Olivia Kroth: Lessons of Russian history – 80 years after the Battle of Stalingrad

Lessons of Russian history: 80 years after the Battle of Stalingrad

by Olivia Kroth

The 17th of July 2022 is a remarkable date for Russia, eighty years after the beginning of the Battle of Stalingrad, which was a crucial turning point in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1944). The battle lasted 200 days and ended on the 2nd of February 1943, when 300.000 Nazi soldiers got trapped inside of the city. They were either killed or had to surrender. The Battle of Stalingrad has gone down into history as one of the bloodiest battles of warfare. On the 17th of July 1942, the Nazis started bombing the city, reducing some of its quarters to rubble. On the 19th of November 1942, the Red Army launched a counter offensive named Operation Uranus, a two-pronged attack that cut off and surrounded the Nazi soldiers inside of the city.

During the Russian winter of 1942/1943, the Nazis were freezing and starving, while the Soviets continued to attack them. The eastern border of Stalingrad was the river Volga. Across the river, additional Soviet units of the 62nd Army were deployed under the command of Lieutenant-General Vasily Chuikov, who reportedly said, “We will defend Stalingrad or die in the attempt.”

Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov was born on the 12th of February 1900 in a large peasant family in the village of Serebryanye Prudy, Tula region, to the south of Moscow. Vasily and all of his brothers became soldiers. In 1918, he joined the Red Army but left his regiment in 1921 to study at the Frunze Military Academy, until 1925.

Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov (Василий Иванович Чуйков; 1900 –1982):

When the Battle of Stalingrad began, he was promoted to commanding general of the 62nd Army. General Chuikov became famous for developing and practising the tactic of “hugging the enemy.” Soviet soldiers kept very close to the Nazis inside of Stalingrad, to destroy them with Molotov cocktails and Russian artillery, operating at close range. “Hugging the enemy” also rendered the Nazi Air Force ineffective, as they could not bomb Stalingrad without killing their own forces inside of the city.

For his outstanding bravery and excellent leadership, General Chuikov became Hero of the Soviet Union twice, in 1944 and in 1945. After the war, he was promoted to Marshal of the Soviet Union. Later in life, he published his memoirs, “The Beginning of the Road: The Story of the Battle of Stalingrad.” Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov died on the 18th of March 1982.

Tribute to General Chuikov:

During the crucial battle, the Soviets poured aerial reinforcement into Stalingrad. Because the Soviet industry had been relocated in 1941, Soviet aircraft production reached 15.800 in the second half of 1942. The Soviet aircraft industry had significant strength and built up strategic reserves.

On the 5th of September 1942, the Soviet 24th and 66th Armies organized a massive attack. On the 18th of September, the Soviet 1st Guards followed suit. Thus, the Soviet 62nd and 64th Armies, including the 13th Guards Rifle Division, were able to anchor their defence lines with strong points in houses of Stalingrad. The Soviet fighters were fierce and unrelenting. Their slogans were: “Not a step back!” – “There is no land behind the Volga!”

Soviet pilots:

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The Soviet defence lines in the city were anchored in strategically located buildings, overseeing main streets and squares. Multi-floored apartment blocks and warehouses were converted into strong points, equipped with anti-tank rifles, machine guns, barbed wire, mines and mortars. Snipers in small groups of five to ten men were based in each of the streets.

Probably the most famous Soviet sniper was Vasily Grigoryevich Zaytsev, born on the 23rd of March 1915 in Yeleninskoye. During the Battle of Stalingrad, he killed 225 Nazis. Vasily grew up in the Ural Mountains, where he learned marksmanship hunting deer and wolves with his grandfather and younger brother.

Vasily Grigoryevich Zaytsev (Василий Григорьевич Зайцев, 1915 – 1991):

He first served as clerk in the Soviet Navy in Vladivostok, later he was transferred to the front line. On the 22nd of September 1942, Vasily Zaytsev crossed the Volga river, to join the 1047th Rifle Regiment of the 284th Rifles Division of the 62nd Army.

His specialty became to shoot Nazis out of windows at a distance of 800 metres. He took aim from his Mosin-Nagant rifle and killed them with one single shot. Because of his special skills, Vasily Zaytsev ran a snipers’ training school in the Metiz factory of Stalingrad.

