The men who hoisted the victory flag
Yevgeny Khaldei’s famous photo, Raising a flag over the reichstag, depicts a man holding the victory banner of the soviet union and hoisting it atop the reichstag of the now vanquished german war machine, with a wide, symbolic view of the wartorn city and two other soldiers. While the men in it are still disputed (as is the photographer who only surfaced after the fall of the union), it is considered one of the most important wartime photographies and of history alike, depicting a legendary moment.
The flag, reading
150th Rifle, Kutuzov’s order 2nd class, Idritsk Division, 79th Rifle Corps, 3rd Shock Army, 1st Byelorussian Front, was mounted by :
(Not pictured) Oleksiy Prokopovich Berest (Ukrainian Олексій Прокопович Берест, Russian
Алексей Прокопьевич Берест), 1921-1970, was a politruk (political officer), born of a rather troublesome childhood, in a wealthy family, orphaned as early as eleven, and following to be raised by his older sisters (The Berest family had as much as fifteen children, of whom seven died prematurely). Posing as a colonel in Berlin, he negotited with the reichstag garrison. The troublesome part took again, as he did not receive an award for unknown reasons (the others did), was discharged out of army, and also served jail time for embezzlement.
Berest died of injuries, caused by getting run over by a train while saving a child strayed off on a railway, at november 3 1970, dying at the age of 49. Only one photograph of him remain.
(Pictured right) Mikhail Alekseyevich Yegorov (Russian
Михаил Алексеевич Егоров), 1923-1975, was a rather obscure soldier. Joined a partisan, then as a dairy worker after retirement, following to be killed in a traffic accident.
(Pictured left) Meliton Kantaria (Georgian მელიტონ ქანთარია, Russian
Мелитон Варламович Кантария
, Meliton Varlamis dze [Varlamovich] Kantaria), 1920-1993, was a soviet sergeant of georgian origin, conscripted in 1940, previously working in a kolkhoz. Wounded in the georgian war of secession, he and his family flew to moscow, dying in a hospital one year later. His house (pictured last), is shown destroyed during the fighting.
BONUS FUCKING FACT : Berest, Kantaria and Yegorov were actually second to mount the flag atop the reichstag. Out of the nine given to the armed group, the first was hoisted by Mikhail Petrovich Minin (1922-2008), two days before the aforementioned three (30 april). Minin was recognised for the feat, and was promised, as were his men, Hero of the soviet union decoration, but were instead given the lower Order of the redbanner. In lack of photographic evidence, nor he, neither his men, gained fame and lived in relative obscurity. until five decades earlier, prized by Boris Yeltsin.
Minin reported in 1945:
Running in front was Giya Zagitov, who had a flashlight with him. That flashlight helped us to pass through the damaged stairs. All the corridors linked to the stairs were cleared by grenades and long submachine gun bursts.
Right before reaching the attic I tore a one and half meter pipe off the wall to serve as a flagpole. After reaching the spacious attic, we faced the problem of getting to the roof. Again G. Zagitov found a solution – with his flashlight he noticed in the darkness a heavy winch and two chains going to the top. We climbed the chains and then through a tiny window got out to the roof somewhere on the western side of the building. There near a barely noticeable column Zagitov and I began setting up our Red Banner. Suddenly an explosion lighted up the roof and Lisimenko found our old reference-point – a sculpture of a bronze horse and a large woman in a crown. It was immediately decided to set the banner on the sculpture.
The guys raised me onto the horse’s back which shook from the explosions, and then I fixed the banner right in the crown of the bronze giantess.
We checked the time. It was 22:40 local time.