Belarus in the Great Patriotic War
Remembering the sacrifices of Belarus and other countries of the former Soviet Union made during World War II on the 75th Anniversary of the Victory Day
On May 9, 2020, the Republic of Belarus along with the Russian Federation and other CIS countries celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the Victory Day. On that day in 1945, the European continent was liberated from fascism by the Soviet Army in collaboration with the allied troops of Great Britain and the USA.
The Great Patriotic War (GPW) of the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany lasted nearly four years (June 1941 – May 1945) and became a major battlefield of World War II (WW II). This day became the most revered National Holiday in Belarus, associated with the courageous and heroic struggle of the Belarusian people during the GPW. The victory came at great cost of human life. There is hardly any family in Belarus that did not lose someone of their kin during the GPW. Belarus lost a third of its citizens. A policy of genocide was perpetrated against the Belarusian nation by fascist hordes.
Unleashed by fascist Germany on June 22, 1941, without declaring war, the invasion of the Soviet Union proved a severe trial. Due to its geographical position and strategic location as the major shortcut to the heart of Russia — Moscow, Belarus, massively attacked on the ground and from the air, was the first Soviet Republic to confront the enemy.
However, the rebuff the Hitlerites encountered at the very outset of the GPW, frustrated the "Blitzkrieg" plan of seizing Moscow at a lightning speed and breaking-up and annihilating the entire former Soviet Union. Almost 1.5 million Belarusian citizens joined the Red Army to fight the enemy. Over 20 army commanders at the rank of general, 40 chiefs of army headquarters, over 50 senior officers in command of corpses were of the Belarusian origin.
By the end of 1943, partisans controlled over 60 per cent of the territory of the Republic. The so-called partisan 'rail war' converted into an integral part of the famous 'Bagration' military operation that resulted in the liberation of Belarus territory in its entirety.
In close cooperation with partisan detachments and strongly supported by the local civil population, the underground resistance movement gained strength in almost all densely populated areas of occupied Belarus. The total number of Belarusians involved in resistance activities during the GPW exceeded 70,000. Over a hundred Belarusian partisans and underground fighters were honoured with the highest title of the Hero of the Soviet Union for their bravery, courage and personal contribution to the victory.
It is believed that during the occupation, about 380 thousand people (including 24 thousand children) were taken for forced labour to Germany, though according to some researchers, that figure should be almost doubled. According to various estimates, 260 thousand Belarusian citizens never returned home. Jewish ghettos were set up in 186 localities all over Belarus, with 100 thousand people held in the Minsk ghetto alone; only a small number of them managed to survive. The total number of Jews who died in Belarus amounted to 763 thousand.
By the time Belarus was liberated, one-third of the country's population was left without any shelter. Today, numerous monuments in each city, town and village of Belarus are silent reminders of those terrible times. In 1945, in recognition of its significant contribution to the victory over fascism, Belarus, being part of the USSR and not an independent state, became one of the UN founding Member-States.
75 years ago, Belarusian citizens alongside with other peoples and nationalities of the former Soviet Union paid an enormous price for the survival of the European civilisation. Today, citizens of Belarus bow down in silence to pay homage to millions of the compatriots and representatives of other nations who gave their lives for the Great Victory in WW II.
Regretfully, numerous attempts are being made recently to rewrite and distort history, to whitewash Nazism and justify its horrendous crimes. However, the unquestionable fact is that it was the Soviet Union that changed the course of WW II. Belarus will never forget that the victory in WW II was achieved due to self-sacrifice, bravery and unity of the citizens of the former Soviet Union.
The lessons of that tragic period in our civilisation's
history should be evaluated objectively. We need to make every effort to unite the world based on equality, mutual respect and universal democratic values.
The writer is the First Secretary at the Embassy of Belarus in India