Sniper Vasily Zaytsev in Stalingrad:

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His apprentices were named “Zaychata”, baby hares. Thus, the famous sniper movement of the 62nd Army began. Vasily Zaytsev’s 28 apprentices killed about 3.000 enemies during the Great Patriotic War.

A special Zaytsev tactic was to cover a large area from three positions, with two men at each point, a sniper and a scout. The tactic was called “the sixes”. It is still in use today and was implemented during the war in Chechnya.

Tribute to Sniper Vasily Zaytsev:

In January 1943, Vasily Zaytsev’s eyes were injured from a mortar attack. Professor Filatov, an eye specialist, was able to restore his sight. On the 22nd of February 1943, Vasily Zaytsev was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union.

After the Great Patriotic War, Vasily Zaytsev lived in Kiev, where he died on the 15th of December 1991. Initially, he was buried in Kiev but his remains were later transferred to Volgograd (formerly: Stalingrad).

On the 31st of January 2006, he was reburied with full military honours on Mamayev Kurgan, at the monument to the defenders of Stalingrad. On the monument, a famous quote reminds of the Battle of Stalingrad, “For us, there was no land beyond the Volga.”

Statue «The Motherland Calls» on Mamaev Kurgan in Stalingrad:

During the Battle of Stalingrad, fighting was especially merciless on the hill of Mamayev Kurgan. Another point was “Pavlov’s House”, an apartment building in the city which Yakov Pavlov had turned into a fortress by surrounding it with minefields.

In each window, machine-gun positions had been set up. When the Soviet soldiers wanted to leave this fortress, they had to step over piles of Nazi corpses. Sergeant Pavlov was awarded Hero of the Soviet Union for his actions.

The Battle of Stalingrad revealed the determination and discipline of the Red Army. One of General Rodimtsev’s soldiers scratched a few words on the wall of the railway station before dying, “Rodimtsev’s Guardsmen fought and died here for the Motherland.”

Soviet soldiers:

Some survivors remember those horrible times. Alexander Tsygankov, who was a soldier in the 181st Infantry Division of the 62nd Army, said in an interview with THE VOICE OF RUSSIA:

“We disembarked straight on the bank of the Volga, where on a patch of land, several thousand civilians were gathered for evacuation across the river, old people, women and children, some wounded. The Nazi planes came right over the heads of those defenceless people, dropping bombs and striking them with heavy machine guns”, Alexander Tsygankov told his interviewer.

“I cannot tell you the hatred we felt for those sadists. We swore that we would be avenged for the bloodshed they had caused and for the destruction they had brought. They had completely destroyed the city in just a few days”, he emphasized, when recalling those painful memories of the Great Patriotic War.

Volga River near Stalingrad/Volgograd:

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Another war veteran, Alexei Stefanov, told THE VOICE OF RUSSIA about similar events he witnessed during the Battle of Stalingrad, “The 62nd ferry was a bridge to the eastern bank of the Volga. When the dreadful nightmare began, when 70.000 civilians were killed, there were scores of women and children hiding in half-ruined houses and cellars.”

Alexei Stefanov also pointed out the acts of solidarity among the Russian population, “A rescue operation was launched. There was a field hospital not far from the ferry. The wounded helped women and children to get aboard. The sailors shielded them with their bodies, because the Nazis were hunting the boats.”

Ruin in modern Volgograd as a reminder of the Battle of Stalingrad:

Many female soldiers participated in the Battle of Stalingrad as well. 75.000 girls and women from Stalingrad underwent medical and military training, to serve in the battle. They staffed anti-aircraft batteries or treated the wounded as nurses. Some women were machine gunners, mortar operators, snipers or scouts.

Matryona Stolnikova of Stalingrad told THE VOICE OF RUSSIA, “One aircraft went zooming up, another went into a dive. One swooped down, another flew up … It was a nightmare. Black craters of bombs marked our streets. Everything was ablaze, everything that loving hands had created over the long years. The Nazis were monsters, not human beings.”

