were not limited to Catholic churches, as synagogues were also pillaged and closed, though some small Protestant churches were spared.

    * The Bishop of Almeria was murdered while working on a history of Toledo. His card index file was destroyed.

    * In Madrid, a nun was killed because she refused a proposition of marriage from a militiman who helped storm her convent.

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