83 years ago, the Winter War began, where Joseph Stalin had been granted Finland in a ‘quid-pro-quo’ with Adolph Hitler, prior to the Barbarossa offensive, a dazed and confused Russia (referred to in international circles at the time as the ‘Soviet Union’) were bloodied and beaten after just three months of battle, where Russia suffered 134,000 to 138,000 dead or missing with estimates as high as 168,000 by the Russian State Military Archive in this early conflict of WWII and the following Continuation War pushed the numbers far higher for both sides.
The skiing, sniping Finns lost 25,904 soldiers dead or missing in the Winter War and air raids are estimated to have claimed 957 more Finnish civilians. The 105-day war made Quislings of all the European democracies, their ‘help’ overdue and minimal while the German blockade of the North Sea had prevented most armament shipments to Finland between the Winter War and Operation Barbarossa a year later. 350 Finnish-Americans volunteered to the war effort where Finland received fewer than 12,000 volunteers from across the globe to help defend this northernmost democracy, fifty of whom gave the ultimate sacrifice. The proud Finnish ‘Whites’ battled the Soviet Reds to a standstill at the precipice of WWII, in 1939-40, where since the Russian Revolution in 1918 when Finland broke off from the former Kingdom of Sweden, then subjects of the Russian Tsar until the royal family was no more.
For the Russians the Winter War disaster proved a turning point in WWII, two full years before Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into the war, Adolph Hitler watched with particular interest as Russian soldiers were picked-off one-by-one in the famous Finnish ‘motti‘ and then finished off by the most capable marksmen in all of Europe, especially Finnish national hero Simo Häyhä, the so-called ‘White Death’ to the advancing Russian Army, outlined perfectly against the white snow in their drab olive uniforms, Simo had over 500 kills during the short war with over 40 Russians taken in a single day and was credited with 138 sniper kills in only 22 days of action. Häyhä would go on to live to be 96-years old, but not before a Russian sniper returned the favor to take half of Simo’s face off with an exploding bullet, yet this simple farmer would awaken just in time to see the end of the First Winter War a few days later in March, 1940.
Joseph Stalin was the man solely responsible for this epic military blunder and we forget how Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler were the three amigos before the war, with Germany and the Soviet Union signing their ‘non-aggression’ pact (or the Molotov-Ribbentrop war crimes authorization act), green-lit by Hitler from the safety of his mountain lair. Stalin, the ‘man of steel’ (real name Joe Jughashvili) started out as a petty criminal with mad organizational skills and as Lenin’s right hand man for all the dirty business that needed doing in Revolutionary Russia, after Lenin met his maker, Stalin strong-armed his way to the top (just as Lenin had feared and tried to prevent) as deftly as Ivan or Peter or Catherine the Great, yet Stalin was then responsible for millions of his own people killed after he personally oversaw the execution of the the Romanovs, gunned down in a hail of bullets, their bodies dissolved in battery acid to remove any trace of the crime (as well as a 0% chance of a rebirth of the monarchy in Russia).
Stalin’s brutal purges signaled to the world that this new Russian leader was capable of the most barbaric political means necessary to attain his objectives and in Stalin’s ‘Five Year Plans,’ he also made sure to include genocide on his schedule of conquest; In 1932, after the promise of Socialism had dimmed throughout all of Russia and the Great Depression was also gripping the Western world, Stalin knew that radical and revolutionary action had to be taken if he was to retain power over the people and here, recognizing that it was to be the Western Front that Stalin would need to wage war (after the border war with Japan established the easternmost boundary of the Soviet Union in 1905), he began to systematically kill the entire population of the Crimean peninsula. The history of the Crimean Tatars in Russia goes back centuries, as well as the many ethnically-diverse peoples of Europe and Asia who lived in the area for generations, yet Stalin only saw ‘buffer zones’ that when subdued, would draw his far-Western homeland of Georgia closer to the nation’s power base in Moscow. Stalin’s man-made famine stands as one of the worst genocides in human history, with estimates of as high as 3.5 million Ukrainians starved to death during the Holdomar on purpose, from a plan written for that very purpose. With his genocidal decisions taking full effect by the time the area was ‘softened up’ five years later, Stalin could walk his troops to the Northern European border for the invasion of Finland with a brand new footing in Europe by 1939. After that, Hitler remarked with admiration, “And who now speaks of the Armenian genocide?”
