Legendary documentary TV-series, released in 1973, have made a considerable contribution to visual history of WWII. Its exclusive footage, impressive scripts and voiceover have been a fitting tribute to colossal battles of the past. But, even such a monumental masterpiece of television has certain flaws and shortcomings.
As an expert on the Soviet history, I have detected several mistakes in the series. For example, Red Star episode tells us that after Germany and USSR started to fight each other in 1941, Soviet propaganda began to produce patriotic movies. As illustrative material for this thesis, creators of “The World at War” showed scenes from Alexander Nevsky, released in 1938, and Suvorov, released in 1940. You see, the timing of the series’ creators is quite wrong. They also neglected brave men and women of Kazakhstan, who fought the Nazis. In the end of 1941, military regiments formed in Kazakhstan actually saved Moscow, but the Brits pictured them as Siberian regiments. Also, the famous verses Wait for Me by Konstantin Simonov (1915-1979) were quoted in this episode. But, they didn’t mention equally famous lines by a Kazakh poet Zhambyl (1846-1945), dedicated to Leningrad under the siege: “The people of Leningrad, my children! The people of Leningrad, my pride!” Of course, the Russian poet is more preferable for the Western audience, than the Kazakh one.
On April 30, 1945, an ethnic Kazakh, Rakhymzhan Koshkarbayev (1924-1988), was the first soldier to plant the Soviet flag on the Reichstag – an iconic building of the Nazi Germany. Along with an ethnic Tatar, Grigory Bulatov (1925-1973), he committed this heroic action. But, under the Stalin’s rule, it was decreed that an ethnic Georgian (as Stalin himself was a Georgian), Meliton Kantaria (1920-1993), and an ethnic Russian, Mikhail Yegorov (1923-1975), were proclaimed the first soldiers to plant the Soviet flag on the Reichstag and were both awarded with an honorary title – the Hero of the Soviet Union. However, they did it almost in the Hollywood style without a hitch, while the Kazakh and the Tatar before them had risked their lives under the enemy’s fire. It took several hours for Mr. Koshkarbayev and Mr. Bulatov to complete their titanic mission! However, they were robbed of the honorary title – the Hero of the Soviet Union.
The series’ Nemesis episode cleverly evades this controversy. The arrogant Brits put forward a Russian female Major, Anna Nikulina (1904-?), as one of the first soldiers to put the Soviet flag on a less important landmark – the Reich Chancellery. With a tint of British humour, they had her to mention an ethnic Uzbek as an assistant of hers. You know, Kazakhs and Uzbeks have been long-standing rivals. So, even in the WWII TV-series the Brits are trying to sow discord among the Turkic nations. Of course, not only Kazakh heroes were neglected. Throughout the series they keep telling about the Russian dead, while among the Soviet republics not Russia, but Belarus and Ukraine bore the brunt of the Hitler’s invasion. The two Slavic republics were totally occupied by the Nazis, while the relatively small part of Russia was under the occupation.
They also misspelled the name of a Russian military interpreter, who witnessed the capture of Hitler’s companions. Lieutenant Yelena Rzhevskaya (1919-2017) was wrongly presented as Yelena Reveshkaya. So, even the Russians, much beloved by the Brits, occassionally were wronged too))) Oops. Pardon me. The interpreter in question is actually a Khazar, aka a Jew. May Mother Nature prolong her days!
UPD: She died on April 25, 2017 – a week after this post was published.