Sadly, we see history repeating itself. The Russians (resurgent Soviets) are trying to expand their borders by violence.
Czarist Russia was unabashedly imperialistic. However, their successors, the Russian Communists combined their hunger for new conquests with unbelievable brutality.
C.S. Lewis viewed them with the distrust they merited. At the beginning of the Second World War, the Russians played the Allies for fools when they signed a nonaggression pact with the Nazis, so the two countries could carve up poor Poland between them.
The following month, in September of 1939, Lewis referred to the ominous event in a letter to his brother Warnie, who was a career soldier. First, however, he describes the situation with evacuee children who were living at the Kilns.
The nicest of our evacuated girls (the Rose Macaulay one) has been taken away by a peripatetic lip-sticked mother who has changed her mind, and been replaced by an Austrian Jewess (aged about 16) whom the school warned us against as difficult: but so far neither Minto nor Maureen nor I can find any fault in her.
The house has shaken down into its ‘war-economy’ quite well, and indeed the children are incomparably less of a nuisance than [other guests] with whom we have often been afflicted in peacetime.
To-day is a bad day because we have just heard the news about Russia and poor Minto, for the moment, regards this as sealing the fate of the allies–and even talked of buying a revolver!
That December, he mentioned Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Finland in another missive to his brother Warnie. In the letter he refers to some old story told by their father, that was of special, humorous recollection to the brothers.
Well, Brother, (as the troops say) it’s a sad business not to have you with me to-morrow morning-and not to have the January walk ahead. The most cheerful thing at present (oddly enough) is the News. Russia’s attempt to do to Finland what Germany did to Poland reminds me of your father’s story of the “great bosthoon”* whom his athletic friend took out for the run and who tried to imitate him in jumping the flax-pond-one of those of his wheezes whose point lay wholly in his telling.
During the brief “Winter War,” Finland inflicted severe casualties on the Soviet invaders, despite being vastly outnumbered. Despite their heroic defense, Finland was forced to surrender some of their territory to the Soviets.
During World War Two, the Western allies (primarily Britain, the U.S., and France) liberated countries from Nazi oppression.
The Soviets, in contrast, simply changed the nationality of the victims’ oppressors. They regarded the nations devastated by the Germans as new conquests. And, rather than helping them reestablish their independent governments, the Communists absorbed the areas they could, and set up puppet regimes in nations they could not manage to digest.
When the collapse of the Soviet Union finally left Eastern Europeans with a chance at freedom, most fled from behind the Iron Curtain.
In 1950, only a half a decade after the global war’s end, another major war was erupting. The Korean War pitted another Communist aggressor (China) against the democracy in South Korea. Soviet troops covertly joined the North Korean forces, flying early generation MiG-15s. (It is the modern MiG-29 that Poland is hoping to transfer at the present time to Ukraine.)
Despite the Soviet denials, the Korean Conflict pitted the two great world powers in a battle that could well have erupted into a wider conflict.
The concern expressed by C.S. Lewis in the following letter was common among those who were still reeling from WWII’s violence. In June of 1950 Lewis wrote to thank an American friend for food sent to supplement the postwar rationing.
For once, the all absorbing topic of food has been swept into the background by the dreadful news from the Far East. The only gleam of satisfaction is that all of us feel that your prompt action may still save us from a third war; it has at least saved us from a second Munich, and there are hints in our papers today that Russia will very likely back down–but start probing for a ‘soft spot’ elsewhere: Burma, Cochin-China, or even Europe. One can but pray.
In 1950 Lewis prayed, as all Christians should, for a de-escalation and peace.
Seventy years later, events in Ukraine clearly reveal that Russian rulers still long to conquer their neighbors. While we pray for peace, the world dare not close its eyes to the specter of Putin’s resurrected Soviet empire.
- Bosthoon is an Irish word for an ignorant or uncouth boy or man. The inference is that the initial failure of the Soviet invasion revealed their foolhardiness.