Friday, May 10, 2019

Soviet/Russian Mythology about WWII- Who started the war?

Today is May 9th, which Russia and some other countries of the Former Soviet Union celebrate as the end of the Second World War. (The Western Allies signed Germany's unconditional surrender May 8 but Stalin insisted on a separate signing the following day).

Since it was the only thing the USSR did right (more or less) in 70 years, and really Russia since, Putin is using "The Great Patriotic War" to build Russian support for nationalism and militarism. There is an official version which must not be disputed and archives are kept closed to make sure it is not. The article linked below dispells the 6 major myths spouted by the Kremlin.

One of the big myths is who started the war. Two books by Victor Suvorov shed some not uncontroversial light on it:

Victor Suvorov is a former Soviet-Union army officer who fled in 1978 to England, where he worked as a teacher and adviser for news agencies. Author of a number of bestsellers about the history of the World War II, the Soviet Army special operations troops and military intelligence, and the Red Army, he is one of the historians who believe that Hitler started the war against Russia to prevent Stalin attacking Germany first. (Goodreads)

The Chief Culprit is an expanded version of Ice-Breaker. The pros and cons of his thesis that Stalin was responsible for starting WWII and that Hitler's invasion of USSR was to preempt Stalin's invasion of Europe can be found here He is beginning to gather some support for his ideas. it is natural that he would be resisted as historians have pretty much stuck to the Soviet line that "they were not ready, Stalin was incompetent, etc". Some Russian historians are certainly opposed to Suvorov and apparently an Israeli one as well. One of the criticisms is that Suvorov doesn't cite his sources. But as he said, forget the documents, simply look at what was done and weigh it as for attack or defense.

If Hitler had delayed the invasion of the Soviet Union by two weeks, the Soviet Army would have been on the English Channel by September. Europe would today be speaking Russian and look much like East Germany prior to unification. That is the conclusion one draws from Suvorov's book.

Anyone with an interest in the history of the Second World War knows the general narrative of the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. Hitler fooled Stalin into signing the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, bribing him with the secret protocols dividing up Eastern Europe. 

This allowed Hitler to fight on one front only without having to watch his back and would deal with Russia later. The Germans were so successful in overrunning Western Europe, North Africa, Norway, and the Balkans, that Hitler decided to risk invading the Soviet Union. Destruction of the USSR was his overriding goal all along (see Mein Kampf) - starving 1/3 of all Slavs, enslaving 1/3 and driving 1/3 behind the Urals.

The Red Army was massed along the border with Germany with stockpiles of munitions, aircraft, tanks, etc. The Red Army was badly led, Stalin having killed off all the experienced officers in the 1937-38 purges, and did not have time to prepare defenses. Stalin was convinced Hitler would not attack and disregarded warnings of the pending German invasion, from among other sources Churchill and Sorge, a spy in the German Embassy in Japan, who gave the exact date of the invasion.

The Red Army was caught totally unprepared by the German attack and collapsed in utter confusion, though they fought bravely. It took several weeks for the Soviet Army to get organized and begin to provide any kind of solid defense. They were not helped by Stalin who insisted that there should be no retreat and no territory lost.

Originally scheduled for April, Barbarossa was delayed until late June while the Germans bailed out Mussolini in the Balkans and reinforced the Romanian oilfields. Hitler was convinced that the war with the Soviet Union would be over in 4 months. However, even though in the first few weeks and months of the war, the Nazi's captured over 4 million Red Army soldiers and destroyed or captured thousands of aircraft and tanks, and millions of tonnes of munitions, they were caught by winter at the gates of Moscow.

This is the accepted story from German sources and official Soviet sources. For some reason, no one questioned the official Soviet sources and no one asked the obvious question, "What the hell were the Russians doing between Sept 1939 and June 1941 and more importantly, what were they thinking?"

We know the Soviet Union supplied food and raw materials to the Germans. We know in September 1939 they invaded and annexed eastern Poland, fought the Winter War with Finland, then in 1940 invaded and annexed the Baltics as per the agreement with Germany. They also invaded and annexed Bessarabia which was not in the agreement and which was too close for comfort to the Ploiesti oilfields, Germany's only oil supply.

It is Suvorov's belief that it was Stalin who fooled Hitler into facing west and that Hitler was finished the moment he turned his back on the USSR. Stalin's logic goes back to the very beginning of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Socialism was not supposed to be limited to one country, it was to be worldwide. After Russia, the country most ready for revolution was Germany immediately after the Great War. But by 1920, when the Russian civil war ended, it was too late. The Red Army was beaten back at Warsaw in 1922 and the border established which held to 1939.