Frozen bodies of German soldiers who died in the Battle of Stalingrad:

Lidya Plastikova of Stalingrad worked at a tractor plant, which had been converted to build tanks. In her interview with THE VOICE OF RUSSIA she recalled:

“The machines abandoned by those, who had joined the Home Guard, were taken over by women, old folk, boys and girls of 14 to 16 years of age. It was a difficult time, very difficult indeed. We would never think of leaving the workshops, until the job entrusted to us was done. Although the plant had been badly damaged by bombs, work never stopped. We would go out and bring back the damaged tanks from the battlefield, repair them and get them going again.”

Ruins in Stalingrad:

Another woman who worked in Stalingrad, when the battle raged, was Dr. Zinaida Yermolieva, an epidemiologist and microbiologist. Due to her research work, an outbreak of cholera could be stopped on the Stalingrad front. She created Russian penicillin in an underground laboratory, where she set up the production of the antibiotic. Professor Yermolieva used the corpses of Nazis, who had died of cholera, for her research work, to obtain the antibiotic.

She also organized its mass production, for which she was awarded the Order of Lenin and the Stalin Prize. She is remembered as a famous specialist of anti-cholera research in Russia, a woman of outstanding determination, willpower, with the brilliant mind of a scientist.

Zinaida Yermolieva was born in a Don Cossack family, in 1898. She studied medicine at the Rostov medical institute and became assistant professor of microbiology. Her scientific activities began in the 1920s. They lasted throughout the Great Patriotic War.

Dr. Zinaida Vissarionovna Yermolyeva (Зинаида Виссарионовна Ермольева; 1898 – 1974):

The Nazis lost five armies in Stalingrad. Out of the 110.000 Nazi prisoners captured in the city, barely 6.000 returned “heim ins Reich.” They were decimated by disease, lack of medical care and starvation. The prisoners of war were sent on death marches to prison camps all over the Soviet Union. Thus, about 75.000 Nazi prisoners died in the first three months after their capture.

Some 35.000 were sent on transports, which about 17.000 of them did not survive. They died of cholera, typhus, cold and malnutrition. In March 1943, about 40.000 dead Nazis were buried in a mass grave. They had died during a typhus epidemic.

Stalingrad in 1986:

In 1945, the city of Stalingrad was awarded the title Hero City, for the heroism of its inhabitants. In October 1967, the colossal statue of “The Motherland Calls” was installed on Mamayev Kurgan, overlooking the Hero City, which today bears the name of Volgograd.

Of course, nowadays, there is plenty of beautiful land on the other side of the Volga, but the horrors of Stalingrad during the nightmarish years of 1942/1943 are unforgotten.

War Memorial and Statue «The Motherland Calls» in the Hero City:

Olivia Kroth: The journalist and author of four books lives in Russia. Her blog:

https://olivia2010kroth.wordpress.com

This article was also published in THE DURAN:

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Writer, journalist: The Duran https://olivia2010kroth.wordpress.com
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51 respuestas a Olivia Kroth: Lessons of Russian history – 80 years after the Battle of Stalingrad

  1. Anónimo dijo:

    Was einmal so tragisch war in Stalingrad, das ist mir als Deutschem sehr peinlich. Leider ist der Nazismus in Deutschland immer noch nicht ausgerottet. Ich muss es beschämt gestehen. Vielen Dank für diesen wichtigen und interessanten Beitrag zur Aufarbeitung der Geschichte.

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  2. Ich danke Ihnen für Ihren Kommentar, anonymer Mensch. Schade, dass Sie anonym bleiben wollen. Schämen Sie sich Ihres deutschen Namens? Sie werden leider dazu stehen müssen. Der Schandfleck, die Sowjetunion überfallen zu haben, um die sowjetischen «Untermenschen» zu töten und sich ihrer Bodenschätze zu bemächtigen, bleibt unlöschbar in der deutschen Geschichte. Die Deutschen haben sich auf ewig desavouriert. Dass sie heute wieder politisch gegen Russland hetzen, ist schlimm. Den Deutschen war noch nie zu trauen, weder früher noch heute. Schade!

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  3. Transit dijo:

    Battaglia epica, tragica ma importantissima per la lotta contro il nazismo e i loro camerati fascisti. PS. Non riuscivo a tradurre il tuo blog in italiano, ora invece si, per cui riesco a leggere e a commentare. Ciao Olivia.🌹👏😊

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  4. Спасибо за добрые слова, Транзит.

