The Soviet Union annexed Latvia on the 5th of August, 1940, forcing them to join the USSR. Germany was the only Western nation to recognise the annexation.
A brief post to celebrate a WIBT (wish I’d been there) moment from the margins of the Second World War. November 1939 and western Europe has plunged into internecine conflict. However, the non-combatant Soviet Union is enjoying itself. Indeed, it has decided to use this precious period to put the record straight with some of its smaller neighbours. The class bully, in short, has just got out the knuckle dusters and, God help, those little boys with glasses while the teachers are not around.
Part of Poland had already been gobbled up in the September War: the crimes at Katyn have been committed. The Soviets are planning for the ‘incorporation’ of the Baltic Republics: something that will be carried out in the Summer of 1940. And then there is also that annoying little country somewhere up near Sweden – the Soviet planners can never remember its name.
Pity Finland. From Anschluss and with more urgency from the beginning of the Second World War Soviet communiqués were sent threatening and coaxing by turns. The Soviets wanted bases on Finnish territory. They wanted Finnish islands. They wanted the Finnish border to be…
Originally from New Zealand, David Low (1891-1963) was a political cartoonist who worked for many years in the United Kingdom. He is known for his satirical work in the Evening Standard, especially his depictions of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin, but also for his criticism of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s policy of Appeasement toward Hitler.
Ask any moderately intelligent person to name the bane of the 20th century and nine out of ten will probably answer “Adolph Hitler”. A few might answer Joe Stalin or Chairman Mao but Hitler is the lens through which we view the carnage of mid-century.
On the other hand, a young millenial might answer “Madonna”. So much for public education.
Our understanding of the Second World War and the preceding years are refracted through our comprehension of the “mad Fuhrer”. It is the ghost of Adolph Hitler who carried the world to total war and with pseudo-scientific fanaticism exterminated millions.
It is the ghost of Adolph Hitler who shapes our understanding of the world; that persuades us that our opponents comprise “The Other” – the imponderable, fundamentalist crazies. The ghost of Adolph Hitler shapes what we think about all dictators and the societies they rule; that each is a replica…
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Nikita Khrushchev’s ‘Secret Speech’ given at the Twentieth Party Congress in February 1956 denounced Josef Stalin for “[perverting] Party principles” by creating a “cult of the person of Stalin”. Though the term ‘cult of personality’ was coined in the 19th century, it was popularised in its use as a referral to Josef Stalin’s regime. For me, ‘cult of personality’ means the veneration of one omnipotent, infallible leader – a belief ingrained in society, visually and culturally. Autocratic totalitarianism, enshrined in propaganda. This article will take us through an analysis of how Stalin established and maintained a cult of personality, touching on how successful it was.
Establishing a ‘Cult of Personality’ – the legacy of autocracy
Looking backwards from the rule of Stalin, to Lenin and the Tsarist regime, it is clear that modern Russia had a history of autocratic rule, making it easier for Stalin to establish himself as…
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The flag of Russia in 1952
On the 12th of August, 1952, thirteen Jews from across the Soviet Union, including Ukraine, Latvia and Lithuania were executed in Moscow on orders from the Russian government. All were falsely accused of espionage and treason, and their executions came after three years of imprisonment and torture.
Five of the murdered were Yiddish poets, hence the name of the infamous day.
A fourteenth person died in prison five months later, and a fifteenth, a Latvian scientist by the name of Lina Stern, was the only survivor. She spent time in a labour camp until Stalin’s death, but was officially declared “less guilty” so that the USSR could continue to make use of her medical research.
Neither the trials nor the executions were ever mentioned in the Russian media, however the families of the accused were exiled by Stalin. They did not learn the…
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Interesting series of clips from the BBC Timewatch documentary in which historian Simon Sebag-Montefiore explores the possibilities of foul play surrounding Stalin’s death from a brain haemorrhage in March 1953. Full details were suppressed at the time.