The area just to the west of Ukraine, once part of the Ukraine, the Commonwealth of Poland–Lithuania, was in a state of disorder, not really a sovereign state, actually a vassal-state to the Russian tsars appointing the Polish kings, particularly the last Commonwealth King: Stanisław August Poniatowski, a lover of the Russian Empress Catherine the Great. In 1755 Poniatowski, of the royal Czartoryski family of Lithuania, was a former member of the Sejm (pronounced ‘same’), the republican assembly of the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania, and as one of the many lovers of Catherine the Great, (while as she was planning the murder of future Tsar and husband Peter ’The Not-So-Great’), born Charles Peter Ulrich of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp, Catherine had him killed with the help of her first lovers-of-convenience, Grigory and the Orlov Brothers. Before that, Poniatowski was working for the British ambassador to Poland-Lithuania, Sir Charles Hanbury-Williams, when the future king met the future queen (or empress, styled as Sofia Augusta Friderika of Anhalt-Zerbst), the Grand Duchess Catherine Alekseyevna.
Despite her marital status to the Tsar-in-waiting, she had a torrid love affair with Poniatowski, who taught the young, nubile Catherine the ways of Western politics, philosophy and love, however their tryst was ended when Tzarina Elizabeth of Russia learned of the details of the relationship and sent Stanislaw packing off to Warsaw. Poniatowski continued to be manipulated by Catherine as she was becoming great and was later elevated to the throne of the Polish monarchy by force of Russian money and military power, then went on to hand the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania over to Imperial Russia during the Partitions. Poniatowski was crowned king in September 1764, taking the name Stanislaw II Augustus, intent on bringing Western culture to the aging Polish Commonwealth, he opened a new cadet school then called the School of Chivalry, producing in its first graduating class a 19-year old Lithuanian named Tadeusz Kosciuszko, or ‘Kosciusko’ who would become a hero in both the American and Polish Revolutions, to this day a revered patriot in both nations. On August 5, 1772, the Second Treaty of Partition was signed by Russia, Austria and Prussia and the following year Poland was forced to confirm the treaty, on the floor of the Sejm assembly at the point of Russian bayonets. Many proud Poles fled the country rather than submit to Russian rule, most notably Casimir Pulaski, a former leader of the Polish Bar Confederation who was later condemned to death by the Russians, he escaped to France where he offered his service to the new American Colonies, the ‘Father of American Cavalry,’ Pulaski fought alongside his charge of young American soldiers at the Battle of Brandywine, the Siege of Charleston and at the Battle of Savannah, but he was killed in a cavalry charge in 1779 and as a tribute to him, George Washington later issued a secret code to identify ‘friendlies’ crossing enemy lines — where the call of ‘Pulaski’ would always have to be met with ‘Poland’ if you wanted to live.
The Partitions of the Commonwealth, especially the Treaty of January 4th, 1793 cut 30% from Poland-Lithuania (then rendered an impotent state incapable of internal rule), with Prussia taking Danzig and the Russians helping themselves to 250,000 square miles of Poland’s borderland, including most of Belarus and all of the Ukraine. Catherine the Great’s greatest lover, her true, hairy-man Russian-long-bearded mountain man (after she killed her first, not-so manly husband, telling the courts of Europe that Peter had died of hemorrhoids, heh), General Potemkin, or Prince Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin-Tauricheski (of Battleship fame) later would take Poland by (land) battle, also the first Russian general to annex the Crimea and when Potemkin and Catherine conspired from their king-sized bed to rule all of Europe as the ultimate power couple (even though she murdered the rightful heir to the Romanov throne), the union made Catherine the Great a household name, as Peter before her, because she was willing to do anything it took to win, and in doing so, she became fully Russian in all her desires, tastes and audacious behavior, matched with the finest examples of art and culture of the West, plundered by her for immediate delivery to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg (aka Leningrad) were the Crown Jewels live, her greatest contributions to modern Russia.