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  5. JMR-ART dijo:

    Thanks for this beautiful post, this is a great tribute to the Soviet people, civilians and militaries that withstood Nazi agression, this battle was probably the fiercest one of WWII, maybe with the heroic defense of Leningrad, thanks again!

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  6. pflkwy dijo:

    You have written a great post, Olivia. Thank you.

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  7. Indira dijo:

    Fantastic historic details and photographs, Olivia! Great job, as usual!

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  8. Thank you for the appreciation, JMR. Both, Leningrad and Stalingrad were fierce aggressions by the Nazis. I am glad that the Soviets remained victorious.

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  9. You are most welcome, pflkwy.

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  10. Thank you for your kind words, Indira. I am glad that you like this post.

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  11. Giannis Pit dijo:

    Full respect to the Red Army, the Soviet people and USSR, for their ultimate fight against fascism and nazis. We cannot forget. And no-one can re-write the history.
    The Greek people was one of the European people who fought up to death against nazis. But the western «allies» lead it to the disaster.
    Stalingrad stands as an eternal symbol of sacrifice for humanity’s freedom.
    Thank you my dear for your report.

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  12. You are most welcome Giannis. True, nobody can rewrite history, although some are trying hard. «The Motherland Calls» – this statue will always remind us of what happened in Stalingrad.

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  13. Giannis Pit dijo:

    Of course my dear, a lot of «guys» are trying to rewrite the history but people have the final power.

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  14. Well, when I read some German comments, nowadays, I wondered whether they are suffering from amnesia. Have they learned nothing truthful in their history lessons at school?

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  15. Dear Olivia, as always, your posts are very interesting and current. They enlighten the readers. Greetings with all my friendship.

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  16. pflkwy dijo:

    Bravos guerreiros!

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  17. Thank you for your appreciation, dear Santiago. I am glad that you find this article enlightening. With friendly greetings …

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  18. Спасибо за добрые слова, pflkwy.

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  19. giomag59 dijo:

    Yes It was really heroic, and changed the fate of the war. If we all are now free, Is Thanks to their braves… we Italians were at the side of Germany, and payed hardly our spedizion. If I remember right, Sovietics counter attacks with over one million soldiers, and mostly with a large superiority of tanks and airplanes.

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  20. Yes, dear Giorgio, you are right. The Soviet counter attack was vastly superior in every way. Those Nazi invaders really had no chance of winning the war. They were over-rating themselves. Their Nazi ideology made them blind.
    It is a shame that Italy was also a fascist country under Mussolini and fought alongside with Hitler. Italy paid the price. Maybe it would or could be a good idea, if Italy today sided with the Russian Federation, instead of those EU clowns? You would be on the winning side this time. I really feel sorry for Italy, you are such nice people. I really love Italy. A beautiful country with friendly, outgoing people. So my advice is this: side with Russia – you will finally be on the winning side. You will have plenty of gas, oil and everything else you need. Get out of the EU. They are not for your best.

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  21. giomag59 dijo:

    I wonder a world without sides… but It seems this Is not possible. In my opinion EU had to act for the peace, not for the war; quarrell between Russia and Ukraine should be resolved since 2014. But now, I fear that this war Will continue again many months. About our position, I think that our National interest Is not in sanctions, Is not in sending other weapons, but working for negotiation. But we are a little country; we lost the IIwar, as you well know, and are chained very strong to Usa and Nato. At the beginning of 90′ we expect an era of peace, but immediatly After the fall of the Wall begin a series of wars… I have a feeling of Great delusion.

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  22. No, it is not possible, unfortunately, there is no world without sides. There will always be unions and blocks. At least the world now is «multipolar», to use the Russian President’s expression. There are different ways of life, not only the «right way to live». I am sorry for all those people living in the EU, these are occupied countries, they are not free in their choices. The EU is a dictatorial entity, enslaving the nations that belong to it.

