WebWarrior: RKKA in the World War II
Each month, I, the �WebWarrior’, will be bringing you an in depth look at the armchair historians who are responsible for propagating the growth of, and interest in, military history online. I will introduce these �web warriors’ in the hopes of forging a more interactive relationship between them and you, readers of the Armchair General magazine. So, let’s get to it…
Aleksei (Alex) lives in Moscow, a city representing an entire country so steeped in history it can be felt simply by the mention of its name. He does his part to help spread a portion of that history around the world through his website, RKKA in the World War II.
Alex said he can’t remember exactly when it was his interest in military history began, but that he was around four or five years of age, living in the town of Ljubertsy (a region of Moscow) where he was born. He used to read children’s books on World War II, but it was in the early 1980′s when he became really involved in the subject.
"In 1982 I was in a summer camp (Lesnaya Opushka-�Edge of a Wood’) which was placed on territory where combats of Moscow defensive operation in 1941 had took place. It was very interesting for me to observe the traces of war: shell-holes, destroyed buildings, old blindages and other things. At school I started to collect more serious books on the same theme."
Alex said that the books during that time in Russia were very poorly done, had many restrictions on what could be written within, and were way too high-priced. His personal library grew very slowly. He mostly bought old memoirs that were selling at extremely low prices.
Once he graduated from the Cybernetics Department of Mendeleev University of Chemical Technology of Russia (with Honors) in 1997, he was able to increase the growth of his military historical knowledge with access to more and better books.
"That time an idea of creating my own site appeared, but I wasn’t sure in my abilities. I started browsing Internet from 1996, so I could name myself an experienced Internet user."
Alex has not had any formal military history training. Moreover, he said, he finished school with marks of �3′ in History and English (on a 2 through 5 scale). He hasn’t had any official computer training. Like many of us, he taught himself.
"I started programming from 1987 (on programmable calculator)", he said. "Then I proceeded in 1988 on microcomputer. It was a huge apparatus with dozen of terminals. And only later in 1991 I began using personal computers."
It was with that microcomputer that Alex said he began to see how he could put his computer skills together with his love for military history. "I found a documentation on computer game "Empire" on that type of machine. I wasn’t lucky to play in it using computer, but I created my own card board game with the same name, but with much more units. I realized there were aviation, navy, infantry and armored units of different types."
"But this game was so long to play and so hard to calculate unit production, that I started to use my pocket computer for auxiliary operations. This was my first experience in compiling two interests. The decision to make a serious site about history appeared gradually."
Alex made his first website 1998-1999, he can’t remember exactly, he said. "It was quite primitive and consisted of only one page about myself. Later it was rebuilt and exists until now. If you try, you can even find it in the net."
The creation of his current website began when he noticed the dire lack of true information in Western websites regarding the Soviet Union’s role in World War II.
"A(t) that time I was fond of "East Front II" game (and even now play in it, but too rarely). The last drop became a question on the forum of this game in which the author asked about such tanks as T-46 (which never took part in combats) and named that as a serial one. After answering to him I decided to make a small section about the weapons of the RKKA. As such info was widely presented in the Russian net segment, I determined to make only English version of site. From that time it grown up and now contains much more sections. All of them appeared from the questions of my visitors."
Aside from some friends who have helped in translating and correcting some materials he has posted to his site, the only other help he gets to build it are the questions people pose to him about Russian military history.
"As usual, I never write articles myself. I only translate and compose them from those materials I obtain. Sometimes my friends help me in doing this, but the number of my assistants is not much."
Alex said that from his early childhood, he has been interested in two military historical questions concerning the red Army: 1) How the Germans lost to the Soviets, even after taking so much Russian territory (the Caucasus, Leningrad, and Moscow), and 2) Who or what was responsible for the unexpected German aggression that caused the war in the first place. In searching for these answers, the computer has been an invaluable aid.
"I use computer for storage of that huge amount of info I obtain. And I use it for getting interesting materials from the net and contacting with my friends worldwide. Initially my site was designed for help others, but now I hope it have expanded from simple reference for game scenario designers into good net resource for all, who are interested in the military history."
During the early days of his site, Alex said it would get only a couple of visitors a day. Now it regularly gets 70 � 100 hits a day, with peaks of around 150 hits. "I also noticed that people from large amount of different countries have visited my site (but most visitors are from the USA)."
When he’s not working one of his two jobs, or visiting the Museum of the Russian Army near his home, Alex said he is constantly working on adding new information to his website.
"After some research I found out that most of my visitors are interested in two battles – Stalingrad and Kursk ones. Of course I have took this into account and am trying to provide more materials on these battles. "
"The site structure is almost completed. The only two things I want to improve are searching script improvement and creating of site map. Unfortunately my site design program creates incorrect code while automatic site map creation. And this is the only reason why this one isn’t still constructed."
Alex said he will be uploading a few hundred maps he has lying around, but it will be a difficult task, since a lot of them are of poor quality. He’s going to also add a multimedia section to the website, where he will present famous songs of the World War II era, along with a couple of movies he hopes to make about Russian military museums.
And after that, Alex said he’ll be reducing the number of updates to the website, because he wants "to have a good rest on summer." A well-deserved one, no doubt about it.
You can find the link to Alex’s RKKA in the World War II website by clicking on the Armchair General Links link on our front page. Alex himself can usually be seen floating around in the Armchair General Forum (where he’s known as Amvas) in the Hosted Sites section.
Stay Alert, Stay Alive!
Jim H. Moreno
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