Week 26

RUSSIA AT WAR
"Stalin was capable of learning from his mistakes. He began to trust his generals and to delegate operational authority, allowing them to present alternatives for him to adjudicate rather than micromanaging strategy as Hitler did. He appealed to Russian nationalism and even permitted the election of a new Orthodox patriarch and used the Church to bestow moral meaning on the war effort. He allowed army officers to wear the trappings of the old Tsarist army uniforms, the peasants to enlarge their individual plots at the expense of the collectives. He put great poets, censored for years, on the radio to recite patriotic verse, and evacuated one of the greatest of them, Anna Akhmatova, from besieged Leningrad. Stalin himself continued to address his people as "brothers and sisters" or "my friends" rather than "comrades" or "citizens," as he had in his first speech after the Barbarossa invasion. And he evacuated fifteen hundred factories, together with their workers, eastward, out of reach of German bombs. Ultimately ten million workers were relocated in this way, working under military discipline. "By 1943 this extraordinary industrial redeployment had put Russia's production of planes, tanks, and artillery far above Germany's. The Party's ability to mobilize and rapidly concentrate great masses of men and materiel at strategic points and under crisis conditions was clearly a major factor in the Soviet victory" (Martin Malia). In a war of attrition, the marshalling of resources, rather than brilliant leadership, was the key to victory. The Soviet command economy, for all its faults, was well suited to wartime conditions and total mobilization: in fact it was better at improvising than planning. The Americans and the British helped with supplies and motorized vehicles: 80,000 jeeps, 150,000 light trucks, 200,000 Studebaker army trucks, aviation fuel, explosives, copper, aluminum, rubber, rails, canned food, field telephones, boots. More and more the Red Army was able to achieve superiority in numbers, equipment, and even, as the Luftwaffe became depleted, air cover. And the Soviet T-34 tank actually had better armor and more speed and firepower than its German counterpart. Newly organized tank units proved the equal of the panzer divisions: in 1941, six or seven tanks were lost for every German one; by 1944 the ratio was one to one. Radio communications, radar, maintenance systems, and camouflage operations were reorganized as well."
Professor Bruce Thompson

RECOMMENDED READING

Alexander Werth,

Russia at War, 1941–1945: A History,

Skyhorse,

ISBN 1510716254

"Magnificent . . . . It fills a great void. . . . the best book we probably shall ever have in English on Russia at war." —William Shirer, author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

"There is no book in any language with which to compare this monumental but exceedingly readable history of the Nazi-Soviet war . . . in savagery and hatred it was the biggest war in history . . . an engrossing and terrifying book." —Life

"Engrossing history . . . spellbinding narrative." —Newsweek

"Monumental and absorbing. . . . An epic work that will fascinate the ordinary reader." —Saturday Review

Martin Malia,

The Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia, 1917-1991,

Free Press,

ISBN 0684823136