The Corner

Vlasov

I’ve received several emails like this one:

Mr. Goldberg,

I’m not a historian by training and I generally agree that the Yalta

agreements amount to a dark stain on the reputations of both Roosevelt

and Churchill. However, I’m curious about your reference to General

Vlasov. Wasn’t he (and those who formed his Russian Nationalist army) a

Nazi collaborator? It’s possible I’ve been misled on this point, but

from what I recall, Vlasov makes a poor poster boy for those aggrieved

by the sell-out at Yalta.

But, as I say, I may be misremembering the details or inadvertently

buying into Soviet propaganda.

Me:I am sure there are readers out there who know more about this, but here’s what I can answer off the top of my head. I wrote a paper on Vlasov in high school (such was the climate in the Goldberg household that no greater academic pursuit could be imagined) and have read bits and pieces ever since.

Vlasov was a heroic Russian general. When he realized that Stalin was just as bloodthirsty as Hitler he opted to fight him. This obviously through him into the Germany’s orbit. They helped him form the Russian Liberation Army. People forget today that the German troops were often met as liberators by Ukranians and other peoples desperate to be freed from the forced famines and horror of Stalinism. For a nationalist Russian to seize that moment as an opportunity to topple Stalin doesn’t sound stupid to me. Of course, thinking you could have Hitler as a partner was stupid.

Vlasov raised his army from willing Russians among German POWs. The Germans constantly tried to use Vlasov’s army as if it was any other unit in the Axis forces, pitting them against Western forces. If I recall correctly the Vlasovites wouldn’t fight the Allies, or at least not well. They wanted to get rid off Stalin. Period.

There’s a huge controversy about the role Vlasov’s RLA played in liberating Prague. At the end of the war, when Patton was barred from pressing to Berlin (grrr), the Red Army was heading for Prague but the Vlasovites were there first. The Pro-Vlasov version is that the Vlasovites had finally had enough of their German overlords and turned on them, liberating Prague. There are many other versions. One thing that’s mostly not disputed is that the Americans barred the Vlasovites from fleeing the Red Army and they were slaughtered.

I’d be interested to know if I got any of this wrong as I’ve not read up on any new history which may have come out in the last decade.

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