The Veterans are Back in Town!!

(2) The Dembolized Soldier, by Vladimir Vasiliev (1949) / From Art under Socialist Realism, Soviet Painting 1930-1950, by Gleb Prokhorov 

We did it! After all these years we finally prevailed! It wasn’t easy and it caught us off guard but we were able to overcome the hardships on the front-line. We are all war heroes and are going to be treated as such when we finally are able to return home….. I imagine that is what was going through the minds of veterans that fought through The Great Patriotic War as they returned home instead, they “returned from their long campaign to homelessness and poverty, and perhaps most tragic, to a society that refused to talk about its wounds” (1). The Russian economy was already in a state of despair after the war. There simply wasn’t much left for veterans in terms of job availability. Out of 11 million veterans “the Soviet Army demobilized 8.5 million veterans over the next three years, starting with the oldest” (1).  The oldest didn’t have much left to give in the eyes of Russia. All they received for fighting for homeland was simply a pat on the back and thrown back into reality. Reality was Russia was a country with a poor economy thus resulting in unemployment hovering around 50% with little no opportunities to veterans. Most if not all of basic human survival needs weren’t even given to them. A vast majority didn’t even have housing available. They had to result to moving “into zemlianki, huts dug into the earth, which they might have remembered from the front” (1).

For those veterans who were still young and healthy they had some hope of starting there life over. In the years following the war “Women vastly outnumbered men in the postwar cohort, making healthy men a valuable commodity” (1). This resulted in an increase marriages and babies. For those veterans who weren’t in the best shape or old coming home from the war they struggled. “There was a shortage of prosthetic devices, a shortage of hospital beds, and shortage of time to listen to grieving men and women” (1). Veterans with psychological problems may have suffered the greatest because previously Russia did not have psychologists would could help them. This was all knew to them and Russia didn’t acknowledge psychological problems.

One of the most interesting things about all of this was the fact the Russian government was scared of the veterans to a degree. “Veterans represented a vast social resource for postwar reconstruction, but inspired fear from a government still subject to resentment, whose leaders remembered the example of the Decembrists, who had once used their status as heroes of the Napoleonic Wars to challenge the Romanov autocracy” (1). Out there on the battlefield everyone is your brother. If you aren’t fighting for yourself or your country, you are fighting for the person next to you so that at the end of the day you can go home safe and sound. This is a strong connection that will band any group of people together. I think Russia could have definitely helped there veterans out greatly but for this reason they wanted them to suffer to some degree so that they weren’t able to question there authority. Thus remaining at the mercy of the government.


8 thoughts on “The Veterans are Back in Town!!”

  1. I really liked how you focused on this aspect of the war. Its something that Russia is still dealing with today and is really important to Russians. If you are interested in this topic I highly suggest that you watch the film the Cranes are Flying it deals with the aspect of grieving and focuses on the life of those not fighting in the war.

  2. I’m really glad that you wrote about veterans! I feel like this issue is often glossed over or forgotten about, but countries often struggle with reintegrating veterans into society. The way Vietnam War veterans were treated when they arrived home is a good example. Countries often prefer not to think about the trauma these people experienced, but it’s important to remember them and help them. On an unrelated, less serious note, those huts (zemlianki) kind of look like the houses of The Shire in The Lord of the Rings.

  3. I enjoyed reading this post. I think this is a subject that can be glossed over at times. It’s important to know that while the war was won, millions of civilians and soldiers were returning to an unrecognizable home. Like you said, the younger generations had hope, but for many everything was lost.

  4. This is such an important topic and I’m really glad you wrote about it. I’m intrigued by the first painting. What does it tell us about veterans? And why did you choose this image? (would be good to cite the source, BTW).

    1. What i saw when i originally came across the photo was a feeling of sadness. The look on the soldiers face is worth a 1000 words. I think it echoed how many other veterans around the time must have been feeling.

  5. I can’t imagine a government not providing for veterans after them sacrificing so much for the state. I understand it however due to their devastated economy and the amount of men they conscripted into the war. I like how you focused on the post-war period.

  6. After World War II, the United States implemented the GI Bill, which gave veterans better access to educational opportunities and low-interest rates on loans, among other things. However, in the Soviet Union, we see none of that. I really like that you mention the government’s fear of the returning veterans and the historical precedent for that fear. Great post!

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