Vlasovites in the Gulag

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, GULAG Archipelago. 1973

 

Translated by Thomas P. Whitney

Solzhenitsyn’s controversial view of Vlasov and his men as martyrs of Stalinist tyranny.

I had known about them and been perplexed about them long before our unexpected meeting on the board bunks of prison.

First there had been the leaflets, repeatedly soaked through, dried out, and lost in the high grass-uncut for the third year- of the front-line strip near Orel. In December, 1942, they had announced the creation in Smolensk of a “Russian Committee” -which apparently claimed to be some sort of Russian government and yet at the same time seemed not to be one. Evidently the Germans themselves had not yet made up their minds. For that reason, the communiqué seemed to be a hoax. There was a photograph of General Vlasov in the leaflets, and his biography was outlined. In the fuzzy photograph, his face looked well fed and successful, like all our generals of the new stripe. They told me later that this wasn’t so, that Vlasov’s face was more like that of a Western general-high, thin, with horn-rimmed glasses. His biography testified to a penchant for success. He had begun in a peasant family, and 1937 had not broken his skyrocketing career; nor was it ruined by his service as a military adviser to Chiang Kai-shek. The first and only disaster of his earlier life had occurred when his Second Shock Army, after being encircled, was ineptly abandoned to die of starvation. But how much of that whole biography could be believed?

{As far as one can establish at this late date, Andrei Andreevich Vlasov, prevented by the Revolution from completing his studies at the Nizhnii Novgorod Orthodox Seminary, was drafted into the Red Army in 1919 and fought as an enlisted man. On the southern front, against Denikin and Vrangel, he rose to be commander of a platoon, then of a company. In the twenties he completed the Vystrel courses. He became a member of the Communist Party in 1930. In 1936, having attained the rank of regimental commander, he was sent to China as a military adviser. Evidently he had no ties to the top military and Party circles, and he therefore turned up naturally in that Stalinist “second echelon” of officers promoted to replace the purged commanders of armies, divisions, and brigades. From 1938 on he commanded a division. And in 1940, when “new” (in other words, old) officer ranks were created, he became a major general. From additional information one can conclude that in that corps of newly made generals, many of whom were totally stupid and inexperienced, Vlasov was one of the most talented. His 99th Infantry Division, which he had instructed and trained from the summer of 1940 on, was not caught off balance by the German attack. On the contrary, while the rest of the army reeled backward, his division advanced, retook Przemysl, and held it for six days. Quickly skipping the rank of corps commander, in 1941 Lieutenant General Vlasov was in command of the Thirty-seventh Army near Kiev. He made his way out of the enormous Kiev encirclement and in December, 1941, near Moscow he commanded the Twentieth Army, whose successful Soviet counter-offensive for defense of the capital (the taking of Solnechnogorsk) was noted in the Sovinformbiuro communiqué for December 12. And the list of generals mentioned there was as follows: Zhukov, Leliushenko, Kuznetsov, Vlasov, Rokossovskii, Govorov. Thanks to the speed with which officers were promoted in those months, he became Deputy Commander of the Volkhov Front (under Meretskov), and took over command of the Second Shock Army. On January 7, 1942, at the head of that army, he began a drive to break the Leningrad blockade-an attack across the Volkhov River to the northwest. This had been planned as a combined operation, a concerted push from several directions and from Leningrad itself. At scheduled intervals the Fifty-fourth, the Fourth, and the Fifty-second armies were to take part in it also. But those three armies either did not advance because they were unready or else came to a quick halt. At that time we still didn’t have the capacity to plan such complex combined operations, and, more importantly, provide supplies for them. Vlasov’s Second Shock Army, however, was successful in its assault, and by February, 1942, it was 46 miles deep inside the German lines! And from then on, the reckless Stalinist Supreme Command could find neither men nor ammunition to reinforce even those troops. (That’s the kind of reserves they had begun the offensive with!) Leningrad, too, was left to die behind the blockade, having received no specific information from Novgorod. During March the winter roads still held up. From April on, however, the entire swampy area through which the Second Army had advanced melted into mud, and there were no supply roads, and there was no help from the air. The army was without food and, at the same time, Vlasov was refused permission to retreat. For two months they endured starvation and extermination. In the Butyrki, soldiers from that army told me how they had cut off the hoofs of dead and rotting horses and boiled the scrapings and eaten them. Then, on May 14, a German attack was launched from all sides against the encircled army. The only planes in the air, of course, were German. And only then, in mockery, were they given permission to pull back behind the Volkhov. They made several hopeless attempts to break through-until the beginning of July.

