Hitler and Stalin: The Two Factors That Decided Who Would Win between Germany and the Soviet Union

 

Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler, both were leaders who had complete authoritarian control over their countries. Because of their authoritarian control, they also controlled the military. Hitler and Stalin both made mistakes in the war between Germany and the Soviet Union and in the end, the Soviet Union won due to their resilience and Germany’s lack of planning. In my blog, I will examine why Germany failed to beat the Soviet Union and how the Soviet’s managed to make a comeback when all hope seemed lost.

At first, Germany and the Soviet Union were not enemies, but rather, were somewhat allies.  According to the Britannica, the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact was signed August 23, 1939. Stalin agreed to it in order to build up the Red Army’s strength after the officer purge and Hitler agreed to it to gain Poland without interference and focus mainly on Britain and France ( par. 2). Both sides signed the pact for strategic reasons, not because they liked each other. The point of the pact was to assure each side that they would not attack each other.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=http%3A%2F%2Fww2history.com%2Fkey_moments%2FEastern%2FNazi_Soviet_non_aggression_pact&psig=AOvVaw2NjKQmunT7VYSiZeDyqtPc&ust=1588811099324000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAMQjB1qFwoTCPjny938nekCFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD

Stalin’s mistakes were not preparing for a war with Germany and not realizing that one would occur. According to Freeze, “the Soviet Government received  over eighty discrete warnings of a German attack… aware of the massing of German forces but unwilling to accept the truth… Stalin issued orders to Soviet military commanders not to shoot even if the Germans penetrated Soviet territory” (375).  It is easier to deal with a problem earlier rather than later. If Stalin took action when the first sign of German aggression happened, then the Soviet Union would have not suffered as it did later on. Another mistake Stalin made was purging the officers in his military. According to Freeze, Stalin feared a coup which would replace him with a military dictator so in order to prevent that from happening, Stalin ordered a purge of military officers (376-377). Another statistic says “it would appear that some 35,000-40,000 officers were removed from their commands (many of them shot or condemned to hard labour in the camps)… at least 35 per cent of the officer corps was purged” (Freeze, 377). Because of Stalin’s paranoia, he cost his military experienced leadership. This helped Germany invade Russia because instead of facing against veterans, Germany battled against officers who may have never fought a war before or were inexperienced.

Finally, Stalin made matters worse by his foreign policy with Nazi Germany.  According to Freeze, “after the signing of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact in 1939, Stalin had constructed a foreign policy based on co-operation and collusion with the Nazis” (379). Stalin was willing to help Germany and because of that, it made Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union even easier. Stalin’s control over the military was also terrible. An example of his actions include “his command that the Red Army cede no territory and his refusal to countenance withdrawal squandered tons of equipment and material consigned hundreds of thousands of troops to death or captivity” (Freeze, 379-380). Stalin was not a military genius and these actions clearly show that.

Hitler’s mistakes were underestimating the Soviet Union and making terrible military choices. Hitler viewed everyone who was not German or Nordic to be inferior.  This can be seen from Freeze who notes “Nazi racist ideology also contributed to this depreciation of the enemy. Regarding the Russian as Untermensch, Hitler was supremely confident that the Germans would conquer the Soviet Union to the Urals in three months” (383). Hitler underestimated the Soviet Union. He believed that the German Army would be in and out of the Soviet Union in no time at all. Hitler did not also take into account that he was now fighting two fronts, the Soviets in the East and the Allies in the West. Hitler had limited resources and now he had to hold both fronts.

Another mistake Hitler made was not using the resentment of the majority of Soviet citizens to his advantage. Instead of recruiting them or welcoming their hospitality, the Nazis killed or imprisoned those they conquered. The Nazis also diverted manpower and vehicles in order to deal with those they deemed inferior (Freeze, 384). If Hitler was less focused on his ideology and paid attention to common sense, he would have used the anti-communist peasants to his advantage in order to win against Stalin. Instead, Hitler wanted to round up everyone who he thought was inferior, thereby wasting soldiers and vehicles he could have used to fight against the Soviets.

Finally, Hitler made the mistake of fighting against the Soviet Union when Winter would occur.  According to Freeze, Hitler was supremely confident that the Germans would conquer the Soviet Union to the Urals in three months… the battle of Moscow, however, soon demonstrated that the war was not going to be brief (383). A reason why it is bad to invade the Soviet Union during the winter is that “in October and November a wave of frostbite cases had decimated the ill-clad German troops, for whom provisions of winter clothing had not been made, while the icy cold paralyzed the Germans’ mechanized transport, tanks, artillery, and aircraft (Smith and Graham, par. 11).  If the Nazis had anticipated that the war with the Soviets would drag into the winter and prepared for the cold and snow, then the Nazis would have held out longer or have been able to beat the Soviets. Hitler thought his war with the Soviet Union would be done in a short amount of time, he did not anticipate a long war. Due to the lack of planning, the German army was not equipped for the Russian winter which was the reason why Napoleon failed to conquer it as well.

