March Is Here. Wear It. | All-New T-Shirts, Hoodies, Crewnecks, Hats and More Now AvailableSHOP NOW

Ukraine Deserves A Break

I wouldn’t dare try to explain what is going on in modern-day Ukraine when the guys (and gal) over at Zero Blog Thirty have a skill set and bandwidth that nobody else in this company has when it comes to talking about war. 

But I know a little bit about history, and words like “Kiev” (before "Kyiv" was used) and “Dnieper River” ring a loud bell with history guys.  So as we wait to see what is going to transpire in this region over the next couple of days maybe we can pass the time by remembering what happened in that part of Europe 80 years ago.

And for the sake of this blog, I hope someone just read "Europe 80 years ago", but still had no fucking clue what I could be referring to... Because that historically ignorant reader (and I am not throwing stones) is about to learn about Ukraine's involvement in a little thing called World War II when they were in the middle of a tug-of-war between two madmen.

I am going to move quickly, and I am going to oversimplify, and I am going to only talk about what was called the Eastern Front because if I move slow, don't simplify, and try to cover all fronts of WWII, I will never get through this fucking blog.

You are seeing enough maps of Europe this week, but I want you to envision one more... The map of where exactly Germany was in relation to the rest of the world before they started World War II with their invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939.

Bettmann. Getty Images.

I know it looks like I drew this on the back of a napkin, but it's the best map I could find.  And once you locate Germany, I think it gives a proper perspective of just how much the Germans had to potentially conquer after Hitler essentially challenged the rest of the globe to a fistfight.

He had to go West into Belgium, Switzerland, France, and eventually England… The Western Front.

And he also had to go East into Poland, Czechoslavakia, Austria, and eventually Soviet Russia… The Eastern Front.

(There was also the Pacific Theatre but it's not on the map and I won't be talking about it today.)

Again, let's just stay in the East… You see, this was a time when we had at least two fucking crazy leaders in power in Europe… Hitler and Stalin (and also Mussolini to a lesser degree), and as WW2 was about to start, those two maniacs agreed to play peacefully in the sandbox with The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

Keystone. Getty Images.

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed in August 1939 was a non-aggression agreement between Germany and the Soviet Union that contained a secret protocol aiming to return Central Europe to its pre-World War I status by dividing it between Germany and the Soviet Union… Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania would return to Soviet control, while Poland and Romania would be divided between the Krauts and the Russians.

Shutterstock Images.

The only reason Hitler signed the pact was that he figured it would buy him enough time to subjugate Western Europe before he moved East.

But Hitler was suspicious of Joseph Stalin, and he began to feel that he could not afford to wait.  So on June 22nd, 1941, Germany broke the non-aggression pact and invaded the Soviet Union with 3.8 million men… At the time, it was the largest invasion in the history of the planet.

Until this action, the Nazi army had been unstoppable, rolling over Western Europe… But remember, the Americans hadn't entered the fray yet because Pearl Harbor wasn't bombed until December of that same year… So with their success so far in the West, the Germans were convinced that the Red Army to the East could be defeated in three months and that by the end of October the Germans would have conquered the whole European part of Russia including Ukraine.

The German invasion of Russia was originally given the code name Operation Fritz, but as preparations began, Hitler renamed it to a much ballsier Operation Barbarossa, after Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, who sought to establish German predominance in Europe.

Hulton Archive. Getty Images.

("Someday, a very evil man with a very little mustache will name an operation after me!")

And a key component of Operation Barbarossa was The Battle of Kiev, which took place in August 1941 and resulted in 700,00 casualties.  When military historians mention Germany’s victory in Kiev they are quick to point out it was the largest encirclement in the history of warfare.

"The largest encirclement in the history of warfare?… What does that mean because what zee Germans did back then sounds eerily similar to what the Russians are doing today?"

A half a million soldiers of the Red Army were surrounded by both the Nazi Army Group Centre and the Army Group South… The encircling nazis were made up of 25 infantry divisions and 9 armored divisions… A total of ~550,000 Germans.

And the Soviets did not simply surrender, so savage fighting ensued in which the encircled Red Army was bombarded with artillery, tanks, and aircraft… By the end of that battle, the Luftwaffe dropped over 1 million pounds of ordinance on Kiev.

Universal History Archive. Getty Images.

(The Streets of Kiev 1943)

As a final "Fuck you!" by the losing side, when the Soviets finally gave up Kiev, they did not employ the “scorched earth” protocol they had used in other towns they left for the Germans.  And by scorched earth, I mean typically the Russians would destroy any position they were giving up in order to leave the Germans with only rubble to set up shop in.

But in Kiev, the nazis were able to set up shop in relatively untouched office buildings in the few places they didn't bomb the shit out of.  

However!… Those buildings were laced with timed bombs that eventually went off and killed over 200 German officers.

However again!… The nazis decided to enact some revenge of their own after those bombings, so they rounded up the entire Jewish population of Kiev… Some 33,000 civilians (mostly women and children)… And marched them out to a fucking ditch (the Babin Yar Ravine), where they were systematically and inhumanely shot.  

Their bodies were left to rot in a mass grave.

Hulton Archive. Getty Images.

I could go on about this stuff for days, but let's fast forward to modern-day Kyiv (spell check was going INSANE when I kept spelling it the old way). 

I know I took a long road to get here, but I hope you realize that the people of Ukraine in general and Kyiv, in particular, have had an extensive history of being at the center of some devastating destruction… Starting with the Mongols, continuing through the Ottoman Empire, Nazi Germany, and now Russia.  And I also hope you realize that Russia has lost this part of the world on more than one occasion, and never minded sacrificing the lives of millions in order to get it back.

Perhaps that'll come into play as Putin looks to recapture that city on the Dnieper for what I hope is the last time.

Take a report.


Chief and I get pretty fucking granular on Operation Barbarossa and all things Eastern Front in the Twisted History of the Eastern Front... It's an older episode, but one of my favorites, and I attached it above.