And so it was that Vlasov’s Second Shock Army perished, literally recapitulating the fate of Samsonov’s Russian Second Army in World War I, having been just as insanely thrown into encirclement.

Now this, of course, was treason to the Motherland! This, of course, was vicious, self-obsessed betrayal! But it was Stalin’s. Treason does not necessarily involve selling out for money. It can include ignorance and carelessness in the preparations for war, confusion and cowardice at its very start, the meaningless sacrifice of armies and corps solely for the sake of saving one’s own marshal’s uniform. Indeed, what more bitter treason is there on the part of a Supreme Commander in Chief?

Unlike Samsonov, Vlasov did not commit suicide. After his army had been wiped out, he wandered among the woods and swamps and, on July 6, personally surrendered in the area of Siverskaia. He was taken to the German headquarters near Lotzen in East Prussia, where they were holding several captured generals and a brigade political commissar, G. N. Zhilenkov, formerly a successful Party official and secretary of one of the Moscow District Party Committees. These captives had already confessed their disagreement with the policy of the Stalin government. But they had no real leader. Vlasov became it.}

From his photograph, it was impossible to believe that he was an outstanding man or that for long years he had suffered profoundly for Russia. As for the leaflets reporting the creation of the ROA, the “Russian Liberation Army,” not only were they written in bad Russian, but they were imbued with an alien spirit that was clearly German and, moreover, seemed little concerned with their presumed subject; besides, and on the other hand, they contained crude boasting about the plentiful chow available and the cheery mood of the soldiers. Somehow one couldn’t believe in that army, and, if it really did exist, what kind of cheery mood could it be in? Only a German could lie like that.

{In reality there was no Russian Liberation Army until almost the very end of the war. Both the name and the insignia devised for it were invented by a German of Russian origin, Captain Strik-Strikfeldt, in the Ost-Propaganda-Abteilung. Although he held only a minor position, he had influence, and he tried to convince the Hitlerite leadership that a German-Russian alliance was essential and that the Russians should be encouraged to collaborate with Germany. A vain undertaking for both sides! Each side wanted only to use and deceive the other. But, in the given situation, the Germans had power-they were on top of the setup. And the Vlasov officers had only their fantasy-at the bottom of the abyss. There was no such army, but anti-Soviet formations made up of Soviet citizens were organized from the very start of the war. The first to support the Germans were the Lithuanians. In the one year we had been there we had aroused their deep, angry hostility! And then the SS-Galicia Division was created from Ukrainian volunteers. And Estonian units afterward In the fall of 1941, guard companies appeared in Byelorussia. And a Tatar battalion in the Crimea. We ourselves had sowed the seeds of all this! Take, for example, our stupid twenty-year policy of closing and destroying the Moslem mosques in the Crimea. And compare that with the policy of the farsighted conqueror Catherine the Great, who contributed state funds for building and expanding the Crimean mosques. And the Hitlerites, when they arrived, were smart enough to present themselves as their defenders. Later, Caucasian detachments and Cossack armies-more than a cavalry corps-put in an appearance on the German side. In the first winter of the war, platoons and companies of Russian volunteers began to be formed. But the German Command was very distrustful of these Russian units, and their master sergeants and lieutenants were Germans. Only their noncoms below master sergeant were Russian. They also used such German commands as “Achtung!,” “Halt!” etc. More significant and entirely Russian were the following units: a brigade in Lokot, in Bryansk Province, from November, 1941, when a local teacher of engineering, K. P. Voskoboinikov, proclaimed the “National Labor Party of Russia” and issued a manifesto to the citizens of the nation, hoisting the flag of St. George; a unit in the Osintorf settlement near Orsha, formed at the beginning of 1942 under the leadership of Russian émigrés (it must be said that only a small group of Russian émigrés joined this movement, and even they did not conceal their anti-German feelings and allowed many crossovers [including a whole battalion] to the Soviet side … after which they were dropped by the Germans); and a unit formed by Gil, in the summer of 1942, near Lublin. (V. V. Gil, a Communist Party member and even, it seems, a Jew, not only survived as a POW but, with the help of other POW’s, became the head of a camp near Suwalki and offered to create a “fighting alliance of Russian nationalists” for the Germans.) However, there was as yet no Russian Liberation Army in all of this and no Vlasov. The companies under German command were put on the Russian front, as an experiment, and the Russian units were sent against the Bryansk, Orsha, and Polish partisans.}

