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Is it true that ‘War will write off everything’? Paintings and the most discussed book by Leonid Rabichev.

Is it true that ‘War will write off everything’? Paintings and the most discussed book by Leonid Rabichev.

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Leonid Rabichev (1923-2017) - a war veteran, writer, artist, poet, whose book ‘The War will write off everything’ caused considerable public outcry and left no one indifferent. Many praised it: Rabichev was one of the first to write the truth about the war, presented Soviet soldiers not as poster heroes, but as ordinary people in difficult circumstances and at a cruel time with their fears, base, but no less natural desires. As it often happens, in the opinion of some readers, some of the most acute episodes, in particular, about violence against German women, pushed the general message of the book into the background, and they joined the chorus of dissatisfied: ‘how could you write such a thing about our soldiers, it could not be anything like that’. In this article, based on Rabichev's real interview, we will try to understand what was really going on at that time.


Leonid was born in the village of Kraskovo near Moscow, after school he started to study at the Moscow Law University, when the Great Patriotic War began, despite the reservation, he decided to join the army. He was sent to study to be a signalman, and after studying in the rank of lieutenant was sent to the front. Rabichev about the war years and his participation in the war said simply: ‘I served as a signalman at the headquarters with the rank of eternal lieutenant, for the whole war did not kill a single German, and we had a different task - to ensure communication, which I tried to do, despite no shelling. The job was hard: in a trench at least you know where they are shooting from and you can shoot back, but a signalman crawls in full view of everyone, under the aim of snipers, hoping only for luck’. Rabichev had to endure and experience a lot, the fact that he survived and went through the war can be called a miracle, and he, like no one else, had the right to tell the whole truth, whatever it was.

Trench muses

Once in 1942, according to Rabichev's recollections, his platoon was ordered to lay 40 kilometres of telephone cable in 2 days and to set up observation posts on the heights. There were only 48 men in the command, most of whom ‘had never smelled gunpowder at all’ and had joined the army from prisons and camps for thievery and hooliganism. They knew nothing about communication, so they had to be trained personally. It took Rabichev a whole month to turn the former criminals into communicators. And when the order came out, they received machine guns, grenades and rifles, but for some reason there were no cables in the warehouse. Rabichev went to his commander and reported this, but he heard back: ‘you have received an order, fulfil it, if you don't fulfil it, we will shoot you’.

Landscape with a church

In complete prostration Rabichev came to his subordinates, but they were not frightened by the terrible order, rather cheered up. ‘Don't worry, it will soon be dark, we'll get you a cable, it's usually the case - there's an army telephone line nearby, everyone does it.’ Accustomed to everything former criminals at night quickly privatised several kilometres of cables from the telephone lines of the second echelon, laid them where the commander demanded, and in the morning, praying that the theft had not yet been discovered, Rabichev went to report on the completed order. ‘Well done,’ praised the commander, ‘you can do it when you want to.’

Bus on route 22

After the war, Rabichev studied at the art faculty of the Moscow Polygraphic Institute, and afterwards illustrated books and painted pictures. Gradually he became his own in the creative environment, was admitted to the Union of Artists of the USSR, was engaged in the studio ‘New Reality’, whose members preached avant-garde art, and in 1962 presented his paintings at an exhibition.

An abstract composition

Only it was visited by Nikita Khrushchev, who was very dissatisfied with what he saw. The reprisal came quickly, and it affected Rabichev: he was expelled from the Union of Artists, and a serious career had to be forgotten. However, he still continued to work in his speciality, created many excellent illustrations, and designed many books, some of which were recognised as ‘The Best Book of the Year’.

The apple of knowledge

However, when mentioning Rabichev, of course, most people remember his memoirs ‘The war will write off everything’, in particular the episodes where it is stated how Soviet soldiers committed war crimes en masse and ‘almost on the roadside under the guidance of senior officers raped captured Germans’. According to the official position, in particular, historians Budnitsky and Sinyavskaya: ‘all of Rabichev's information does not correspond to reality, and is recognised only to denigrate the feat of Soviet soldiers’. But there is another opinion, although now they try not to talk about it unnecessarily.

And what do you think, whether Rabichev wrote the truth and whether it is worth mentioning all these ‘skeletons in wardrobes’ at all - write in the comments.

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