Well, at least initial "spark" came from the interest generated from eastern front themed games and, more significantly, certain sims.
Let me explain:
See, I'm a happy-go-lucky Westerner (***coughAmericancough***). I was born in Germany in 1970, but now live in the United States. All my school years were spent here in the States. When it came time to read the history books, particularly those that chronicle the period of WWII, virtually all of the reading and lectures was about the action over the pacific, western Europe, and maybe a little bit about north Africa. If anything at all, there was ever little more than a minor footnote about what was going on between Berlin and Moscow. In fact, I didn't even know (and was never taught) that, during world war 2, there was a full scale, all-out, fight-to-end-all-fights between the Soviet Union and Germny - until AFTER high school! For example, the division of Germany and Berlin between the allies after the war was detailed without clearly explaining how Stalin got to Germany in the first place! He just conveniently happened to be there, I guess.
Now some of that has to do with the relatively poor quality of public education in most inner-city, urban environments within the U.S. However, the almost total lack of information regarding the eastern front in the western world during the '80s was largely influenced by the global politics of the era; namely, the cold war between the United States/NATO, and the Soviet Union/Warsaw Pact. There was simply no freakin' way the "board of censors" - so to speak - within the U.S. was going to tell the tale of another nation's heroic struggle against it's foe, especially when that struggling hero is your current enemy! And I'm sure that until the wall came crashing down, the CCCP wasn't terribly enthusiastic about releasing accurate figures about the horrible, nearly incomprehensible losses territory, people, and stuff it absorbed during this conflict, either.
But enough of politics. On to my point...
My first real exposure to the Great Patriotic War occured, incredibly, and not "brown-nosingly", when I bought my copy of Forgotten Battles way back in, what, 2003 or something? (I bought the original IL-2 Sturmovik after I bought FB, just to complete the physical collection). Anyway, while looking sideways and crosseyed at all the featured maps, trying hard to figure out how to pronounce all these brymnooptyma-skoyes dotting the landcape, I was curious and wondered, "Who the hell came up with the bright idea to do a game on this part of the world?!?! Except the people who actually live there, who could even find these regions on a globe? Sheesh nothing happened there!"
"Idiots" I thought, as I led my schwarm south to Sevastopol on a sweep at 4000 meters...
Well, four years and a huge, huge stack of books and BBC DVDs later, suffice it to say that I had a feast of dining on my own left foot upon realizing who the real idiot was, albeit born out of honest ignorance.
The war in the east was faught with more bitterness and hatred, and was arguably the most destructive in history. It certainly killed the most people...
Just wanted to send a shout-out to Oleg and his crew for furthering the promise of higher edumacation.
I'll second that...you'd think the Canadian education system would have a more balanced view of history but I think we often get caught up so much with the American worldview that our history teachers react by teaching only Canadian history and forget to talk about other things sometimes. WWI and WWII are always about Canadian contributions...which are important since everyone else forgets about them and significant because of their impact on the war...but I would have liked to know about everyone else too.
So my knowledge and understanding of WWII and the Eastern Front has largely come about because of this game. All I knew before that were some vague details and several pages in one aviation book about the IL-2. So I knew the plane but very little about what it actually meant. As far as significant aircraft go...I didn't really understand that the IL-2 was likely to the Russians as the Spitfire is to Commonwealth nations (Britain in particular but also Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and others).
I know first hand what you guys are talking about when you say the educational system sucks because i am a junior in high school and i happen to have a history class called "world war 2".(its a required history class to graduate).
The book's suck because they fail to mention all that happened and only teach on whats the Americans did. It has nice details but only for the English or American contribution's to the war.
The chapters one the Eastern Front were written by a monkey(i swear), Because no average historian would make this many mistakes and fail to mention all the important stuff, including the siege of Leningrad or the battle of Kursk to mention a few.
The teacher who teaches the class doesn't really care, he only teaches what he was told, weather he is right or wrong.
When i asked him why there is almost nothing on the eastern front, he almost had no clue on what i was talking about.
I think a frikin ape could do a better job than he does. Even the substitute teacher we had today knew more about the war that he does.
I agree with the original post. I was born in 1969 so we probably were taking the same level US History class at about the same time.
Looking back there was very little 'world view' mixed with our American history lectures until discussions of Cold War politics made the Marshall Plan and Berlin Airlift important. (Boo, hiss, Communism!) I'm sure my flat-topped history teacher (a Viet Nam veteran and a Lt.Colonel in the Army Reserves) felt it was in our nation's best interest to minimize any discussions about Russia that didn't end with the words "Evil Empire." Besides, he seemed more interested in the Pacific War.
I recently student-taught at a high school that combines their World History and US History courses so kids study them in tandem. We started with the 1870s and we were on the eve of WWII when I left. For the first time in my life I actually understood Imperialism, the total warfare that was WWI, and the foundations of Socialism and Communism throughout the world. If nothing else, studying world geography had more relevance.
It`s the same with me. IL2 was an education for the 36 year old when I first came across it. Sure, everyone knew something about British aircraft, American aircraft and German, but what of the Russians?
I`m ashamed to say that my western-washed view was simply that the Ruskies had lots of men and overwhelmed the Germans, what aircraft they had were biplanes, nothing more. When I saw the Zwilling He111, HS 129 and the HE162 , I had to rush to a book in the library cos I thought they were made up!
This Sim has EDUCATED me because it got me interested, I then started reading books on the Russian war with the German- books like Stalingrad by Anthony Beavor. Not only did I discover the massive array of aircraft that went up in WWII, but also the incredible cost the Russians suffered in their fight against the Germans and the fact that 80% of German losses were on this front!
It`s really quite shocking when you realise that the Russians get almost no recognition for taking the full brunt of German aggresive resources.
I`ll be always thankful to IL2 for starting it all off.
I went through high school in the 70's not knowing much about the eastern front. It was just a place Colonel Klink was afraid of being sent to!
I saw the movie "Cross Of Iron" in the late 70's and that got me interested.
I then read "Enemy At The Gates" a year or two later. Since then I've read a lot about the eastern front.
I'm pretty new to this sim but am really glad someone made the effort to feature this part of the war.