We soon discovered that there really were Russians fighting against us and that they fought harder than any SS men. In July, 1943, for example, near Orel, a platoon of Russians in German uniform defended Sobakinskie Vyselki. They fought with the desperation that might have been expected if they had built the place themselves. One of them was driven into a root cellar. They threw hand grenades in after him and he fell silent. But they had no more than stuck their heads in than he let them have another volley from his automatic pistol. Only when they lobbed in an antitank grenade did they find out that, within the root cellar, he had another foxhole in which he had taken shelter from the infantry grenades. Just try to imagine the degree of shock, deafness, and hopelessness in which he had kept on fighting.

They defended, for example, the unshakable Dnepr bridgehead south of Tursk. For two weeks we continued to fight there for a mere few hundred yards. The battles were fierce in December, 1943, and so was the cold. Through many long days both we and they went through the extreme trials of winter, fighting in winter camouflage cloaks that covered our overcoats and caps. Near Malye Kozlovichi, I was told, an interesting encounter took place. As the soldiers dashed back and forth among the pines, things got confused, and two soldiers lay down next to one another. No longer very accurately oriented, they kept shooting at someone, somewhere over there. Both had Soviet automatic pistols. They shared their cartridges, praised one another, and together swore at the grease freezing on their automatic pistols. Finally, their pistols stopped firing altogether, and they decided to take a break and light up. They pulled back their white hoods -and at the same instant each saw the other’s cap … the eagle and the star. They jumped up! Their automatic pistols still refused to fire! Grabbing them by the barrel and swinging them like clubs, they began to go at each other. This, if you will, was not politics and not the Motherland, but just sheer caveman distrust: If I take pity on him, he is going to kill me.

In East Prussia, a trio of captured Vlasov men was being marched along the roadside a few steps away from me. At that moment a T-34 tank thundered down the highway. Suddenly one of the captives twisted around and dived underneath the tank. The tank veered, but the edge of its track crushed him nevertheless. The broken man lay writhing, bloody foam coming from his mouth. And one could certainly understand him! He preferred a soldier’s death to being hanged in a dungeon.

They had no choice. There was no other way for them to fight. They had no chance to find a way out, to safeguard their lives, by some more cautious mode of fighting. If “pure” surrender was considered unforgivable treason to the Motherland, then what about those who had taken up enemy arms? Our propaganda, in all its crudity, explained their conduct as: (1) treason (was it biologically based? carried in the bloodstream?); or (2) cowardice-which it certainly was not! A coward tries to find a spot where things are easy, soft, safe. And men could be induced to enter the Wehrmacht’s Vlasov detachments only in the last extremity, only at the limit of desperation, only out of inexhaustible hatred of the Soviet regime, only with total contempt for their own safety. For they knew they would never have the faintest glimpse of mercy! When we captured them, we shot them as soon as the first intelligible Russian word came from their mouths. In Russian captivity, as in German captivity, the worst lot of all was reserved for the Russians.

In general, this war revealed to us that the worst thing in the world was to be a Russian.

I recall with shame an incident I observed during the liquidation-in other words, the plundering-of the Bobruisk encirclement, when I was walking along the highway among wrecked and overturned German automobiles, and a wealth of booty lay scattered everywhere. German cart horses wandered aimlessly in and out of a shallow depression where wagons and automobiles that had gotten stuck were buried in the mud, and bonfires of booty were smoking away. Then I heard a cry for help: “Mr. Captain! Mr. Captain!” A prisoner on foot in German britches was crying out to me in pure Russian. He was naked from the waist up, and his face, chest, shoulders, and back were all bloody, while a sergeant osobist, a Security man, seated on a horse, drove him forward with a whip, pushing him with his horse. He kept lashing that naked back up and down with the whip, without letting him turn around, without letting him ask for help. He drove him along, beating and beating him, raising new crimson welts on his skin.