THE GERMAN ARMY ON THE EASTERN FRONT, 1941-1945 (HU 111371) German motorcycle troops and infantry pass a long column of Russian prisoners during the advance into the Soviet Union, 1941. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205260127

The Soviet Union won because the Soviet people were willing to make sacrifices and were strong. One such strategy was the Scorched Earth Strategy. According to Walter Sanning, the Scorched Earth Strategy had soviets destroy anything that could be useful for the Germans which included farms, factories, machinery, mines, etc (par. 5). Since the German strategy was to live off of the land and peasants, the Soviets decided to cut the Germans off from their source of supply. Farmers would burn down their farms, factories would be destroyed, and munitions would be destroyed as well. The people got through this from hatred of the Nazi’s actions and the wanting of Russia’s survival (Freeze, 391). If the people still have hope, then there is still a chance.

https://images.app.goo.gl/QZd4q3vwMmTiopaX7

Sources:

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: a History. Third ed., Oxford University Press, 2009.

https://images.app.goo.gl/h6ZasvGJhNymLcfN6

Royde-Smith, John Graham. “Later Actions.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 23 Aug. 2019, www.britannica.com/event/Operation-Barbarossa/Later-actions.

Sanning, Walter N. “INSTITUTE FOR HISTORICAL REVIEW.” Soviet Scorched-Earth Warfare: Facts And Consequences, www.ihr.org/jhr/v06/v06p-91_Sanning.html.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 8 Jan. 2020, www.britannica.com/event/German-Soviet-Nonaggression-Pact.

 

 

How Sports Affected The Soviet Union

https://images.app.goo.gl/baU6kZtnWhEVe4HB9

With the transformation of the built environment, the Soviet Union paid more attention about physical fitness, sports, and the upbringing of the youth. Sports were becoming more and more popular across the world and the Olympics began to be seen as a way to show off a nation’s superiority. The Soviet Union wanted to show that its people could compete against other nations and it saw sports as a way to make sure its citizens were physically fir for another war. In order to do this, the Soviet Union began to enforce its citizens and especially the youth, to participate in sports and physical education.

To start things off, sports was a big deal in the interwar period in Europe. Barbara Keys notes in her article that:                                                                                      One of the most popular forms of the new mass culture in interwar                  Europe was modern sport… Measured by popular followings and by its          growing political significance, sport    arguably represented the most              powerful and far-reaching of the period’s vibrant transnational cultural          flows (Pg. 414).                                                                                                                                The Soviet Union left the western system of international sport in the 1920s claiming it was based off of capitalism and exploitation but returned in the 1930s (Keys, pg. 414-415). The reasoning for their return was that the Soviet Union wanted to encourage its citizens to engage in sports and physical activity. The Soviet Union and other European countries encouraged this in order to create effective soldiers and workers (Keys, pg. 415). Seeing as how Russia came out of the First World War barely alive, the Soviet Union wanted to make sure its citizens were ready for another war and would be able to win a war. Another reason why the Soviet Union wanted to excel in sports was to impress Soviet strength to foreign countries and make the Soviet Union attractive to foreign workers (Keys, pg. 419). If the Soviet Union impressed other countries, then they could gain recognition and show that socialism is effective along with attracting foreign workers to live in the USSR, thereby strengthening it.

When the Soviet Union started, it consisted not just of only Russians, but other ethnicities as well. This can be seen where:                                                        The newly born Soviet Union was, at best, a loose federation of diverse nationalities and ethnic minorities. Non-Russians comprised more than half the Soviet population and strongly identified with their own cultures. Obviously, the social and political   ‘upbringing’ of future Soviet generations could not be entrusted to the family and other traditional institutions (Gist, pg. 118).                                                                                                                                                        The Soviet Union wanted to make sure the youth supported the government seeing as how they were the next generation. Thus, the Soviet Union controlled the time and energy of the youth in closely supervised activities. The goal was to create a group ready for mobilization for the military or other national priorities (Gist, pg. 118). While it does seem wise to train a generation in order to strengthen them, it seems like the Soviet Union is robbing them of their childhood. Instead of playing with their friends and being kids, the youth of the Soviet Union are being taught how to be a proper Soviet Union.

