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.

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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.

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Sources:

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

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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

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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.

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