And this was not one of the Punic Wars, nor a war between the Greeks and the Persians! Any officer, possessing any authority, in any army on earth ought to have stopped that senseless torture. In any army on earth, yes, but in ours? Given our fierce and uncompromising method of dividing mankind? (If you are not with us, if you are not our own, etc., then you deserve nothing but contempt and annihilation.) So I was afraid to defend the Vlasov man against the osobist. / said nothing and I did nothing. I passed him by as if I could not hear him … so that I myself would not be infected by that universally recognized plague. (What if the Vlasov man was indeed some kind of super-villain? Or maybe the osobist would think something was wrong with me? And then?) Or, putting it more simply for anyone who knows anything about the situation in the Soviet Army at that time: would that osobist have paid any attention to an army captain?

So the osobist continued to lash the defenseless man brutally and drive him along like a beast.

This picture will remain etched in my mind forever. This, after all, is almost a symbol of the Archipelago. It ought to be on the jacket of this book.

The Vlasov men had a presentiment of all this; they knew it ahead of time; nevertheless, on the left sleeve of their German uniforms they sewed the shield with the white-blue-red edging, the field of St. Andrew, and the letters “ROA.”

{These letters became even better known, although, as before, there was still no real Russian Liberation Army. The units were all scattered and kept subordinate to German orders, and the Vlasov generals had nothing to do but play cards in Dahlemdorf, near Berlin. By the middle of 1942, Voskoboinikov’s brigade, which, after his death, was commanded by Kaminskii, numbered five infantry regiments of 2,500 to 3,000 men each, with attached artillery crews, a tank battalion consisting of two dozen Soviet tanks, and an artillery battalion with three dozen guns. The commanding officers were POW officers, and the rank and file was made up, in considerable part, of local Bryansk volunteers. This brigade was under orders to guard the area against partisans. In the summer of 1942, the brigade of Gil-Blazhevich was transferred for the same purpose from Poland, where it had been notable for its cruelty toward Poles and Jews, to the area near Mogilev. At the beginning of 1943, its command refused to acknowledge Vlasov’s authority, demanding that he explain why, in his stated program, there was no reference to the “struggle against world Jewry and Jew-loving commissars.” These were the very men-called the Rodionovites, because Gil had changed his name to Rodionov-who in August, 1943, when Hitler’s approaching defeat became apparent, changed their black flag with a silver skull to a red flag, and proclaimed Soviet authority and a large “partisan region” in the northeast corner of Byelorussia.

At that time, Soviet newspapers began to write about the “partisan region,” but without explaining its origins. Later on, all surviving Rodionovites were imprisoned. And whom did the Germans immediately throw in against the Rodionovites? The Kaminskii brigade! That was in May, 1944, and they also threw in thirteen of their own divisions in an effort to liquidate the “partisan region.” That was the extent to which Germans understood all those tricolor cockades, St. George, and the field of St. Andrew. The Russian and German languages were mutually untranslatable, inexpressible, uncorrelatable. Still worse: in October, 1944, the Germans threw in Kaminskii’s brigade- with its Moslem units-to suppress the Warsaw uprising. While one group of Russians sat traitorously dozing beyond the Vistula, watching the death of Warsaw through their binoculars, other Russians crushed the uprising! Hadn’t the Poles had enough Russian villainy to bear in the nineteenth century without having to endure more of it in the twentieth? For that matter, was that the last of it? Perhaps more is still to come. The career of the Osintorf Battalion was apparently more straightforward. This consisted of about six hundred soldiers and two hundred officers, with an émigré command, I. K. Sakharov and Lansford, Russian uniforms, and a white-blue-red flag; it was thrown in near Pskov. Then, reinforced to regimental strength, it was readied for a parachute drop on the line of Vologda-Archangel, the idea being to make use of the nest of concentration camps in that area. Throughout 1943, Igor Sakharov managed to prevent his unit from being sent against the partisans. But then he was replaced and the battalion was first disarmed and imprisoned in a camp and then sent off to the Western Front. Then, in the fall of 1943, the Germans decided to send the Russian cannon fodder to the Atlantic Wall, and against the French and Italian Resistance, having lost, forgotten, and not even tried to recall its original purpose. Those among the Vlasov men who had managed to retain some kind of political rationality or hope thereupon lost both.}

The inhabitants of the occupied areas held them in contempt as German hirelings. So did the Germans, because of their Russian blood. Their pitiful little newspapers were worked over with a German censor’s broadsword: Greater Germany and the Fuhrer. And the Vlasov men had one way out of all that-to fight to the death, and, when they were not fighting, to down vodka and more vodka. Foredoomed-that was their existence during all their years of war and alien lands, and there was no salvation for them from any direction.

