Firstly are Stalin’s leadership and his propaganda. The GKO and Stavka were created, which helped significantly in battles such as the Battle of Moscow and Operation Bagration. Pearson said “At a critical moment he proved himself to be resolute and decisive” by creating the Stavka. Not only this, but Stalin was able to distribute power correctly to his military leaders; prominently Zhukov and Rokossovsky, and allowed them to flourish. Also Molotov and Malenkov were put in charge of the GKO. Stalin also used the NKVD to be able to control and censor the population.
They rounded up thousands of opposition and they were arrested or shot, as they became an enemy of the State. The NKVD also took control over the Gulags. They put out stricter censorship, like banning radios, withholding bad news, such as losing battles, and exaggerating German losses. They enforced the new working hours; for example women were given longer working hours and a bigger role. By 1943, 60% of the industrial workforce was women. A big factor is Stalin’s Speech. It was able to unite Russia, as it focused on Mother Russia, with less emphasis on the Communist ideology.
He named it ‘The Great Patriotic War’ and said that this is our country. Stalin was able to present himself not as the leader of the Communist Party, but as the leader of the country. Stalin also restored the Russian Orthodox Church and when he met with the Head of the Church, he showed himself to be a sympathetic leader. The Church was a source of propaganda, as it handed out leaflets and was able to raise huge amounts of money for the war effort. In 1943, the Church was able to help convince the Allies, Britain and the USA, to open a second front.
But when war broke out, in 2 weeks Stalin was able to manage to amass ten million Soviet troops. But he didn’t make any real changes in strategy and weaponry, keeping to a more traditional view. He used his experience from the civil war which broke out in 1917 to 1921. Also the Stalin was able to keep his people patriotic. Examples of this are seen all over the USSR, especially in Leningrad when they were besieged for 872 days. Also there were partisans which focused on irregular forces in opposition to an attacking or occupying power.
Soviet partisans, especially those active in Belarus, effectively harassed German troops and significantly hampered their operations in the region. As a result, Soviet authority was re-established deep inside the German-held territories. There were even partisan kolkhozes that raised crops and livestock to produce food for the partisans. The communist Yugoslav partisans were a leading force in the liberation of their country during the People’s Liberation War of Yugoslavia. But as Stalin didn’t work fast enough and had a breakdown at the start, the economy took a hit.
In 1941, Germany was able to capture two fifths of the Soviet’s grain production facilities and a third of its labour force. Also during the war, production was relatively low for things such as coal, steel and oil, as many places and facilities were captured. Furthermore there was an economic crisis in 19424, as a lot of money was being spent, but Russia was hardly getting any money. However Stalin was able to get over these losses with American lend-lease. But the USSR also had a shortage of skilled labour because it was the men that used to work; now it is mainly women, who have never done industrial work before.
Besides this flaw, Stalin also made another one as he did initially not listen to the signs of when war was going to break out. The German ambassador and Krebs both told Stalin, the exact date when Germany would invade; but Stalin ignored them. Therefore when war did break out, Stalin had a mental breakdown. As Pearson states “Stalin’s first, most fatal error was not to allow his troops to mobilise in time before impending Nazi disaster”. Also by the end of the war there were many different nationalities about. The ones seen as traitors were deported to places such as Kazakhstan and Siberia.
Also many Cossacks were executed in 1945 as they were seen to support Germany. There were economic strengths. In the 1920’s, the Soviets adopted an American mobilisation mode, which gave priority to army production and supplies; as well as setting up Gosplan, which helped industrialisation. Because of this, the Soviets had many initial strengths, such as having superior T-34 tanks compared to the German Panzers. But in the first 8 hours 1200 aircraft were destroyed by the Germans and 800 didn’t even take off. So there was a poor defence.
Also on the outbreak of war, there were 5 million Soviet soldiers and another 5 million in reserves. But they were poorly trained and had a lack of high quality weapons. They also did not have clear tasks and were poorly led at first. However, the Soviets had reinforcements in the form of money, planning and leadership. Zhukov was introduced and put a million more men in the Battle of Kursk. There was also American lend-lease which paid for a fifth of Soviet resources by 1945. Also, in 1944, the Stavka was able to provide 5 times more ammunition for each soldier; totalling 400,000 tonnes of ammunition.
Harrison says that “If WW2 was a test then the Soviet Economy passed it. ” But the economy is a huge factor as Overy’s correlation argument suggests that the years when the economy failed (1942 to 1943) the war effort failed; but as the economy improved, the war effort did, too. There was increased productivity in the war. During The war 100,000 tanks and 150,000 aircraft were produced. At the start of the war they were out producing the Germans, but it decreased as 60% of coal mines and steel works were destroyed by the Germans; another example of poor defence and planning.