Thaddeus Kosciusko declared Poland free back in 1793 and on May 7th of that year he issued the Proclamation of the Polaniec ending serfdom in Poland, granting peasants civil liberties for the first time, while protecting the lower classes from the abuses of the so-called ‘szlachta’ or rich landowners. The local Jewish community in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth also formed military units as Russian troops poured in to suppress the ‘Kosciusko Uprising,’ (even with the indelible stain of the Khmelnytsky Uprising on the Commonwealth) these Polish patriots managed to repel a 40,000-strong Prussian army led by Frederick William III after a two month siege on Warsaw, but the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth couldn’t hope to win a war of attrition with Russia and Prussian Germany and on October 10, 1794, Kosciusko made a desperate attempt to prevent the Russian and Prussian armies from meeting up at the River Warta, but was seriously wounded and captured at the Battle of Maciejowice. The news of Kosciusko’s capture spread rapidly, demoralizing the Polish nation, where they opined, “Kosciusko is no more; the country is lost.”
Kosciusko remained a prisoner in St. Petersburg for two years until set free by Catherine’s son, Tsar Paul I, after Catherine died the new Tsar reputedly ordered Kosciusko’s release just to spite his bitchy mother. By November 1794, 24,000 Russian troops and Cossacks burned, raped and murdered anyone trapped in the kill zones and another 20,000 Poles, mostly Jews, died at the Massacre of Praga, which terrified Warsaw into total capitulation. On November 16th, Polish forces officially surrendered and the king was sent into exile, along with thousands of other Lithuanians and Poles sent into bondage and hard labor in the gulags of Siberia, yet although Stanislaw II abdicated, Catherine allowed him to take refuge under her watchful eye in St. Petersburg where he remained a ‘house guest’ until his death in 1798, when the former king reflected, “I have always wished for the happiness of my country, and I have only caused it misfortune.” The Partitions were front and center in the debates raging in Philadelphia over the formation of the United States Constitution, where Thomas Jefferson thought a strong President would be no better than ‘a Polish King‘ after the well-established Polish tradition of aristocrats electing a monarch from among their own.
Russia, Prussia and Austria signed a treaty of final partition of the Polish-Lithuanian state on October 24, 1795, with Russia receiving 62% of the Commonwealth’s remaining land and 45% of her population and after that, in Sweden and Norway, the Russians then began the Finnish War in 1808, and where Catherine the Great justified the partitions as part of her mission to reunify all the lands of the ‘old Rus,’ the irony of this German woman setting the history of the Russian people is altogether fitting. Russia, named for the Rus tribes of the Pontic (think horses) or Eurasian Steppe, as old as Europe’s oldest settlements in Germany and France. With her seven total lovers, mostly dumb guardsmen at the end who were well known to Potemkin and Orlov, the sex in the Court of Catherine the Great was the stuff of movies, with Marlene Dietrich and Catherine Zeta-Jones playing the finest examples, (however the actor Paul McGann as General Potemkin was miscast, where Michael Douglas would have been Oscar-worthy IMHO) Grigory Orlov, Catherine’s first Russian lover, would become one of the richest men in Russia and the Orlov Family would become some of the biggest bankers in the world, but in 1791, Potemkin died in Moldova and Catherine became less and less connected to reality, dying at 67, she was smeared by the news media afterwards by printing accusations by one of her cuckolded lovers more interested saving his used-up manhood than the truth, hinting that she once fucked a horse. Russian President Vladimir Putin probably never fucked a horse, but you really never know now, do you?
February 26, 2022