How many of you have not seen some Hollywood film in which the Normandy landings are the great turning point of the war? “What if the landings had failed,” one often hears? “Oh…, nothing much,” is the appropriate reply. The war would have gone on longer, and the Red Army would have planted its flags on the Normandy beaches coming from the east.

Every May 9th the Russian Federation celebrates its most important national holiday, Victory Day, den’ pobedy. On that day in 1945 Marshal Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov, commander of the 1st Belorussian Front, which had stormed Berlin, received the German unconditional surrender. The Great Patriotic War had gone on for 1418 days of unimaginable violence, brutality and destruction. From Stalingrad and the northern Caucasus and from the northwestern outskirts of Moscow to the western frontiers of the Soviet Union to Sevastopol in the south and Leningrad and the borders with Finland, in the north, the country had been laid waste. An estimated 17 million civilians, men, women and children, had perished, although no one will ever know the exact figure. Villages and towns were destroyed; families were wiped out without anyone to remember them or mourn their deaths …

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