Everybody's left to war

In preparation for upcoming Victory Day celebrations in Russia:

A short movie by Alexander Kott.


“Everybody’s gone to War”, a common saying during WWII, originated during the Civil War, with a note “District Administration Closed – Everybody’s Left to the War”.

The saying has quite a lot of basis in reality: massive desire of the common Soviet people to join the army was probably the main thing that defeated the Nazis.

Historic background:
One of the key German innovations was targeting the enemy army, rather than taking ground. They reasoned that if the enemy formations could be cut to pieces, encircled, and destroyed in the blitzkrieg, then afterwards the enemy would have no soldiers and land could be captured very easily.

It worked all around Europe, and initially worked well in the USSR: in the first few months of the war Red Army lost 4 million soldiers out of 5, whereas the Wehrmacht lost less than one million out of 7.

However, Soviet citizens volunteered for the army in huge numbers: in the same time, the Red Army got 5 million reinforcements to replace the 4 million lost, while the Wehrmacht numbers did not swell much. In another half a year, the Red Army numbered 11 million, and the Wehrmacht only 8.

Despite Nazi Germany controlling the entire continental Europe and a lot of Western USSR, so about twice more population than in the Red Army-held area, they could not match the numbers of motivated volunteers.

Huge numbers of occupied people and POWs were enlisted as soldiers or helpers, but few worked or fought well.

For example, the biggest unit formed from Russian POWs, Vlasov’s Russian Libration Army (ROA) (two divisions and associated units, about 25,000 men total), participated in one attack, then deserted to a man.
The largest Russian SS unit, 1st Russian SS brigade “Druzhina”, destroyed a German headquarters and deserted to the partisans – 3 thousand fully equipped soldiers that Germans spent a year training.
The same could be said about the units formed from other Soviet ethnicities: Volga Tatars were notoriously unreliable, with 825th battalion destroying a number of German garrisons and deserting to the partisans, and many Tatars deserting to the Resistance even after being moved to France.
102nd and 118th Ukrainian police battalions also switched sides already in France and joined the Resistance as 1st and 2nd “Bataillon Ukrainien des Forces Françaises de l’Intérieur”.
A Georgian battalion revolted and massacred their German masters even after being stuck on Texel island in the Netherlands.
etc. etc. etc.


On a separate note, there’d also a famous song by Vysotskiy “Everybody’s Gone to War” (text translated here, translation by Astrakhov).
It’s about convicts going to war: fairly early on in the Great Patriotic War, Soviets started allowing prisoners to join the armed forces (except those sentenced for crimes like murder, rape, banditism, espionage, etc.) Hundreds of thousands did.


Everybody’s gone to war ♫

Every term is over now,
And on prison’s central door,
That is now nailed shut, a note:
"Everybody’s gone to war."

We are pardoned for our crimes!
That’s the way our nation works:
Motherland falls on hard times -
Everybody goes to war!

It’s a good deal, swear to God
Year there counts for four!
We’re now equal with the guards:
Everybody’s off to war.

Our warden had no heart,
Always arrogant and sore,
But, despite his soul cross-barred,
He was also sent to war.

And for that he wasn’t suited.
Not so brave without his goons!
One day he was executed
For a self-inflicted wound.

Afterwards, all were acquitted,
And rewarded in the end:
Those who stayed alive got medals,
Those that died - six feet of land.

And another line of convicts
Can now read on prison door
Our note, by glass preserved:
“Everybody’s gone to war."