Who won the war? Russians take a different view on D-Day

Thu Jun 5, 2014 12:21pm EDT
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By Mark Trevelyan

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Sitting in the shade on a bench in the center of Moscow, 77-year-old Galina Makarenko pauses for several seconds before delivering her blunt opinion on the Allied D-Day landings of June 6, 1944.

"It helped us a little. But only a little," says the sprightly physicist, who was evacuated from Moscow to Kazakhstan to escape the conflict that Westerners call World War Two and Russians refer to as the Great Patriotic War.

President Vladimir Putin joins the leaders of France, Britain, the United States and Germany to mark the 70th anniversary on Friday of the Normandy landings that opened the western front against Hitler's forces, catching them in a giant pincer movement as Stalin's Red Army pushed them back in the east.

But while many in the West see D-Day as the decisive turning point in the conflict, conversations in the Russian capital on Thursday reflected a widely held view here that the Soviet Union had already turned the tide of the war, in which it lost more than 20 million people, and would have prevailed on its own.

"That is absolutely clear, there's no doubt about that. It would have won because the people were desperate, they had gathered their strength and learned to wage war. The war would definitely have been won by the Soviet people," said pensioner Nikolai Kosyak, 64.


The timing of the second front was a vexed question between the wartime Allies: Soviet leader Josef Stalin had urged British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to open it as far back as August 1942.   Continued...

Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany in 1941 at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Kremlin walls in Moscow, June 22, 2013. REUTERS/Alexei Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/Kremlin