Because of the rapid industrialisation, the coal industry, for example, had unskilled and inexperienced workers and poor working conditions. Also there was a fall in productivity as one eighth of factories were moved to be secured. But many were too close. In contrast, 3500 new factories were built and by the end of 1943 productivity increased by 68% compared to the pre-war capacity. Also the industrial production increased by 200% since 1928; although the aim was quantity, not quality. However, there was also other leadership than Stalin.
There was Soviet leadership. This includes Zhukov also known as “the man who lost no battles”. He led the Soviets to victory in many battles such as, in Stalingrad and in Kursk; which was a turning point for the Soviets as it pushed the Germans back 60-150 miles away from Moscow and it was the last major offensive from the Germans. He was also very good in planning offensives, such as Operation Uranus. There was also Molotov; who was the foreign minister from 1941 and the leader of the GKO, so a key member.
Molotov rose to the occasion as he took control during Stalin’s breakdown and he also made the first radio speech. The GKO were able to bypass laws and helped organise the Battle of Moscow. Another organisation was Stavka, which was created just 2 days after German invasion. Stavka was key as it organised the army and battles/operations were planned; such as Operation Bagration. You could also say that some of the Soviet people led and helped in the efforts to relocate resources and the Orthodox Church also helped by using propaganda and uniting the people.
The relationship between leaders and there generals was also key, as their strategies could work. Stalin has a good relationship as he allows Zhukov full control, firstly over Moscow and then his future battles. Also with Rokossovsky, Stalin made him present his offensive for Operation Bagration three times before it was accepted. Even though it looked like a waste of time, Stalin said that if he came back this many times and thinks it will work, it must do, as he put a lot of thought into it. On the other hand, Hitler gave no consideration to his generals.
For example he dismissed Guderian and his opinion into not doing Operation Citadel. His opinion was ignored and the Operation had disastrous results. Also Guderian was under too much pressure from Hitler, as Hitler wanted him to do everything; even to assist Army Group South, even though they were in clear shot of Moscow. However, Hitler was too stubborn to listen to his generals, but on the other hand, would it have made a difference as many of the people and generals around Hitler were ‘yes men’. Another element of Soviet victory was the Soviet army.
They had lend-lease, in which the USA gave $11. 3 billion worth of supplies and Canada also funded $4. 7 billion between the UK and USSR. Unfortunately by 1945, 6 million Soviet soldiers were captured by the Nazis; 75% of which were either murdered, worked to death, starved or froze to death. Unlike the Germans, the USSR used German POW’s effectively by using them in industry. The mass of the army was unbelievable. The USSR initially had 5 million men and 5 million in reserve. It was an inexhaustible supply.
The USSR even used Penal Armies with berserkers, who the Nazis were terrified of, and even People’s Militias were used. The USSR had superior tanks, the T-34, and superior planes, the MIG’s. The USSR were also well organised and had better tactics. As Dockrill stated “Stalingrad marked the beginning of the end for Germany. ” The Soviet generals (for example Konev, Molotov, etc. ) had many ideas and tactics that were put into action. They adapted quickly by putting minesweepers on tanks and also used camouflage and deception to set up for Operation Bagration.
Furthermore, the generals’ leadership was vital; for example Rokossovsky’s persistence for Operation Bagration and Zhukov’s war effort and determination throughout the war. Stalin was prepared to learn from his generals and be able to delegate them effectively. However, Stalin’s purges in 1937-38 killed most of the Officer class. Their replacements would show less initiative out of fear for the same as their predecessors. This is why Zhukov was brought back and was tough enough to withstand the torture given to him to force a confession.
From the Purges there were only two Field Marshalls left: He removed three out of five Marshalls, thirteen out of fifteen Army Commanders, eight of nine Admirals, fifty of fifty-seven Army Corps Commanders, 154 of 186 division commanders, sixteen of sixteen Army Commissars and twenty-five of twenty-eight Army Corps Commissars. Also many of the men in the army and the air force were untrained and unskilled. For example, the People’s Militia were only volunteers, but on occasions they were asked to help in battles and skirmishes. The army became overstretched and the front was weak.
This was because the USSR did not plan for any specific type of war. Instead it built up all of its forces in an attempt to cope with any type of scenario, but also continually changed its military proprieties. This was in contrast to Germany, which focused on Blitzkrieg. This left the Soviet Army with no clear objective. The front was weak because when the USSR took the Baltic States to give a buffer zone, they also pushed up the wall. This wall was very weak and had gaps, unlike the initial ‘Stalin’s Wall’. Stalin centralised the power (to Moscow), so everything was together and easier.
