The Russians are celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany this weekend. It is fair to say that in that defeat the Soviet Union did the lion’s share of the fighting, the Soviets suffering more than twenty million war dead. For all their heroism and suffering , the Soviets were still enslaved to a tyranny just as bad as the Third Reich, with that system now extended throughout Eastern Europe. This cold fact is why Churchill entitled the final volume in his World War II history: Triumph and Tragedy.
The clip from the film Alexander Nevsky at the beginning of this post underlines the tragedy for the Russian people of World War II. A true work of genius by Sergei Eisenstein, who somehow pulled off the feat of making a film about an Orthodox Saint, an aristocratic Prince and pillar of the Church, and ladling it with Communist and anti-religious propaganda, and yet having the final result not be laughably absurd. The film was among the first efforts of Stalin to rally traditional Russian patriotism against the looming threat of Nazi Germany. Poor Eisenstein found himself in the doghouse soon after the release of the film due to the Nazi-Soviet pact. After the onset of Operation Barbarossa, the film was once again released and played to packed houses throughout the war. The Russian rallying song in the film was composed by Sergei Prokofiev. The lyrics roughly translated are :
Arise, ye Russian people,
to glorious battle, to a battle to the death:
arise, ye free people,
to defend our beloved country!
All honour to the warriors who live,
and eternal glory to those slain!
For our native home, our Russian land,
arise, ye Russian people!