Friday, June 30, 2006

The Russian Curse

Russia, the largest single country, other than Antarctica, and a dominating world power. A constant target of war, Russia is the thing to get. And yet, it has never been taken. It has lost wars, oh yes, but no one has ever succeeded in taking over the country and keeping it. Why is this? Throughout my travels, readings, and watching’s, I have come up with some theories on how Russia has managed to remain the unobtainable goal and target of the world.

Lets Begin with the earliest I know, the Napoleonic wars (1799-1815). During the Napoleonic wars Napoleon Bonaparte lead France in a massive campaign against the world. It is my personal belief that it was indeed the real First World War, all the world powers of the time were fighting, Russia, England, France, Italy, all the rest of Europe, but anyway, I’m getting off track. The important thing is what happened in Russia. Napoleon led a massive charge across Europe all the way to Moscow. Like most massive charges the leader expects it to be over quickly before the Russian winter set in. Unsurprisingly he was wrong. His troops reached Moscow, looted it, declared it as France’s, turned round when winter set in and marched off into the cold. The Russian army simply attacked them as they marched chasing them all the way to France. There is a famous Graph by Charles Minard that represents this quite well. In short, for foolish reasons Napoleons ‘great’ charge ended in absolute failure and embarrassment. Is it a Russian curse?

Now, the Second World War. Operation Barborossa. Germany invaded Russia, breaching their peace treaty, and began a very familiar charge. Hitler began a ten week campaign which would finish before winter (where have I heard That before?). To Hitler’s great surprise his troops were unaccountably stopped and slowed along the way. Maybe he forgot that Russia had an army of massive proportions and the population to heavily increase those numbers. Whatever the reason Winter set in, freezing the very oil in the tanks and jeeps, and Russia brought in its Siberian trained Winter troops. In Stalingrad the troops were halted causing the first retreat of the war, and yet Hitler flung himself into it again. He poured his army on Moscow. But ‘General Mud’ and ‘General Winter’, nicknames for the ever-helpful mud caused by the rain and for the winter, slowed them once again. The Red Army dug in. For the Germans their desperate advancement left their supply lines open to constant attack from ‘Red’ guerrillas, and the equipment frozen solid. The Germans could only survive if the Russians didn’t attack. They Did! Once again, at the very brink of success the Russian curse kicked in and kicked out the enemy.

From these two wars I have created my theory. Skilled and experienced Generals turned their eyes on Russia and suddenly forget vital facts like the Russian Winter. I call it ‘The Russian Curse’.


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