Some Issues in Soviet Historiography Concerning World War II
Russian historians have not succeeded in providing a complete in-depth account of the Great Patriotic War, because many documents, particularly in distant towns, remain classified. The preparedness of the Soviet Union and the suddenness of Hitler’s attack need further investigation. On the one hand, the war industry greatly increased its output and nearly one million reserves were mobilized in May 1941. On the other hand, Stalin’s purge of the officers corps — 50,000 persons — left the army a headless creature. Stalin, himself, was convinced Germany would not open a second front until England had been vanquished. Despite advice to the contrary, he prevented his army from taking up defensive positions. On the very day of the attack, he rescinded the order of the air force commander to scramble the aircraft. Consequently, 800 of the Soviet’s 1,200 planes were lost on the first day, destroyed on the ground. Furthermore, Friedrich-Werner Schullenberg, the German ambassador, revealed the exact details of the German invasion to the Soviets. Stalin dismissed his words as disinformation. It transpires mainly from Marshal Zhukov’s memoirs that Stalin’s handling of the war in the first phase was incompetent. His restructuring of the economy to meet the demands of war was satisfactory. During the war years, the Soviet people, in general, demonstrated fraternity and the nationalities rallied together. The reported total Soviet losses during the war range from 7,000,000 to 27,000,000. Stalin looked on soldiers as cannon fodder. Yet, the army and the Soviet people were the victors. Stalin and his close circle must bear responsibility for the very heavy losses.