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Stalin's Good Calls

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  • Stalin's Good Calls

    Incredible amount of ink is spent discussing various Hitler's blunders. Most of the time I find this silly. On one hand because his blundering was relatively minor, on the other hand because it is very often a symptom of teenage-like infatuation with the Wehrmacht (the Wehrmacht was the super-duper army ever and it could have won, if only Hitler had not been in the way). It is a sort of scapegoating and is a trend actually started by German generals in their post-war memoirs where they attempted to show themselves in the best light possible - Hitler naturally wasn't going to be around to defend himself.

    It is also silly because on the other side we have Stalin whose blunders were of absolutely epic proportions. I would say the Germans ever reaching outskirts of Moscow or entering Stalingrad was a fluke event only made possible by the enormous idiocy of Stalin. It should never and could have never happened under only a modestly competent leader.

    I think this is a sensitive subject and also a painful one, because if such a view is accepted then obviously many of the millions of Soviet citizens who died in the Second World War died needlessly, in the sense that the Soviet people could have repelled the Germans and achieved victory at much smaller cost to themselves if it were not for Stalin effectively sabotaging their effort. It means the superhuman effort of the workers and soldiers to overcome the enemy had to be such as much because of Stalin as because of the Germans.

    Just a few examples. The terror against the officer corps - the Red Army purge was still ongoing in 1941 - retarded the military. The annexations in 1940-41 ensured the Finns, the Balts and the Romanians would be enemies in the oncoming conflict. The terror of the 1930s embittered many Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, etc against the regime and made them more susceptible to calls to collaborate with the enemy occupation. The ongoing restructuring of the military ordered after the Winter War greatly reduced the immediate combat worth of the Red Army - the enormously wide ranging reforms were scheduled to be complete only in 1942.

    Most indicatively Stalin refused to believe Hitler would attack in 1941 even on the very eve of the invasion. So the attack came as a surprise to the USSR with all the disadvantages that entailed, even though Stalin was essentially alone in thinking the attack would not take place - it had been clear to Soviet generals that the Germans were in fact going to invade for months. However given the level of terror within the USSR it was not safe to contradict Stalin. He went to great lengths to appease Hitler (who was going to attack him regardless) in the 1940-41 period. The resources exported to Germany in this time substantially aided the German war effort against the Soviet Union.

    The initial disposition of the military was abysmal with forces not sufficiently concentrated - coupled with orders to attack (Stalin's favorite) a defeat in detail entailed. Though the USSR had the larger military, in 1941 over and over again individual Soviet units were to find themselves fighting (attacking) a numerically far superior enemy. The Soviet offensives were waged over a too wide front (of which Stalin was the main proponent), and were much costlier than they needed to be, for much too little effect. Even given previous debacles the initiative should have passed to the Red Army in 1942, were it not for its self-inflicted wounds in such exhausting actions.


    OK, so what I would like to ask is what did Stalin do right? Given the extent of his blunders and their consequences, it seems to me that it makes more sense to approach the question of Stalin's blunders in this inverted manner. Which policies Stalin instituted that ended up aiding the Soviet war effort in the 1940s? What decisions he specifically made during the war that resulted in success and did not cost far more blood, sweat, tears than they should have?
    Last edited by bricklayer; 06 Mar 11, 01:36.

  • #2
    Good Question Bricklayer,

    I have a short list of things I think Stalin did right:

    1. Quickly shifting factories to the East during the initial invasion.
    2, Waging a total war against the Axis powers (Scorched Earth tactics).
    3. Supporting the development of the Partisan movement.
    4. Staying in Moscow during the winter of 1941.
    5. Turned the war into a battle for the Motherland (not Nazi vs Soviet).
    6. Asking for help (Lend Lease) from the other Allies.
    7. Bringing back military and political leaders out of Gulags.
    8. Allowing successful generals to fight the war (trusting their military decisions).
    9. Reinstating formal rank and building up the officer corps.
    10. Reducing the power of political commissars within military formations.
    11. Issuing the "No Step Back" order #227 during the summer of 1942.
    12. Focusing industry on mass weapons production over consumer goods.
    13. Insisting on simple, just good enough weapons.
    14. Being ruthless. Nothing else would have saved the Soviet Union.
    15. Not making a separate peace with Nazi Germany.
    Last edited by Dann Falk; 06 Mar 11, 06:23.

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    • #3
      Stalin's best practice, particularly in contrast to Hitler, was that after the first shock of 1941, he listened to and took advice from his military professionals. When he 'made stupid decisions' later, for instance, insisting on an attack at Kharkov in May 1942, it was because his military advisors gave him bad advice: Timoshenko, Khruschev and Bagramyan pushing for an attack by their Southwestern Theater and ignoring their own intell showing 'way too many panzer units in the area. He recognized military competence when he found it in Vasilevskii, Zhukov, Rokossovskii, and others, and let them do their jobs. Turned out they could do them pretty well - IMHO, every bit as well or better than their opposite numbers in the Wehrmacht.

