A common misconception in Western historiography of WWII is that the Red Army was Russian. The term “Russians” was interchangeable with “Soviet” during the existence of the USSR. In actual fact, Russians made up only 55-60 percent of the population of the USSR. This meant that 40-45 percent were non-Russian. These demographic figures were reflected in the ethnic makeup of the Red Army. While it is true that Russians were given preponderance in the officer corps, to call the Red Army “Russian” is simply to miss the point.

In actual fact, non-Russian nationalities served in the Red Army in great numbers. Seven million Ukrainians served in the Red Army, and made important contributions not only in battles in Ukraine but also in Russia – the surrender of General Paulus’ 6th Army at Stalingrad was accepted by a Ukrainian general. All told, some 7 million Ukrainians served in the Red Army, including over 350 Marshals and Generals.

The bitter irony of the Ukrainian predicament was that Ukrainians fought on all sides of the conflict between Germany and the USSR. Often, members of the same family found themselves on opposite sides of the battlefield. Ukrainians also fought their countrymen in the struggle between the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and Soviet forces. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to view the Eastern front of WWII as, in a sense, a civil war that pitted Ukrainians against Ukrainians.