Following the First World War, the Soviet Union wanted to make sure its citizens were strong and ready for another war. In order to do that, sports and physical education was stressed and encouraged among the citizens. Along with that, the Soviet Union wanted to be internationally recognized and one way to do that was to excel in international sport competitions such as the Olympics. Doing that would make the Soviet Union equal or better than other competing nations and show off socialism. Finally, the Soviet Union wanted to have more control over the youth. Controlling the youth would decrease the chance of rebellion and make sure the next generation was strong and secure.

Sources:

Gist, David M. “THE MILITARIZATION OF SOVIET YOUTH.” Naval War College Review,          vol. 30, no. 1, 1977, pp. 115–133. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/44641793. Accessed 6             Apr. 2020.

Keys, Barbara. “Soviet Sport and Transnational Mass Culture in the 1930s.” Journal of      Contemporary History, vol. 38, no. 3, 2003, pp. 413–434. JSTOR,        www.jstor.org/stable/3180645. Accessed 6 Apr. 2020.

https://images.app.goo.gl/ejLH4FV9QpQk6EKV6

Religion in the Soviet State

This post earned a “red star” award from the editorial team.

By Anonymous – http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&show=essay&SubjectID=1924antireligion&Year=1924&navi=byYear, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7695788

Translation of Poster: Ban religious holidays!

With the formation of the Soviet State, religion was involved a lot. The Soviets wanted to have complete authority over the people and wanted people to look to them, not religion, as saviors. The Soviet state took property and valuables from the churches, killed followers of religions, and promoted atheism in the state. Clearly, the Soviet state did not tolerate religion.

The Soviets wanted to eliminate religion. The Library of Congress talks about how “The Soviet Union was the first state to have as an ideological objective the elimination of religion. Toward that end, the Communist regime confiscated church property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers, and propagated atheism in the schools” (Anti-religious Campaigns, par. 1). In the 1920s, the Russian Orthodox Church was the main target of the Soviet anti-religious movement. Most of the clergy and believers were either shot or sent to labor camps (Anti-religious Campaigns, par. 2). The Soviets did not want any authority to conflict with their interests. Another example is the Soviets not wanting the Catholic Church in the Soviet Union. The Soviets campaigned against religions that had a foreign religious authority such as the Catholic Church with the Pope. According to the Library of Congress, “By 1926, the Roman Catholic Church had no bishops left in the Soviet Union” (Anti-religious Campaigns, par. 4).

The Soviets did not believe that religion would benefit the Soviet State but only hinder progress. Gregory Freeze writes about how “if religion had been ‘the opiate of the masses’ under the old order, religious belief in the new world constituted superstition and, as such, an impediment to creating progressive, scientific society” (pg. 335). The Soviets wanted to advance in industry, technology, and power, not in religion. To the Soviets, religion focused on the spiritual world while the Soviets were focused on the material world.

The Soviets also wanted to take the Orthodox Church’s wealth. One method that the Soviets did was to confiscate the Church’s gold. Due to the famine of 1921-1922, there was a need to purchase grain from other countries. Lenin suggested the idea of confiscating the gems and precious metals owned by the Church. If the Church refused, the blame of people starving would be placed on them (Seventeen Moments in Soviet History). Another example is how the Soviet State took Church Property. Freeze writes about how “The Soviet state decreed a separation of Church and state that nationalized church land and property without compensation” (pg. 335). Finally, “local soviets utilized existing laws to confiscate places of worship for use as workers’ clubs, cinemas, and libraries” (Freeze, 336). The Soviet state was clearly taking advantage of and hurting organized religions in the Soviet Union.

From a translated letter that Lenin wrote, one can see the hostility between the state and Church. The letter is written by Lenin to members of the Politburo and outlines a brutal plan against the Black Hundreds clergy and its followers. The clergy and followers refused to follow the government decree of giving up church valuables (Anti-religious Campaigns, par. 6). Lenin’s letter says “the announcement that the Black Hundreds in Petrograd were preparing to defy the decree on the removal of property of value from the churches… it becomes perfectly clear that the Black Hundreds clergy, headed by its leader, with full deliberation is carrying out a plan at this very moment to destroy us decisively” (Letter from Lenin, par. 2). The letter continues saying “I think that here our opponent is making a huge strategic error… when we can in 99 out of 100 chances utterly defeat our enemy with complete success” (Letter from Lenin, par. 4). This is very extreme and seems very unnecessary. Lenin sounds like he is preparing for war or dealing with an enemy at war. This shows how much the state and Church were in conflict with each other.