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      • #4
        If you read some of the better books about the war, you will read about the Russian reserves. Stalin created an enormous reserve pool of military trained men in the 1930s. It was these trained men who were called up in the late summer and fall of 1941 who stopped the German attack. They replaced the divisions that were annihilated.

        The second thing he did was to force the expansion of heavy industry. This gave the Soviet Union the means to produce the weapons needed to defeat the Nazi's.

        The third thing was that the communists greatly expanded the education system in the 1920's and 1930's. This gave them a bigger pool of educated men to do vital tasks like artillery control, staff work, logistics support etc. Literacy is a major combat effectiveness multiplier.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Dann Falk View Post
          7. Bringing back military and political leaders out of Gulags.
          He did that? How did they respond?
          "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." Bertrand Russell

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          • #6
            Originally posted by philiplaos View Post
            He did that? How did they respond?
            One of them designed this plane:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petlyakov_Pe-2

            Actually Vladimir Petlyakov designed it while still in prison-and it got him released.

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            • #7
              One of them was Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky.
              Some info...

              "After interrogations that included torture resulting in nine missing teeth, three cracked ribs, the removal of his fingernails, and three mock shooting ceremonies, he was sent to the Kresty Prison in Leningrad, where he remained until March 1940, when he was released without explanation. "

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              • #8
                And Marshal Meretskov

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by philiplaos View Post
                  He did that? How did they respond?
                  here's the link for the above mentioned Rokossovsky - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konstantin_Rokossovsky

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                  • #10
                    I like "1. Quickly shifting factories to the East during the initial invasion." ^^

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Dann Falk View Post
                      Good Question Bricklayer,

                      I have a short list of things I think Stalin did right:

                      1. Quickly shifting factories to the East during the initial invasion.
                      2, Waging a total war against the Axis powers (Scorched Earth tactics).
                      3. Supporting the development of the Partisan movement.
                      4. Staying in Moscow during the winter of 1941.
                      5. Turned the war into a battle for the Motherland (not Nazi vs Soviet).
                      6. Asking for help (Lend Lease) from the other Allies.
                      7. Bringing back military and political leaders out of Gulags.
                      8. Allowing successful generals to fight the war (trusting their military decisions).
                      9. Reinstating formal rank and building up the officer corps.
                      10. Reducing the power of political commissars within military formations.
                      11. Issuing the "No Step Back" order #227 during the summer of 1942.
                      12. Focusing industry on mass weapons production over consumer goods.
                      13. Insisting on simple, just good enough weapons.
                      14. Being ruthless. Nothing else would have saved the Soviet Union.
                      15. Not making a separate peace with Nazi Germany.
                      I would add listening to his generals on more than actual fighting. for instance, after the Oct. 41 disasters in front of Moscow, stalin wanted to sack and maybe execute Konev. Zhukov intervened, and Konev, who obviously learned from his mistakes was well worth saving.

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                      • #12
                        Exactly, the amusing thing is that Stalin disproved the Marxist principle that a country cannot defend itself without a dictatorship.
                        "They're inviting us to defeat them! We must oblige them!"
                        -Baron Munchausen

                        "Ah, 'tis midsummer madness, the music is my temples, the hot blood of youth! Come, Kapellmeister, let the violas throb. My regiment leaves at dawn!"
                        -Groucho Marx

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by grognard View Post
                          I would add listening to his generals on more than actual fighting. for instance, after the Oct. 41 disasters in front of Moscow, stalin wanted to sack and maybe execute Konev. Zhukov intervened, and Konev, who obviously learned from his mistakes was well worth saving.
                          Well as good decisions go this one is quite unremarkable. This merely means that he could have been an even bigger moron which is always possible. But no other leader besides him would ever be in the position to contemplate executing an officer of Konev's calibre in the first place.

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                          • #14
                            Another one saved from the Gulag was the civilian Boris Vannikov, "Armaments Production Expert"

                            From the book The Soviet Union at War 41 -45 by Davie R Stone, page 124.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by demsaoroi88 View Post
                              I like "1. Quickly shifting factories to the East during the initial invasion." ^^
                              The first plan of industry relocation was developed in 1928 while the whole idea of it had been considered for quite a while before that. Even that year can't be considered the time of Stalin's final consolidation of power and I haven't seen any references of him taking any part in developing such plans. Another version of this plan was approved around 1932, obviously in connection with the Industrialisation, and updated later in the following years.

                              However, in the years after the purge the attitude to evacuation plans became thoroughly negative. For example, in the book "Life and death in besieged Leningrad", it was noted that the Praesidium of 0Leningrad City Council send 4 appeals to various Commissariats to consider the new evacuation plan throughout 1937-38 as the old one had become obsolete, but to no avail. Whatever was done in this regard through local means and efforts was eventually of little value due to the lack of support and coordination of the central government.

                              So the bottom line is that Stalin not only didn't invent the whole idea, but might have even acted to its detriment through his policies.
                              www.histours.ru

                              Siege of Leningrad battlefield tour

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