Hitler and those around him, even when they were retreating on every front and were staring their own destruction in the face, could still not overcome their intense distrust of wholly separate Russian units; they could not bring themselves to organize divisions that were entirely Russian, to allow even the shadow of a Russia that was not totally subject to them. Only in the crack of the final debacle, in November, 1944, was a belated theatrical production at last permitted in Prague: the creation of a “Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia,” combining all the different national groups, and a manifesto, which, like everything that had preceded it, was neither fish nor fowl, since the concept of a Russia independent of Germany and Nazism was still not tolerated. Vlasov became chairman of the committee. And only in the fall of 1944 did they begin to form Vlasov divisions that were exclusively Russian.

{They were: the 1st, based on “the Kaminskii brigade,” under S. K. Buniachenko; the 2nd, under Zverev (former military commandant of Kharkov); half the 3rd; segments of the 4th; and Maltsev’s air force detachment. Only four divisions were authorized.}

Probably the wise German political leaders had concluded that at this point the Russian workers in Germany (the “ostovtsy”) would rush to take up arms. But the Red Army was already on the Vistula and the Danube. And ironically, as though to confirm the farsightedness of the very nearsighted Germans, those Vlasov divisions, in their first and last independent action, dealt a blow-to the Germans themselves. In the general disaster, Vlasov gathered up his two and a half divisions near Prague at the end of April, without coordinating his action with the German Supreme Command. It became known at this point that SS General Steiner was preparing to destroy the Czech capital rather than surrender it intact. And Vlasov ordered his divisions to the aid of the Czech rebels. And at that point, all the hurt, bitterness, and anger against the Germans that had accumulated during three cruel and futile years in the breasts of the enslaved Russians was vented in the attack on the Germans. They were shoved out of Prague from an unexpected direction. Did all Czechs realize later which Russians had saved their city? Our own history is similarly distorted; we claim that Prague was saved by Soviet armies, although they couldn’t have gotten there in time.

Then the Vlasov army began to retreat toward Bavaria and the Americans. They were pinning all their hopes on the possibility of being useful to the Allies; in this way their years of dangling in the German noose would finally become meaningful. But the Americans greeted them with a wall of armor and forced them to surrender to Soviet hands, as stipulated by the Yalta Conference. In Austria that May, Churchill perpetrated the same sort of “act of a loyal ally,” but, out of our accustomed modesty, we did not publicize it. He turned over to the Soviet command the Cossack corps of 90,000 men.

{This surrender was an act of double-dealing consistent with the spirit of traditional English diplomacy. The heart of the matter was that the Cossacks were determined to fight to the death, or to cross the ocean, all the way to Paraguay or Indochina if they had to … anything rather than surrender alive. Therefore, the English proposed, first, that the Cossacks give up their arms on the pretext of replacing them with standardized weapons. Then the officers -without the enlisted men-were summoned to a supposed conference on the future of the army in the city of Judenburg in the English occupation zone. But the English had secretly turned the city over to the Soviet armies the night before. Forty busloads of officers, all the way from commanders of companies on up to General Krasnov himself, crossed a high viaduct and drove straight down into a semicircle of Black Marias, next to which stood convoy guards with lists in their hands. The road back was blocked by Soviet tanks. The officers didn’t even have anything with which to shoot themselves or to stab themselves to death, since their weapons had been taken away. They jumped from the viaduct onto the paving stones below. Immediately afterward, and just as treacherously, the English turned over the rank-and-file soldiers by the train-load-pretending that they were on their way to receive new weapons from their commanders.

In their own countries Roosevelt and Churchill are honored as embodiments of statesmanlike wisdom. To us, in our Russian prison conversations, their consistent shortsightedness and stupidity stood out as astonishingly obvious. How could they, in their decline from 1941 to 1945, fail to secure any guarantees whatever of the independence of Eastern Europe? How could they give away broad regions of Saxony and Thuringia in exchange for the preposterous toy of a four-zone Berlin, their own future Achilles’ heel? And what was the military or political sense in their surrendering to destruction at Stalin’s hands hundreds of thousands of armed Soviet citizens determined not to surrender? They say it was the price they paid for Stalin’s agreeing to enter the war against Japan. With the atom bomb already in their hands, they paid Stalin for not refusing to occupy Manchuria, for strengthening Mao Tse-tung in China, and for giving Kim II Sung control of half Korea! What bankruptcy of political thought! And when, subsequently, the Russians pushed out Mikolajczyk, when Benes and Masaryk came to their ends, when Berlin was blockaded, and Budapest flamed and fell silent, and Korea went up in smoke, and Britain’s Conservatives fled from Suez, could one really believe that those among them with the most accurate memories did not at least recall that episode of the Cossacks?}

Along with them, he also handed over many wagonloads of old people, women, and children who did not want to return to their native Cossack rivers. This great hero, monuments to whom will in time cover all England, ordered that they, too, be surrendered to their deaths.

