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It's Too Early To Forgive Vlasov

Published: November 6, 2001 (Issue # 719)



  • Vlasov at a German POW camp in 1942.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

MOSCOW - Mention the name Vlasov to an ordinary Russian and one word will pop into mind: traitor.

Ask whether history should smile down on Lieutenant General Andrei Vla sov, the Soviet commander who defected to the Germans in World War II, and the ground would be laid for hours of heated debate. Several generations of young Soviet students were taught to hate Vlasov as a traitor who turned his back on the fatherland at a time when defenders were most needed.

These days, the line is growing blurred as evidence mounts that Vlasov may have changed sides in a bid to give his countrymen a better life than the one they had under Stalin.

But the story is apparently not far enough in the past to forgive and forget the man whose life and deeds are still largely seen through a cloud of political agendas and historical cover-ups.

The country's top military court refused Thursday to rehabilitate Vlasov, who was convicted of state treason and hanged in 1946 after being turned over by the Allies a year earlier.

The appeal of the original conviction was launched by the small monarchist group For Faith and Fatherland.

"Vlasov was a patriot who spent much time re-evaluating his service in the Red Army and the essence of Stalin's regime before agreeing to collaborate with the Germans," one of the group's leaders, suspended Orthodox priest Nikon Belavenets, was quoted as saying in the Gazeta newspaper.

But judges at the Military Collegium were less supportive of Vlasov's methods of combating oppression at home.

"The truth is that although some argue that he was fighting against the Soviet regime and, thus, should not be seen as a traitor, by doing so he also fought against the state and the people. And this is treason," said Nikolai Pe tuk hov, chairperson of the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court and deputy chairperson of the Supreme Court.

Vlasov was born in 1900 in the Vla di mir Region. The son of a wealthy peasant, he was drafted into the Red Army in 1919 and became a career officer. He joined the Communist Party in 1930.

From 1941 until his defection to German Army in July 1942, Vlasov was a key commander in defending Kiev and Moscow. It is unclear whether he was captured, as Western history books say, or surrendered, as Soviet books say.

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