You Rebel Scum!

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Lithuanian Rebels

On June 22, 1941, Hitler’s planned invasion of the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa, commenced making rapid advancements across the Soviet Union. The German Army moved so quickly that many Soviet units were just overrun, especially the reserve units and party leaders. As the Germans moved across Soviet lands they committed many war crimes against Russians, fueling the need to organize and resist or be destroyed. The quick German advancement also made German units vulnerable to attacks from guerrilla units behind their lines, attacks from Partisan fighters.

In occupied Soviet territory, Eastern Europe and Poland, Resistance and Communist Partisan units began to rise to fight the German Army behind their own lines. For occupied Russian territories, the Central Command gave the order for local party leaders to organize able bodied villagers against the German Army. They were also very impressed by the resistance movements in Eastern European countries by both Communist revolutionaries and groups of other political leanings who did not agree with the German occupation. However, rather than being led or mobilized by party leaders, many of whom had been killed by the Germans, these groups were led by Army officers whose lines had been overrun.

Although as the war raged on, Partisan casualties mounted, and the Red Army made little progress, many Russian Partisan groups in western Russia began to loose faith in Stalin. Partisan fighters began to feel abandoned and forgotten. Their fight became more about their own survival and less about the Soviet cause. This gave rise to plans to form separate Soviet governments after the war. When the tide of war turned, these groups began to resist reoccupation by the Red Army. For groups in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and some groups in Poland, all nations that were annexed or invaded by the Soviets as part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, they saw World War Two as a chance to be free nations once again.

This was especially true in Lithuania. Soviet occupation after being annexed in 1940 had been horrible for their population. The Soviets began repressing the population. Soviets relocated and deported many Lithuanian citizens into forced labor camps, many of which were in Siberia. The Soviets even victimized the Jewish population. When the Nazis pushed the Soviets out, Lithuanians welcomed them over the oppressive Soviet rule. Nazi policy was to conscript the local population into serving as a local peacekeeping militia and serving in the German SS. However, Lithuanians resisted German conscription and their leaders were placed in German concentration camps. The Nazis were equally brutal.

When Soviet reoccupation came, they were not greeted as liberators like the Germans were. They were greeted with fear. The resistance began to work against the Soviets and much of the population joined up and moved to the woods, to avoid Soviet rule. Soviets responded to this resistance with mass executions and deportations to Siberia. The Lithuanian Partisans began to organize into the Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters. Although many were initially Communist, they adopted democratic ideals and even branded the Communist Party as a criminal organization. They were able to resist Soviet rule from 1944 until 1952. In that time an estimated 100,000 Soviet soldiers were killed by the resistance fighters. After that, many were forced to sneak out of Europe, into the United States. It wasn’t until 1960 that the last freedom fighter in Lithuania surrendered to the Soviet Union.

 

This video is incredibly graphic but it is a Lithuanian dipiction of the suffering they endured under Soviet, then Nazi, then Soviet rule, from the movie “Utterly Alone” (“Vienui, Vieni” in Lithuanian)

 

 

Sources:

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lib0BLoq44

Picture: http://trustmovies.blogspot.com/2014/11/lithuania-post-wwii-via-ohmansruoginis.html

Internet: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/lithuanian-soviet.htm

http://www.lituanus.org/1988/88_3_01.htm

http://www.lituanus.org/1969/69_1_02.htm

Soviet History: http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1943-2/partisans-in-the-forest/

Soviet History: http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1943-2/partisans-in-the-forest/partisans-in-the-forest-texts/organizing-the-resistance/

 

To Infinity and Beyond

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Russian explorer post

Solomon Andree, Richard Byrd, Amundsen and Lincoln Ellsworth. All of these men have two things in common; they are all pioneers in arctic aviation and none of them are Russian. Enter Valerii Chkalov and his crew who, in 1937, pioneered a flight route from Europe to the United States, via the North Pole.

From the birth of aviation, explorers began to see and explore the potential use of aviation for arctic expeditions. Blimps and dirigibles were relied upon heavily for making it up to the arctic circle and the North Pole to study arctic life and map out the area. The combination of the storied exploits of pilots making long distance trips and the new innovations created for these long flights across continents led to viability of airplanes being used to cross and even explore the arctic region. Although several attempts by others had come close, in 1927 Americans Richard Byrd and Floyd Bennett became the first aviators to reach and circle the North Pole. By the late 1920s and early 1930s, Russian aviation began to flourish as Stalin began pushing resources towards developing Soviet aviation. What he needed now were heroic feats by Russian pilots for the media to exploit, as they did the great western pilots of the day. Enter Valerii Chkalov.

Valerii Chkalov, was an accomplished Soviet test pilot from very humble beginnings, a perfect hero for Stalin and a perfect distraction for the people. His mother had died when he was six and he started working under his father on river boats. He joined the Soviet Air Force and was trained as a pilot, quickly distinguishing himself as a test pilot. Soon he began to work with engineers to tinker Soviet designs and make small modifications here and there.

He and a small crew distinguished themselves by flying from Moscow to Udd Island, a distance of 9,374 kilometers. Eventually he devised a plan to fly from Moscow to Washington D.C. over the Arctic Circle, something that had not been done before and would become the route modern aircraft take for flights from North America to Europe and Asia. After meeting Stalin himself and receiving his approval, Chkalov and his crew completed their flight from Moscow to Vancouver to Washington D.C. in 62 hours and 30 minutes.

Within a month, another Russian flight crew, led by Mikhail Gromov flew non-stopped from Moscow over the North Pole to San Jactino, California in 62 hours and 20 minutes. The Russians were now a very active participant in arctic aviation as other crews distinguished themselves by making routine flights around the arctic circle in addition to other endurance feats like these. However, Valerii Chkalov was still Stalin’s favorite hero and helped to widely publicize Soviet aviation, while also giving Russians a national hero to follow and distract them from their daily lives with sensational stories about Chkalov’s travels.

Attached is a clip from “Valerii Chkalov” a movie that helped build a cult around Soviet aviation.

Sources:

http://www.centennialofflight.net/essay/Explorers_Record_Setters_and_Daredevils/north_pole/EX19.htm

http://www.jstor.org/stable/261001?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Valerii Chkalov

Pilots and Explorers

Picture: http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1936-2/pilots-and-explorers/pilots-and-explorers-images/#bwg87/586

Movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztLgRLGTvjo