The Soviet Union’s defeat of the Nazis forms a pillar of modern Russian identity and has been increasingly celebrated by Moscow to stoke patriotism. The agreement was a non-aggression pact between Germany and the Soviet Union that was intended to ensure that neither country attacked the other. They were able to use machinery instead of people and wait until Germany was weakened before they landed at Normandy. BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. On 22 June 1941, some three million soldiers of Germany and her allies began an attack on the Soviet Union. The Soviet state was transformed in the process into a superpower, and Communism, close to extinction in the autumn of 1941, came to dominate the whole Eurasian area, from East Germany to North Korea. It started with Russia totally disadvantaged, but the turn-around was awesome, as Stalin's war machine revved into action. The air force was subjected to effective central control and improved communications, so that it could support the Soviet army in the same way as the Luftwaffe backed up German forces. Hitler gave similar orders to his army, firing several generals in part because they counseled him otherwise. OPERATION 'BARBAROSSA' On 18 December 1940 Hitler issued Führer Directive 21, an order for the invasion of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union. The Nazi government aimed at repopulating these lands with Germanic colonists during World War II and thereafter, establishing the Greater Germanic Reich. Find out more about how the BBC is covering the. Stalin relaxed the repression of the Church so that it could be used to mobilise enthusiasm, while propaganda played on the theme of past Russian glories against European invaders, rather than on Communist successes. Despite the lessons you might take from Hollywood movies or from your history textbook, a reasonable argument could be made that the Soviet Union did more – in terms of damage to the enemy, as well as sacrifice of its own people and resources – than any other country in the victorious side of World War II, including the United States. The Red Army was fortunate that in 1942 Stalin finally decided to play a less prominent role in defence planning and discovered in a young Russian general, Georgi Zhukov, a remarkable deputy whose brusque, no-nonsense style of command, and intuitive operational sense, were indispensable in making the Red Army a better battlefield force. This war was supposed to be over in a matter of months, but it lasted for four years, and grew into the largest and most costly conflict in all history. The Russians NEEDED another front or they would have negotiated a cease fire. Poll: US did more than UK and USSR to defeat Nazi Germany. This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. The UK and US jointly did about as much to defeat Nazi Germany as the Soviet Union. They did not have to fight a war of attrition involving millions of soldiers. A child waves the Soviet style flag during the Victory Day military parade, 2017. level 1. Following the official parade comes the semi-official March of the Immortal Regiment. In June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Stalin believed that his understanding with Hitler would last, and he became complacent. Despite deep-seated mistrust and hostility between the Soviet Union and the Western democracies, Nazi Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 created an instant alliance between the Soviets and the two greatest powers in what the Soviet leaders had … Some 70-80 percent of German combat forces were destroyed by the Soviet military on the Eastern front. Soviet resistance made possible a successful Allied invasion of France, and ensured the final Allied victory over Germany. Whatever the root cause, the United States commenced a fifty year Cold War with the Soviet Union, in which the US’s one-time ally against Nazi Germany became its primary global rival. The date of 22 June was late for starting a campaign over such a vast area, but German commanders were confident that the Soviet armed forces were primitive, and that the Soviet people were waiting for liberation. On May 2, 1945, the Soviets captured Berlin, helping to end World War II in Europe. Stalin commanded his troops, “Not one step back,” and assigned special units to round up and execute any who disobeyed. During World War I Lenin, living in neutral Switzerland, agitated for Russia’s defeat. Soviets would not have surrendered and Stalin was not hated in Soviet Union. Learn more about Operation Barbarossa in this article. The Soviet people were the instrument of their own redemption from the depths of war.”, The Soviet push back against the Germans was long, costly, and brutal. The Soviet Union survived only by mobilizing two-thirds of its women to run the factories and farms, and by modernizing its armed forces so that it did not have to rely any longer on raw numbers of men, but could rely, like the American army, on mass-produced weapons… The evacuation saved the Soviet war effort […] from certain disaster.”. Among the diploma-decorated dick-heads of western "academia," the "consensus" is that it was the Soviet Union which defeated Germany in World War II -- with the contributions of the United States and the United Kingdom being minimal. Stalin’s effort to strengthen the USSR manifested itself as a series of nationwide centralized Five-Year Economic Plans from 1929 onward. Still, the initial improving relations with Germany meant that the Soviet Union could expand its territory in Eastern Europe unmolested into the Baltic States. But the speed at which Britain in particular was willing and able to provide aid to the Soviet Union, and at which the Soviet Union was able to put foreign equipment into frontline use, is still an underappreciated part of this story. German–Soviet Union relations date to the aftermath of the First World War.The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, dictated by Germany ended hostilities between Russia and Germany; it was signed on March 3, 1918. U.S.-Soviet Alliance, 1941–1945 Although relations between the Soviet Union and the United States had been strained in the years before World War II, the U.S.-Soviet alliance of 1941–1945 was marked by a great degree of cooperation and was essential to securing the defeat of Nazi Germany. After the outbreak of war in 1939 came the added fear of Soviet expansion in Eastern Europe, while Germany was fighting the British Empire and France in the west. Not until June 1941 did Hitler launch his invasion of the Soviet Union—a state that posed a strategic threat to German domination of Europe as well as being an ideological rival and racial enemy. The Battle of Kursk in July 1943 was one of the greatest set-piece battles in military history. “If they want a war of extermination they shall have it,” Stalin proclaimed from Red Square. The Germany Army shrank in size & in offensive capability. It resulted more directly than any single American or British action in the destruction of the Third Reich. Death to the German invaders!”. These middle and high school lessons are designed to foster critical and historical thinking, greater cultural awareness, and a sense of wonder about the world and our place in it. It was a surprise attack that violated the Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty signed in 1939 between Germany and the Soviet Union. On April 20, 1945, Hitler’s birthday, the 1st Belorussian Front led by Marshal Georgy Zhukov, advancing from the east and north, started shelling Berlin’s city center, while Marshal Ivan Konev‘s 1st Ukrainian Front broke through Army Group Centre and advanced towards the southern suburbs of Berlin. Combined, a majority of Russians blamed the high casualties on Nazi Germany invading the Soviet Union in a surprise attack after it had signed a nonaggression pact (36 percent) or on Germany… Germany was concerned that Stalin would target the oil fields in Romania. In its scale of destruction, the war on the Eastern Front was unique; from Leningrad to the Crimea, from Kiev to Stalingrad, the Soviet Union was devastated - at least 25 million Soviet citizens died. On June 22, 1941, Germany launched its attack on the Soviet Union. A few months later, the German ambassador to Moscow, Wilhelm von Mirbach, was shot dead by Russian Left Socialist-Revolutionaries in an attempt to incite a new war between Russia and Germany. The invasion opened up the Eastern Front of World War II, the largest theater of war during that conflict, and it witnessed titanic clashes of unprecedented violence and destruction for four years that resulted in the deaths of nearly 27 million Soviet people. However, the main reason is Stalin's willingness to make any sacrifice of his own people to achieve victory. The three goals were essentially separate. There are a lot of complications such as Allied material support, key German military mistakes; even Soviet innovation. Stalin was famously distrustful of the outside world and expected further foreign wars because it was in the nature of imperialism, and because just after the Soviet Union was established, fourteen nations – all capitalist, all fearing the rise of communism – had sent troops to Russia in an attempt to destabilize the new communist government. By 1939 the city was responsible for 11% of all Soviet industrial output. The Eastern Front, as the site of nearly all extermination camps, death marches, ghettos, and the majority of pogroms, was central to the Holocaust. Which nation emerged as one economic superpower after World War II? In early April, the first Allied-governed Rheinwiesenlagerswere established in western Germany to hold hun… Many women joined the partisan movement operating behind the German lines - and by 1943 there were an estimated 300,000 of them. On the other hand, Stalin ordered the retreating Red Army to initiate a harsh scorched-earth policy to deny the Germans basic supplies as they advanced eastward toward the Soviet capital of Moscow. Over 80,000 Red Army officers were executed between 1937 and June 1941—including more than half the regiment commanders—so that inexperienced juniors had been thrust into positions of command.”, Within the first few days of the invasion, the Soviet High Command and Red Army were extensively reorganized so as to place them on the necessary war footing – but the damage was done, and the German blitzkrieg advanced deep into Soviet territory, with terrifying losses. In the same year, Soviet coal output was 75 million tons, while German output was 317 million. Both sides fought in effect a civil war - the Soviets against imperialist invaders, the Germans against Jewish Bolshevism. Over the course of the operation, about four million Axis personnel invaded the western Soviet Union along a 1,800 mile front, the largest invasion force in the history of warfare. The distance insulated Soviet industry, and despite the catastrophic loss of life, ensured that the Russian military would be well-supplied even as German factories were devastated by American and British aerial bombing. It is likely that the strategists in Washington were thinking on more or less similar lines.The conflicts between Churchill and Roosevelt on the question of D-day were of a political and not a military character. Find out how . Not until December 1940, however, did Hitler make a final decision to go ahead with what became known as Operation Barbarossa. April also witnessed the capture of at least 120,000 German troops by the Western Allies in the last campaign of the war in Italy. If the Red Army had continued to fight the same way, it would simply have sustained escalating losses for little gain. Over the course of the next week, the Red Army gradually took the entire city. Victory Day is May 9 in Russia – a national holiday commemorating the defeat of Nazi Germany on that date in 1945. Over 80% of the Wehrmacht's World War II casualties were suffered on the Eastern Front. The Soviet state was transformed in the process into a … The D-Day landing in France by American and British forces, which is often portrayed in the United States as a critically important military blow against Nazi Germany, was launched in June 1944 — that is, less than a year before the end of the war in Europe, and months after the great Soviet military victories at Stalingrad and Kursk, which were decisive in Germany’s defeat.”. The enemy will be beaten. And when they came to Europe they saw something very different from Stalinist Russia… especially Germany. Not only did Stalin’s Soviet Union play the key role in crushing Nazi Germany, its huge sacrifices saved the lives of countless American, British and Canadian soldiers. Most of the indigenous populations of Eastern Europe – Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, and other Slavic nations considered racially inferior and non-Aryan – would be removed permanently, either through mass deportation to Siberia, death, or enslavement. As the Red Army withdrew, the Soviet Stavka (high command) turned its attention to evacuating as much of the western regions’ iron, steel, and arms industry as it could. Hitler wrote, “The Slavs are born as a slavish mass, crying out for their master.” He continued, “I need the Ukraine, in order that no one is able to starve us again, like in the last war.”, All of this meant that the war with the USSR, when it came, was bound to be brutal, aimed not just at territorial conquest, as in France or Belgium, but at full extermination of the Russian people. Per treaty, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin followed suit, moving into eastern Poland soon after. Stalin’s third peace offer in May 1943 was a proposed ceasefire along the Soviet Union’s 1938 borders which would have effectively reversed the Hitler-Stalin Pact, while leaving the Germans in control of the Baltic states, eastern Finland, the eastern half of Poland and northeastern Romania all of which had been annexed by the Soviets from 1939–1940. In 2017, over 800,000 Russians and foreign attendees marched through central Moscow in commemoration of those who perished and those who survived World War II. Speculative History. They were characterized by unprecedented ferocity, wholesale destruction, mass deportations, and immense loss of life due to combat, starvation, exposure, disease, and massacres. Germany did not prepare for a long war. As historian Richard Overy writes, “It is a myth that the Soviet Union won the war because it had the endless spaces in the east from which to suck its manpower. Every area of Soviet military life was examined and changes introduced. Without Lend-Lease aid, however, from the United States and Britain, both of whom supplied a high proportion of food and raw materials for the Soviet war effort, the high output of weapons would still not have been possible. What country could be considered the MVP in the war to defeat Nazi Germany? Conditions were harsh for both sides, and losses were high. In order to secure raw materials, transit rights for German troops, and troop contributions for the invasion from sympathetic powers, Germany began to cajole and pressure the southeast European states to join the Axis. In the three to four months up to the end of April, over 800,000 German soldiers surrendered on the Eastern Front. It is marked annually by large scale military parades and a massive revival of Soviet symbolism such as red stars, victory medals, and the March of the Immortal Regiment commemorating veterans and fallen ancestors who participated in the Great Patriotic War. Lend-Lease aid did not “save” the Soviet Union from defeat during the Battle of Moscow. The siege of Leningrad is the most lethal siege in world history, and some historians speak of the siege operations in terms of genocide, as a “racially-motivated starvation policy” – part of the German war of extermination against populations of the Soviet Union generally, in which the Luftwaffe was ordered to intentionally target civilian food supplies, power plants, and water treatment facilities. Unlike in the West, Soviet war planners saw nuclear weapons as only the start of a conflict, not its end. This page has been archived and is no longer updated. They would not have remained idle if the Soviet Union marched into Germany (which might actually have happened if the Soviets had defeated Poland in the Russo-Polish War of 1920). The Red Army had sufficient reserves to stop the German army from completing the rout in December 1941, but the following summer German offensives launched far to the south of Moscow, to seize the rich oilfields of the Caucasus and to cut the Volga shipping route, created further chaos. ... had eliminated any hope Poland had of a Russian ally in a war against Germany. Damage to both the economy and landscape was enormous for the Soviet Union as approximately 1,700 towns and 70,000 villages were razed to the ground. Disinfectant trucks sprayed the streets in their wake, a propaganda message to the Russian people – the Germans seek to destroy you, but it is they who are the filthy vermin. The opening stages of the war seemed to bear out his prophecy. They became slave labor for the Soviet war effort or were executed outright, they starved alongside the Soviet people. Across the city over a million people were without homes. On one occasion in 1944, tens of thousands of captured German soldiers were paraded in defeat through the streets of Moscow. The harsh treatment of the Soviet population in those areas of Russia occupied by Germany made it easier for the Stalinist regime to mobilise support elsewhere in Russia for the war effort. Open Ended Social Studies is free, always growing, and collaborative – please check back and contribute often. This was arguably the USSR’s weakest hour, for her generals appeared to have learned little from 1941, and her newly raised legions were barely trained and woefully short of air support, artillery and modern armour. The cost to the Soviet Union was an estimated 27 million dead. In addition to stipulations of non-aggression, the treaty included a secret protocol that divided territories of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, and Romania, into German and Soviet “spheres of influence,” anticipating “territorial and political rearrangements” of these countries – coded language for a mutual military takeover and of these marginal countries at a near future date. The Western Allies were able to fight a different war than the Soviet Union. The United States receives the most credit for defeating Adolf Hitler's Germany during World War Two, according to a YouGov poll ... only to suffer a major defeat … The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. The Treaty of Non-aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics provided a written guarantee of non-belligerence by each country towards the other, and a declared commitment that neither government would ally itself to, or aid, an enemy of the other party. They even said so. The Soviets also destroyed or evacuated most of their rolling stock (railroad cars), thus depriving the Germans of the use of the Soviet rail system, since Soviet railroad track was of a different gauge than German track and German rolling stock was consequently useless on it. After all, if the Soviets represented the ultimate “Evil Empire” in the words of US president Ronald Reagan, then how could they have played such an indispensable role in winning World War II – the Good War, to preserve democracy, as the Americans told it? Throughout the 1930s the communist Soviet Union underwent massive industrialization and economic growth under the leadership of dictator Joseph Stalin. And yet, most of the events recounted here remain largely unknown outside of academic historians and World War II enthusiasts. A Soviet war correspondent gave his own vivid account from the front lines of Berlin: The garrison of troops defending Berlin consisted of several depleted and disorganized Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS divisions, along with poorly trained Volkssturm and Hitler Youth members. By the end of this invasion, he seemed discontent with what he had achieved. 1943 would vindicate one of these men. After achieving stunning success in the early months of the campaign, the attack stalled and the Soviets began to slowly push the Germans back. At the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Kursk, in particular, the Soviets managed to turn the tide of the war. East Germany, officially known as the German Democratic Republic, became the Soviet Union's foothold in Western Europe. Richard Overy explains how the Soviets turned disaster into a victory that led to the formation of a Communist superpower. The Untold History of the United States by Peter Kuznick. He wasn't hated in the USA, because thanks to Hollywood, he was "Uncle Joe". From this perspective, America’s secretive development and use of the atomic bomb, its aggressive implementation of economic aid through the Marshall Plan and under the Truman Doctrine; its attempts to reunify the German sectors so soon after the end of the war; its persistence in the Berlin Airlift; its formation of the NATO alliance, its first such binding military alliance outside of peace time in its entire history; its electoral manipulations in Korea; and its increased military spending as a result of 1950’s NSC-68 all sent a very clear message – America under the leadership of Harry Truman and successive US presidents was on the offensive, ready to expand its political and economic influence to the doorstep of the Soviet Union. Home. Stalin wanted what any leader would want for his country – stability and security. Soviet commander admits USSR came close to defeat by Nazis. The destruction battalions also burned down villages, schools, public buildings, and any other materials that might be useful to the enemy. More people died fighting on the Eastern Front than in any other fighting across the globe during World War II. The US did most of the work of defeating Imperial Japan, though. Patriotic Banner featuring the Ribbon of St. George, Moscow Metro, Victory Day 2017. The Soviet Union believed a divided Germany could not start another war. Germany moved several armored divisions into Poland and in December 1940 issued a directive for the invasion of the Soviet Union, codenamed Operation Barbarossa. Lend-Lease aid did not “save” the Soviet Union from defeat during the Battle of Moscow. Let’s do the numbers. They were the first to crush a major Nazi army. Some historians have seen this as the turning point of the war. In 1942 the remaining Jewish population was rounded up and killed on the spot or sent to extermination camps. (Moscow, Russia, 2017.). Economic destruction and human losses in Leningrad on both sides exceeded those of the Battle of Stalingrad, the Battle of Moscow, or the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Stalin did not want to risk war, though he hoped to profit from the German-British struggle if he could. The idea that the USSR had limitless manpower, despite its heavy losses, is inadequate as an answer. Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window), Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window), Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window), Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window), The Siege of Leningrad and the Battle of Stalingrad, Celebrate Victory Day and March with the Immortal Regiment, violent execution and exile of political rivals, repression of the more than hundred ethnic and nationalist groups in the fifteen Soviet republics, atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, controversial use of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991: A History, Call for Contributors -An Open Ended World History, A History of Criminalized Blackness in the United States (Free Lessons for Middle or High School Classrooms), Twenty Days of Home School Social Studies Curriculum (for Middle or High School). The USSR nevertheless out-produced Germany in the quantity (though seldom in the quality) of most major weapons, from this much smaller industrial base. (Red Square, Moscow, Russia, 2017. Soviet armies were always desperately short of men. Women fought in their thousands in the Soviet armed forces as pilots, sharpshooters, even tank commanders. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. The Soviets may have fought Germany for 4 years while Britain and France fought for 6 years but Germany lost more men in 1941 alone while fighting the Soviets than they did in 1939-41 fighting Britain and France. Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991: A History by Orlando Figes. If Hitler had defeated the Soviet Union, he would probably try to reach a peace deal with Britain and possibly then, and only then could he turn his attention to the USA. The German integration of air and ground forces, targeting of Soviet command posts and, above all, their speed, proved decisive. Whole factories were dismantled and transported on flatcars away from the front line for reassembly in more remote areas of the Ural Mountains, Caucasus, Central Asia and southeastern Siberia, far beyond the reaches of the rapid German advance. Stalin was warned by several sources of the imminent threat of a German invasi… Around 3:15 on the morning of June 22, 1941, Germany launched a sneak attack, bombing Russian positions and cities, and crossing into Soviet-occupied Poland. Barbarossa: The Russian-German Conflict of 1941-1945 by Alan Clark (Cassell Military Paperbacks, 2001), German-Russian War 1941-1945 by A Guillame (Naval & Military Press, 2003), German Battle Tactics on the Russian Front, 1941-1945 by Steven Newton (Schiffer, 1994), Stalingrad by Antony Beevor (Penguin, 1999), The Battle of Kursk: Operation Citadel 1943 (Classic Military History) by Robin Cross (Penguin, 2002). The countries entered a trade pact in 1940 by which the Soviets received German military equipment and trade goods in exchange for raw materials, such as oil and wheat, to help the Nazis circumvent a British blockade of Germany . Germany proved unable to defeat the Soviet Union, which together with Great Britain and the United States, seized the initiative from Germany. Perhaps he resented the fact that the Soviet Union was getting a lot of countries like Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia. Not only did Stalin’s Soviet Union play the key role in crushing Nazi Germany, its huge sacrifices saved the lives of countless American, British and Canadian soldiers. The Soviet will to win, which emerged painfully from the wreckage of Soviet fortunes before Stalingrad, was not a mere abstraction but a spur to efforts that both sides, Soviet and German, would have thought impossible a year before. By 1945 over half the workforce was female, and on the land, more than four-fifths. Ignoring the intelligence reports of the German military build-up, he had failed to prepare for war, while his terror had seriously weakened the army. Victory will be ours!”, Despite this rousing public face, historian Orlando Ferge writes that Stalin was badly shaken and that the Soviet Army was in poor condition to fight. Post was not sent - check your email addresses! Camouflage, surprise and misinformation were brilliantly exploited to keep the German army in the dark about major Soviet intentions. AD In the first five months of the invasion, German forces inflicted one catastrophic defeat after another on the Red Army. Despite exceptional levels of deprivation and loss, they kept up the production of food, weapons and equipment. The key, decisive moments came during the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Kursk, two monstrously large battles involving thousands of tanks and millions of men – two of the largest battles ever fought in all of history. When Hitler invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 he had three main goals: (1) Seizure of territory for the use of Germans; (2) The murder of the Jews; and (3) The destruction of Communism. Hitler hoped that German forces would capture the oil and sweep on through the Middle East to meet up with Axis forces in Egypt. The new border between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia from September 1939 to June 1941, somewhere in the occupied territory of Poland The impressive production of weapons was achieved by turning the whole of the remaining Soviet area into what Stalin called 'a single armed camp', focusing all efforts on military production and extorting maximum labour from a workforce whose only guarantee of food was to turn up at the factory and work the arduous 12-hour shifts. But what do you think, what should the Germans have done differently, or what if say, the US would have stayed out? But one other likely explanation lies in the way in which the post-war world took shape. 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