Stavka was formed to direct strategic and military operations. The GKO “Had all power and authority of the State behind it”. It took responsibility for the defence of Moscow. It helped make battle plans for Division withdrawals and spread them from the black sea to Leningrad. Another power was the NKVD (secret police). It was good as it enforced the population into working. But it did kill people that could have been used to work in industry. The NKVD also kidnapped, tortured and killed those suspected of being defectors, for example Soviets who lived in German-occupied territory.
Also during the Battle of Stalingrad, they introduced a regime which put new measures in place that meant stricter censorship. The NKVD was led by Beria, a ruthless man which made sure tasks were carried out. He was given extraordinary power by Stalin and could literally do whatever he wanted. Right in the centre was the Politburo, which was the main decision making body of the state. They mainly cared about the leadership of the USSR. They were virtually powerless when the Germans attacked and even considered to arrest Stalin, as he lacked leadership at a critical time.
But this centralisation did have its disadvantages. It couldn’t penetrate the ‘fog of war’, which meant that the Central Command could not know what and where things were occurring sometimes. This meant that orders from Moscow could not be carried out and were sometimes ineffective. It also caused conflicts; this was because there was much discussion and debate when everyone couldn’t agree. This delayed decisions, which was important as it could have delayed Soviet victories, causing more casualties unnecessarily.
German mistakes also helped the Soviets to victory. Hitler’s leadership failed. He was too stubborn to listen to his generals; he was too rash, by attacking the USSR, before defeating Britain and he declared war on the USA; finally he was too arrogant, an example of this is when he said “You only have to knick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crushing down. Hitler may have thought it would be easy, as he cruised through France. After the loss at Kursk, Hitler took even more power and refused to listen to his generals.
Also in Stalingrad, Hitler failed to assert his authority and some areas were then re-captured by the Soviets. Hitler told Paulus, a German general, not to break out and to stay no matter what. It wasn’t thought out well, Hitler just sent the order. Due to this error, 91,000 men were captured and the whole of the army group was lost. Furthermore, Hitler relied heavily on Blitzkrieg as it worked effectively before. But in the Battle of Smolensk (July-August 1941), where ultimately, the Soviet 16th, 19th and the 20th Armies were encircled just to the south of Smolensk by the 3rd Panzer Division.
Also when Army Group North besieged Leningrad, it was hugely ineffective, as it lasted 872 days and the Germans lost. At the Battle of Kursk, the USSR already knew how many Germans were there, where they were and when to attack. They were able to mobilise a huge amount of superior T-34’s and lots of equipment. The Germans, on the other hand, had no intelligence and didn’t know what the Soviets were doing. In the end 500,000 German men were killed, injured or missing. The Soviets outweighed the Germans in a two to one ratio.
Also the USSR was able to get greater amounts of aircraft, tanks, artillery and men. In 1941, the USSR had 67, 800 artillery, whereas Germany had 7000 artillery. In 1945, the USSR had 20, 102 aircraft and Germany had 7,540; less than half what the Soviets had. At the start of the war the USSR had 5 million troops; the Axis powers only had 3. 9 million troops. So Germany was clearly not ready to take on the USSR. The German ethnic cleansing policies did not utilise the POWs or the unloyal people. These inhabitants of the Soviet occupied territories saw the Germans as liberators.
These people, as well as the POW’s could have been used to bolster up numbers in the army or been used to produce equipment. Instead, the Einsatzgruppen killed them all. Finally, the German army were clearly unprepared. They were unaccustomed to the Soviet climate and conditions; mainly of the harsh winter. Also they didn’t have enough weapons because of the overstretched supply lines, as they had to travel hundreds of miles to get to the troops; an example of this is at Kursk (July 1943), where some of the troops had to wait for weapons to attack or even defend themselves.
Overy agrees “German troops were unprepared… Hitler mad errors that led to his loss. ” In conclusion, Pearson states that “as a highly centralised dictatorship, Joseph Stalin almost certainly played a pivotal part in every aspect of the Soviet war effort”, suggesting that Stalin’s leadership was crucial to the war effort, and that the USSR would not have been as strong were it not for him.
Although this is certainly true, many other factors did contribute to the war victory, including the merits of the Soviet economy under Gosplan, and the GKO (general defence council) which was established in Stalin’s absence early in the war, as well as the infamous Soviet winter of 1941. Despite this, however, many historians agree that the USSR would not have been so likely to win the Great Patriotic War were it not for Stalin’s efforts.