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  23. Stalingrad / Volgograd:

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  24. Stalingrad / Volgograd, Mamaev Kurgan:

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  25. Stalingrad / Volgograd, Mamaev Kurgan:

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  26. Stalingrad / Volgograd, Mamaev Kurgan:

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  27. almerighi dijo:

    The battle of Stalingrad was, together with the battle of El Alamein, the crucial moment of the Second World War, the beginning of the end for the Nazi-fascist aggressor. I remember some films that talk about it, The enemy at the gates is the best. Hi Olivia!

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  28. Thank you for the comment, Flavio. So you like to watch films about that difficult period of time. It is good to have such films.

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  29. Remembering the Battle of Stalingrad:

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  30. Ce fut une bataille décisive et le début de la fin pour l’armée allemande.
    Comme nous avons peu appris des guerres du passé, des vies humaines perdues…
    On dit «homo homini lupus est». Et c’est vrai, l’histoire humaine en est la preuve.
    Salutations.

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  31. Giannis Pit dijo:

    I really do not know what kind of «lessons» they are taught in their schools, Olivia.
    The truth is that nobody can change it. There are thousands of tribunal comments in Western Europe in older days.

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  32. I find some of the western rhetoric rather aggressive, Giannis. And there are lots of people to believe it.

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  33. Merci, mirada.
    Oui, heureusement, ce fut le début de la fin pour l’Allemagne fasciste. Un cauchemar du passé.

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  34. Giannis Pit dijo:

    It’s simple, my dear. Let’s read again history. Who were the people who fought the Nazis with huge sacrifices? The USSR, Greece, Poland, Serbia, China…

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  35. True, Giannis. Thank you for reminding me.

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  36. Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov / Василий Иванович Чуйков:

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  37. Маршал Советского Союза, дважды Герой Советского Союза. В Великую Отечественную войну командовал рядом армий, в том числе 62-й армией в Сталинградской битве.

    Marshal of the Soviet Union, twice Hero of the Soviet Union. During the Great Patriotic War, he commanded a number of armies, including the 62nd Army in the Battle of Stalingrad.

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  38. Rendra Topan dijo:

    Nice share, including the comments

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  39. Thank you, Rendra Topan.

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  40. Soviet sniper Vasily Zaitsev, «Every German feared him»:

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  41. Soviet sniper Vasily Zaitsev:

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  42. Бой идёт не ради славы, ради жизни на земле. / The battle is not for the sake of glory, for the sake of life on earth.

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  43. Interessante articolo della storia della Russia e della storia della battaglia di Stalingrado. Interessanti i video a correlarne i vari avvenimenti. E’ risaputo, ogni paese ha la sua storia dei gravi episodi accaduti in quel periodo. Un articolo che ho letto con piacere. Ti auguro uno splendido Week end estivo, a risentirci. Grazia! 😊💐

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  44. Это правда, у каждой страны были тяжелые времена, в том числе и у России. Спасибо за добрые слова, Грация. Всего наилучшего и хороших выходных.💐

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  45. Very interesting, the battle of Stalingrad, General Chuikov, his tactic,»hugging the enemy», Operation Venus, Vasily Zaitsev fought with full patriotic feelings…thanks a lot for sharing this story.

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  46. Thank you for your kind words, Tara.
    I am glad you liked this article about the Battle of Stalingrad. Actually, it is not just a story, it is a report on a historical event that was important not only for the Soviet Union but for the entire world. The Soviets saved the world from Nazi fascism.
    It has been a while since you last visited me. I hope everything is well with you and wish you all the best.
    I am having a look at your blog, once in a while, but have not seen a new post for a long time. I always liked your drawings and hope that you will continue ….

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  47. I am busy with other home responsibilities but at night I usually read your interesting blog to gain knowledge.Thanks.

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  48. Thank you for reading my articles at night, Tara.
    I hope you will continue with your drawings on your own blog, too. It would be a shame to let this talent go to waste. I always feel sorry for women who are so involved in their daily home duties that they have no time left for their pursuit of writing, painting, dancing or whatever the activities might be that they are talented in.
    I am wishing you all the best, with friendly greetings from Moscow.

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  49. Yogesh D dijo:

    This Russian history is really awesome! thank you ma’am for sharing it. nice post ma’am👌👌🙏🌻😊

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  50. Thank you for liking my article, dear Yogesh. Russian history is truly awesome, full of surprises, full of ups and downs. Have a good day.

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