In the course of “The Great Patriotic War 1941-1945″, the Soviet Union mobilized 29,574,900 men. Wartime turnover in manpoweramounted to 21,700,000. During 1,418 days of barbarized warfare,bereft of any legal or moral constraints, the Red Army’s battlefield losseswere more than half those 21 million, 11,440,100 men put permanentlyout of action. Almost one million men were variously convicted:376,300 charged with desertion and 422,700 sentenced to service inpenal battalions, or strafbats, assigned to the most dangerous sectors.
Civilians were not spared. German rule in occupied territory took the lives of some 16,350,000 citizens, shot, starved, neglected, ormurdered in concentration camps. More than two million weredeported for slave labour in the Reich. Soviet soldiers and civiliansshared a combined death toll of 27-28 million souls. Each minute of thiswar cost 9-10 lives, each hour 587, each day 14,000. Savage partisanwarfare and ferocious German retribution compounded the horrors.Huge hunks of fronts disintegrated. Entire armies vanished, some toreappear later, others with fatal damage. Between 1941 and 1943, theWehrmacht destroyed almost a third of 570 Soviet rifle divisions.
TheRed Army finally destroyed, disabled or captured 607 Axis divisions, atgreat cost to itself in men and machines: 96,500 tanks, 106,400 aircraftand 317,000 guns. Anglo-American armies fighting in North Africa, Italy and Western Europe destroyed 176 enemy divisions.
What Boris Pasternak called the “naked power of evil” had beenunleashed. The cost to perpetrator and victim of first suppressing andthen exorcising it was visited on the wartime generation and also on theirdescendants, mindful of inconsolable grief and ineluctable sorrows.