To the Soviet Union, the only way to progress was to advance in industry and technology. Religion could not help the Soviet’s goal so the Soviet state sought ways to make the Church help, even if the methods were cruel and malicious. The Soviet state took property from the churches, stole church valuables, and killed clergy and followers if they resisted. Soviet leaders such as Lenin viewed the church as a hostile enemy based off of a letter he wrote. The Soviet Union did not care for religion but only cared for what the state could take from the church physically. The Soviet Union promoted atheism and did not want people to have a conflict of interests between the state and Church. Overall, with the rise of the Soviet Union, the Church fell.

Sources:

“Confiscating Church Gold.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 4 Jan. 2016,        soviethistory.msu.edu/1921-2/confiscating-church-gold/.

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: a History. Third ed., Oxford University Press, 2009.

Anti-Religious Campaigns, 16 Aug. 2016, www.loc.gov/exhibits/archives/anti.html.

Letter from Lenin, www.loc.gov/exhibits/archives/ae2bkhun.html.

Three Generations: Zlatoust factory

This post earned a “red star” award from the editorial team.

Three Generations
https://www.wdl.org/en/item/5293/#q=prokudin+Gorskii&page=4

Looking at this picture, one can see three people. The three people each belong to a different generation where the old man on the left is 72-year-old Andrei Petrovich Kalganov, the man in the middle is his son, and the woman is Kalganov’s granddaughter (Library of Congress). Andrei Kalganov was a specialist in leather sheathing of saber scabbards for military officers. He was awarded two medals and a gold-edged caftan for mastery of his craft and his good work (Library of Congress). This shows that he was appreciated by his employers or they gave him these awards so he would not be in favor of going on strike.

Andrei Petrovich Kalganov was chosen to be the one to give Tsar Nicholas II the bread-salt greeting when the Tsar visited the factory in 1904 (Library of Congress). After looking into what the bread salt greeting was, I found out it is an ancient Russian tradition to greet visitors. According to Anna Sorokina, “bread and salt symbolized prosperity and health, so hosts would put on their best clothes, lay a feast on the table, and offer a loaf or two together with the condiment to their guests” (par. 2). She goes on to say that “Bread in Slavic culture is considered a sacred thing: No bread at home means there’s nothing to eat – no meal doesn’t include bread” (par. 3). The symbolism for salt was that during the early years of Russia, salt was expensive and not everyone could buy it. The salt tax was removed at the end of the 19th century which allowed salt to be purchased again. Russians would only use salt for a special occasion because of this (Sorokina, par. 4). Based off of this, it would seem that it would be a great honor for Andrei Kalganov to give the bread salt greeting to Tsar Nicholas II.

Salt and Bread
http://euromaidanpress.com/2014/08/27/putin-got-scared-of-bread-and-salt-in-minsk/

Looking at the picture, the man on the left seems to look tired or detached while the two on the right look scared or stressed. My assumption is that Andrei Kalganov and his family were pressured into taking the picture in order to quell the worker riots. The Russian government would hope that if the other workers see this picture, they would believe that workers are being rewarded and riots would be unnecessary. George Freeze writes in his book Russia: A History, that “the renewed labour unrest that erupted in some of the factories of centra Russia, including Moscow, in the mid-1890s, was dwarfed by a succession of city wide strikes in St Petersburg’s textile industry in 1896-7” (pg. 241). It can be seen later that the government tried to deter more strikes by either legalizing labor unions or shortening the workday. In 1897, a limit on the workday was introduced and labor unions were legalized in 1906 (Freeze, pg. 242). The picture’s description says that Tsar Nicholas II visited the factory in 1904 (Library of Congress). Nicholas II may have visited the factory in order to give off the sense that he cared for the workers and that they mattered. He did not want the workers to riot and cause any more problems for the Russian government.

Citations:

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: a History. Third ed., Oxford University Press, 2009.

Prokudin-Gorskii. “Three Generations. A.P. Kalganov with Son and Granddaughter. The Last Two Work in the Shops of the Zlatoust Plant.” WDL RSS, Library of Congress, 1 Jan. 1970, www.wdl.org/en/item/5293/#q=prokudin Gorskii&page=4.

Sorokina, Anna. “Why Russians Greet Guests with Bread and Salt.” Russia Beyond, 14 June 2018, www.rbth.com/russian-kitchen/328522-why-russians-greet-bread-salt.