Kosygin, Savior, Russian Front 1941

Self hopping all over the place in her reading. But that’s the beauty of being in an artists residency. You can read anything! Free of guilt!

As self was saying, she is hopping all over the place in her reading. And now she is back to reading The Third Reich at War, by Richard J. Evans. And Operation Barbarossa has just culminated in a vast German triumph. And there are many many pages about ordinary German soldiers wondering how the Russian peasantry can live in such filth.

Stalin has effectively recovered from the shock of being made a fool of by Hitler. And has decided, quite rightly, to shift the focus of his government from persecuting Russian ideologues to fighting Germans. In this he has the wholehearted support of the Russian people. And there is a man who pops up, seemingly from nowhere, whose name is Andrej Kosygin. His first appearance is p. 196.

Implementing a “scorched earth policy,” Kosygin decides to shift everything moveable in Russia east.

For example, using “8,000 freight cars,” he succeeded in removing the “metallurgical facilities” from Donbas to Magnitogorsk in the Urals. “Altogether,” Evans writes, “1,360 arms and munitions factories were transferred eastwards between July and November 1941, using one and a half million railway wagons . . .  What could not be taken, such as coalmines, power stations, railway locomotive repair shops, and even a hydro-electric dam on the Dnieper river, was sabotaged and destroyed. This . . . deprived the Germans of resources on which they had been counting.” German “reconnaisance aircraft reported” the massings of railway freight cars but, in an absolute failure of imagination, declared the movement “inexplicable.”

There was a corresponding forced deportation of 390,000 ethnic Germans in the Ukraine eastwards, to remove them from the theatre of war. “By the end of 1942, more than 1,200,000 ethnic Germans had been deported to Siberia and other remote areas . . .  Many of them spoke no German and were German only by virtue of remote ancestry.”

In Smolensk, to the east of the Dnieper river, Russian forces under commanders Zhukov and Timoshenko led robust counter-attacks, proving to the Germans that the Russians were “unexpectedly tough.” General Gotthard Heinrici wrote to his wife: “For the moment one has the impression that the war will go on, even if Moscow is taken, somewhere in the depths of this endless land.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Judith Barrington

from Judith Barrington’s classic Writing the Memoir

  • What we really need . . . are new images of of what it means to be a writer: images that include healthy food, exercise, a sane attitude, and a tranquil soul — all of which are surely more compatible with great writing than is being a physical and mental wreck. We need to encourage one another in these directions and reject the old stereotypes; we must remind one another that fighting with our families or suffering through a love affair that denigrates us are not essential pastimes for a writer. After all, writing is hard enough without adding alcoholism, drug addiction and angst to the qualifications. There is no evidence that good writing requires any of them. What writing does is require that we nurture the stamina it takes to work hard and that we stay fully conscious — and alive.

— Chapter 11 of Writing the Memoir (“Watch Out for the Myths”)

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