June 1, 2011

Soviet Red Army During WWII

| June 1, 2011 | 0 comments

The basic facts about WWII, as far as The Soviet Union was concerned, are well known. Nazi Germany attacked the USSR in June 1941, penetrating deep into its territory. By December 1941 the Red Army had lost four and a half million men."- But the army was able to mount a counteroffensive and two years later Germans were in retreat. The Soviet Union and its allies (US and United Kingdom) defeated Germany in May of 1945. The total number of soldiers drafted to fight Hitler was approximately 30 million in the USSR, 10 million in the US and 10 million in the UK.

The US material help, to the Soviet Union, amounting to 11 billion dollars, included 14,000 airplanes, 200,000 Studebaker trucks, food and other hardware. The first Soviet offensive took place close to where I lived at the time, about 30 miles north of Moscow. How can I forget the first Studebaker seen or the taste of my first American food. I also remember that private radios were confiscated as soon as the war started. One can only speculate what would have happened had the population known about initial losses. Likewise, one can speculate what would have happened had people known that numerous warnings of the approaching war were totally ignored by Stalin.

Initial losses would probably have been lower if the Red Army had not been purged (in 1937-1938). Three of five marshals, three of four full generals, all twelve lieutenant generals, 60 of 67 corps commanders and 136 of 199 divisional commanders were executed at that time.

The undeniable heroism of Soviet people is well known. But that was not enough. The more I think about Stalinism the more I am fascinated by it. On one hand it was a political system that killed millions of its own people; on the other hand it was an essential factor in the defeat of another tyrannical system, Naziism. It is not at all obvious that Hitler would have been defeated without the heroic contributions of the Red Army. Stalingrad was just as important as D-day.

It is clear to me that nearly every Soviet soldier had at least one family member who was either deported or killed by Stalin. And yet, many of them fought and died while chanting his name. How can this be explained? This question is asked by a British historian, Orlando Figes. The major factor, according to him, was relaxation of the communist party propaganda of class struggle.

Ludwik Kowalski (PhD)


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