Stalin realized that WWII was essential to the spread of Socialism; for Capitalist Europe (Germany, France, and Britain), to destroy themselves. That is why the USSR began helping Germany rearm, contrary to the Treaty of Versailles, long before Hitler came on the scene. It is also why Stalin encouraged the rise of Hitler because he recognized his usefulness to the Socialist cause. Stalin referred to Hitler as the "Icebreaker" who would open the way for a Socialist conquest of Europe.

So when Zhukov signaled Stalin in August that the Red Army was in position to annihilate the Japanese Army North at Khalkhin-Gol (I was there in 1995) on the Mongolian-Manchurian border and ensure Russia did not have to fight on two fronts, Molotov signed the infamous agreement with Molotov.

As a Russian Military Intelligence Officer Suvorov had access to documents that other historians did not or the significance of which they did not understand. Suvorov describes in well-documented detail what the Red Army was doing and what they were thinking. He lists which officers commanded which armies, division, battalions, where and when they were stationed, what their training and equipment was. He asks many questions to which he then applies his knowledge of military strategy and tactics to work out possible answers.

IF the Soviet Union was determined to stay neutral and stay out of the war and their only concern was to defend themselves against German aggression then WHY did they:
  • Move their border up against Germany, rather than leaving a buffer?
  • Abandon and destroy the Stalin-Line of defensive fortresses stretching from north to south, which at least would have provided a fallback line of defense?
  • Train a million paratroopers and establish a marine landing invasion force stationed on the Danube?
  • Train and organize a First Echelon army of millions and secretly move it up against the Border with Germany and Romania?
  • Train and organize a Second Echelon army and secretly begin moving it towards the German border?
  • Build roads and railroads towards the German border and use them to move troops and to stockpile millions of tonnes of fuel, munitions, etc. within 50 km of the border?
  • Build airstrips within 40 to 50 km of the border and part aircraft wingtip to wingtip?
  • Train pilots not in air to air combat but in air-to-ground bombing and strafing?
  • Spend months of detailed planning but have no defense plans?

These are activities of an OFFENSIVE Army, not a defensive army. In other words, Stalin was NOT waiting for Hitler, he was going to attack. Suvorov calculated the date of July 6, 1941. Sunday morning was a favoured Soviet attack time. And according to the railway schedule, the Second Echelon armies would begin arriving at the front July 10, which meant they could actually be unloaded on the other side of the border on German territory. On July 6, the disasters which happened to the Red Army would have happened to the German army.

By May and early June 1941, the actions of both armies on both sides of the border were mirror images of each other. Both sides were well aware of the build-up of the other side. Why didn't Stalin believe the warnings? He had no reason to trust Churchill whose very survival depended on opening of an Eastern Front. Nor did he trust Sorge who had been "recalled to Moscow" months previous but refused, knowing what was waiting for him when he got there.

Stalin did trust his own intelligence officers who were certain an attack would not be launched even if Hitler were foolish enough to want to fight on two fronts. They were monitoring two critical items which they knew Germany MUST have before an attack on the USSR: winter clothing and winter lubricants. Hitler's hubris sunk Stalin.

Suvorov's claims have been disputed as revisionist. The mythology of the Great Patriotic War is that the Soviet Union did not want to fight but was invaded without cause by the German aggressor. Most of the documentation needed to prove Suvorov's version has of course been destroyed, in particular, the detailed plans which every commander along the front had in a red envelope in a safe which was to be opened on command from Moscow. But there are enough clues left to indicate that Hitler attacked when he did to preempt what he knew was coming and that it was just in time.

Until I find a specific detailed rebuttal, I am inclined to go with Suvorov. 


Ol'Buzzard said...

This is interesting. I am a suspect of all history as it is written by the winners of wars. As in Orwells 1981, Nations count on the ignorance of their citizens in order to revise history to encourage patriotism.
the Ol'Buzzard

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Well, certainly none of the Allied leaders at the time trusted the Soviet Union as far as they could spit. But as Churchill said when criticized for making the Soviet alliance, he would make a pact "with the Devil himself" in order to defeat Hitler. However untrustworthy the true Soviet motives were, there's also no denying that the Soviet people suffered enormously and made unimaginable sacrifices during WW2.

The Blog Fodder said...

That is why history must never be declared as a final version. There is always new information or new ways of looking at something. Howard Zinn vs what you were taught in school.

The Blog Fodder said...

Yes, the Soviet people, all ethnicities, suffered terrible and made huge sacrifices. THEY won the ware at great expense to themselves. Stalin and the Party cadres were responsible for more than half the losses because of ignorance, paranoia, and incompetence. That the USSR suffered 27 million dead is nothing to be proud of.