In addition to the hurriedly created Vlasov divisions, quite a few Russian subunits went right on turning sour in the depths of the German Army, wearing standard German uniforms. They finished out the war on various sectors and in different ways.

I myself fell under Vlasov fire a few days before my arrest. There were Russians in the East Prussian “sack” which we had surrounded, and one night at the end of January their unit tried to break through our position to the west, without artillery preparation, in silence. There was no firmly delineated front in any case, and they penetrated us in depth, catching my sound-locator battery, which was out in front, in a pincers. I just barely managed to pull it back by the last remaining road. But then I went back for a piece of damaged equipment, and, before dawn, I watched as they suddenly rose from the snow where they’d dug in, wearing their winter camouflage cloaks, hurled themselves with a cheer on the battery of a 152-millimeter gun battalion at Adlig Schwenkitten, and knocked out twelve heavy cannon with hand grenades before they could fire a shot. Pursued by their tracer bullets, our last little group ran almost two miles in fresh snow to the bridge across the Passarge River. And there they were stopped.

Soon after that I was arrested. And now, on the eve of the Victory Parade, here we all were sitting together on the board bunks of the Butyrki. I took puffs from their cigarettes and they took puffs from mine. And paired with one or another of them, I used to carry out the six-bucket tin latrine barrel.

Many of the Vlasov men, like the “spies for hire,” were young, born, say, between 1915 and 1922, that same “young and unknown tribe” which bustling-bustling Lunacharskii had hurried to greet in the name of Pushkin. Most of them got into Vlasov military units through that same blind chance which led their comrades in a neighboring camp to get into the spy thing -it all depended on which recruiter had gone where.

The recruiters had explained to them jeeringly-or rather, it would have been jeering if it hadn’t been the truth: “Stalin has renounced you! Stalin doesn’t give a damn about you!”

Soviet law had outlawed them even before they outlawed themselves.

So they signed up-some of them simply to get out of a death camp, others with the hope of going over to the partisans. (And some of them did! And fought side by side with the partisans! But according to Stalin’s rules that didn’t soften their sentences in the least.) However, in the case of some, the shame of 1941, that stunning defeat after long, long years of braggadocio, ate at their hearts. Some believed that the primary guilt for those inhuman POW camps belonged to Stalin. They, too, wanted the chance to speak out about themselves and their awful experience: to affirm that they, too, were particles of Russia, and wanted to influence Russia’s future, and not to be the puppets of other people’s mistakes.

But fate played them an even bitterer trick, and they became more abject pawns than before. The Germans, in their shallow stupidity and self-importance, allowed them only to die for the German Reich, but denied them the right to plan an independent destiny for Russia.

And the Allies were two thousand versts away-and anyway, what kind of allies would they indeed turn out to be?

The term “Vlasovite” in our country has the same force as the word “sewage.” We feel we are dirtying our mouths merely by pronouncing it, and therefore no one dares utter a sentence with “Vlasovite” as its subject.

But that is no way to write history. Now, a quarter of a century later, when most of them have perished in camps and those who have survived are living out their lives in the Far North, I would like to issue a reminder, through these pages, that this was a phenomenon totally unheard of in all world history: that several hundred thousand young men, aged twenty to thirty, took up arms against their Fatherland as allies of its most evil enemy.

{This, in fact, is the number of Soviet citizens who were in the Wehrmacht in pre-Vlasov and Vlasov formations, and in the Cossack, Moslem, Baltic, and Ukrainian units and detachments.}

Perhaps there is something to ponder here: Who was more to blame, those youths or the gray Fatherland? One cannot explain this treason biologically. It has to have had a social cause.

Because, as the old proverb says: Well-fed horses don’t rampage.

Then picture to yourself a field in which starved, neglected, crazed horses are rampaging back and forth.

Source: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: an experiment in literary investigation (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), Vol. I, pp. 251-262.

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