Week 26

"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


Richard Overy,

Russias's War,

Penguin Books; Revised edition (August 1, 1998),

ISBN 978-0140271690

Amazon.com Review

As German armies stampeded through the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, Nazi politicians and Western statesmen alike predicted the USSR's collapse. In Russia's War, a balanced and acute portrayal of a combat theater that claimed more than 40 million Soviet lives, Richard Overy tells the story of how Stalin and his commanders held off defeat and engineered the most significant military achievement of the Second World War: the destruction of the Wehrmacht.Russia's War is far from a tale of triumph, as the Russian capacity for resourceful creativity, desperate courage, and raw endurance was matched, if not exceeded, by the brutal oppression of the Soviet system. Overy argues, however, that victory was the result of precisely this uneasy combination. Drawing from extensive archival sources made available in the wake of glasnost, he revises both our conception of the Red Army as a horde that overwhelmed the Germans and the accepted wisdom that Hitler's defeat was the result of strategic bungling and a logistical overreach of the Nazi forces. Perhaps his most poignant contribution is the discussion of the crisis that recent disclosures have provoked in the Russian understanding of the conflict. What was once viewed by the Soviets as the "Great Patriotic War" has become "a crucible of miserable and incomprehensible revelations." In spite of these confusions, Russia's War commences to find significance in a contest that repeatedly disquiets and humbles the historical imagination. --James Highfill


"Penetrating and compassionate..." - The New York Times

"Masterly ... a vivid account"-- Robert Service,Independent (London)

"A dramatic and exciting tale ... His set-piece descriptions of such visions of Hell as Stalingrad, the 900-day siege of Leningrad and the crucial battle of Kursk are as fascinating as they are horrifying"― Sunday Times (London)

"Overy is a first-class military historian ... He writes concisely and says what he means to say ... Now, we have an authoritative British account that understands both sides, without illusions." -- Norman Stone, Spectator (London)

"Excellent ... Overy tackles this huge, complex and multifaceted story with the vital gifts of clarity and brevity" -- Antony Beevor, Literary Review (London)

Martin Malia,

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

Free Press,

ISBN 0684823136