Kerch – Graveyard for Georgian Soldiers
14 April, 2011

From 100 to 200 thousand ethnic Georgians fell in the Kerch Battle during the Second World War. Practically, every Georgian family was bereft of their loved ones – fathers, sons, brothers, cousins, uncles and friends. The anti-German attitude was firmly perpetuated right after that. Professor Simon Maskharashvili has more.
GJ – Right at the beginning of the War between the Soviet Union and the Fascist Germany a big number of Soviet soldiers defected to the German side. They mostly represented various Soviet nations forcefully dragged into the USSR, including Georgia. As it was already noted, those nations were encouraged by the idea of losing the War by the Soviets to Germans because that seemed to be a harbinger of getting themselves free from the Russian violence. It was also said that the ruling communist elite were well aware of the situation, and were trying to nurse hatred and sense of revenge against Germans in the hearts and minds of the Soviet people.
SM – I have already told you that the Soviet authorities had declared dead and unaccounted for the defected Soviet soldiers. This was a good reason to develop the sense of revenge in the minds of the Soviet people who were left in the rear. The second part of that ‘project’ was thousands of killed Georgians who lost their lives in the battle of Kerch planned by the Soviets very stupidly and unprofessionally. The Kerch operation was headed by the Soviet (ethnic Georgian though) General Constantine Leselidze – lionized into the rank of a hero, who in fact actively participated in the 1921-1922 carnage of people.
GJ – As far as my knowledge of this part of history goes, nowhere had as many Georgians died as in the Kerch operation. Kerch of the Crimea was even named the grave-yard for Georgians.
SM – That was the worst-planned war operation. Nothing was provided for – neither the supplies nor the facilities in the rear. The death toll is fluctuating between 100 to 200 thousand people, and we are talking only about ethnic Georgians. Practically, every Georgian family was bereft of their loved ones – fathers, sons, brothers, cousins, uncles and friends. The anti-German attitude was firmly perpetuated right after that. Serious geopolitical issues and great patriotic ideals were no longer an issue. Moreover, when you are a soldier with a rifle in your hand to fight for Stalingrad, Moscow, Ukraine or Belarus, and the war goes on and on interminably, you stop thinking about your beloved motherland of Georgia and the benefits it can receive from your war efforts. But those soldiers knew very well that their lives were actually at stake and the death was imminent. What happened was that they no longer had any desire and readiness to defect to Germany because each and every one of those soldiers had a relative or a friend who was killed by a German bullet. Hence there was the only option left for a Georgian soldier – if death was inevitable then only a heroic death that would become a Georgian warrior and not a coward. Indeed, for a Georgian soldier, commitment to heroism was something very natural. After all, he represented a military culture of a millennium-old history. Let’s now get back to reality.
GJ – An attempt to enter the Caucasus was made by the Germans although the WWII battles mostly took place on the territory of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus . . .
SM – Indeed, in 1941 the German army approached the Caucasus and they crossed the border in Apkhazeti (Abkhazia) and Svaneti. General Shtemenko who at that time served in the General Staff of the Soviet Army remembers in his memoirs that Stalin one day said that Churchill had categorically demanded the admittance of the British army into the Caucasus. That was the time when the Soviet troops were retreating disorderly. Stain declared that he might be compelled to admit the British troops to Georgia if the situation were not improved in favor of the Soviet forces. The British army would proceed to Georgia via Iran and Azerbaijan. This would certainly have happened only with the purpose of preventing the Hitler forces from entering Georgia. Meanwhile Stalin knew very well that the Bolsheviks would never see Georgia again if the British army was admitted to Georgia (Continued in the next article on the same page).