The Soviet Union played a major role in the allied victory in World War II. They stopped the Nazi advances and eventually pushed them back on the eastern front. The Russian people showed great resolve to triumph in spite of drastic errors in judgment by the Soviet leaders. Some of the poor decisions were made by Joseph Stalin. The first major mistake was that he believed that he could stall the Soviet Union’s involvement in the war until 1942. Stalin also made an error in trying to take advantage of the war by launching an attack on Finland. The Second World War was also a test of the Soviet system’s organizational power. The collective agenda allowed the Soviets to out produce German forces during the war. One factor highlighted as responsible for the Soviet victory in the Second World War is the strength of their economy after 1942. In August 1939 the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression treaty called the Nazi-Soviet Pact with the Nazis. This pact was signed so that Stalin could keep the Soviet Union out of a war with Germany on the eastern front of Europe.
Stalin believed that war with the Nazis was a foregone conclusion. The pact was signed in the hope of pushing this conflict off until 1942. This was not a wise decision. The Nazis had become so confident and powerful with their Blitzkrieg model of warfare that the Soviets would have been more prepared for battle in 1939 rather than 1941. Operation Barbarossa allowed this more formidable Nazi force to smash through the Soviet defences in both the north and south of Russia and the Ukraine. The strength of the Soviet economy and rapid reparation made after the catastrophic losses within 1941-1942 was a major factor. Soviet production was located in the west which meant once quick advancements were made by the Germans in Operation Barbarossa using the ‘Blitzkrieg’ model, this either meant that the Germans had access to Soviet resources or the Soviet military had to destroy from the Germans as to not allow them to gain further usage ‘scorched earth’.
This left Stalin with a limited resources and little production methods. The removal and transportation of Soviet factories from the west to the east was a decisive factor leading to the USSR winning the war because it meant that the Russians could produce all material needed without any threat from the Germans as the land distance was so vast. It was described as the Soviet Union being tipped on its side towards Asia. Stalin’s plan was to help Soviet industry switch to wartime production and improve the military options the Soviet commanders had. A major factor that helped this was the Soviets adaptability and experience of industrialisation having experienced Stalin’s 5 year plan. This meant the Soviet people were a lot more efficient when contributing to the war economy.
Stalin spoke in 1931 about the Soviet Union needing to advance fifty to one hundred years in the next ten years to catch up with the rest of the world. When Germany attacked in 1941 ten years had passed. The Soviets had improved the infrastructure of industry. However, major drawbacks were still in place. The major problem involved the distance between the 3,500 new factories and the front line of the battlefield. The factories were spread out across the Soviet Union. The majority of the factories were located in the south but stretched from Stalingrad in the west to Siberia in the east. During the early years of World War II Stalingrad was instructed by the centralized Communist Party in Leningrad. Stalingrad was chosen due to its proximity and access to the Volga River.
The protection of production was also harnessed with resources to be able to produce for the war. This was achieved with the lend-lease agreement with the US. This was designed to supply the Soviet Union with resources to help produce machinery and improve communication links as the distance between the Russian cities and businesses became stretched. The supplies were imported using the Black Sea remaining a safe distance from German attack. As a result, the Soviet Union were able to out produce Germany. The Russians become more efficient creating tanks, ensuring they were all the same would mean fixing them would become easier and the time it would take to produce shortened. The USA’s involvement in World War 2 was due to the Japanese bombing of pearl harbour , although Germany were not obliged to go to war with the Japanese as they had not been declared war by the Americans, Hitler decided to give assistance.
This only meant a larger power became a German enemy. A major mistake made by the Germans was the underestimation of Soviet force, once the initial advancements were made in Operation Barbarossa. Hitler and the wider population believed that it would only be time before the Soviets would have to succumb to defeat. One German general believed that Soviet military leaders were ‘less of a threat than the tsarist Russian generals’. However this was not the only power that misjudged the strength of USSR as American generals also expressed that the Soviets would only last within a timescale of a single month to 3 months. Another mistake made by Hitler was his persistence and control with the army. Hitler aimed to complete Operation Barbarossa before the winter, as this wasn’t completed he forced them to continue. The harsh soviet conditions made this impossible, The German soldiers were unprepared for the winter weather which lead to thousands of deaths by hyperthermia.
Whereas, the Soviet troops having adapted to the harsh conditions were able to continue. An advantage this gave Stalin was the time to organise both military and civilians. The delay of German troops due to the lack of support with clothing and supplies left them stranded in the centre of vast land, unable to continue and low on morale as communication was near impossible. This gave Stalin time to reorganise, one way Stalin organised the military was to ensure that a constant supply of equipment and man power fed through. Though soldiers were trained to maintain efficiency meaning less Soviet soldiers were likely to die in combat. Another way Stalin organised his military was to make sure Vasilevsky and Zhukov regained dominance in airspace. This resulted in German efforts to conduct Blitzkrieg tactic useless. Stalin also abolished the strong influence the communist party had on the army to ensure the military stayed resistant. Stalin also ensured that the civilian population was well led to ensure maximum efficiency in the effort of war.
Regular propaganda messages ensured that morale was kept at a high level. Films were regularly shown highlighting the evil Nazi party to ensure that the population stay in favour of German invasion. Propaganda was also less based upon the strength of the communist party during war and focused more on national unity and fighting spirit in the war effort. This was to keep the Soviet population loyal to the communist party. Another key method in boosting morale in Russia was the reintroduction of practiced religion. Religion was never banned but suffered severe harassment since 1917, closing churches and killing priests it became dangerous to practice religion. The restoration of Christianity brought the backing of Christians and an improved morale in Soviet Russia. Another group that played a valuable role in the soviet victory was partisan groups.
They were men and women who fought within German territory and attacked German soldiers and destroyed German equipment. This was particularly effective as the cutting of communication wires made it difficult to convey messages over vast land and very difficult to repair due to the lack of supplies. Ultimately, I believe that the Soviet economy was crucial for Soviet victory in the Second World War as without a strong economy producing output would have left the Soviets defenceless against the Germans. However I also think that the leadership of the military and civilians in Russia was crucial in becoming more efficient and consequently a stronger power.
Smaller factors such as the contribution of the Russian civilians in protecting Leningrad were also detrimental in achieving victory. There are several interpretations highlighted by the western civilisation on why the Soviet Union won the war, there has tended to feature Soviet heroism in standing up to the German invasion, but to regard the other positive factors as unnecessary. There is often a focus on Stalin’s mistakes in leadership especially early in the war. This contrasts with Soviet historians views that highlight the determined resistance of the soviet people and leadership. I also believe this soviet viewpoint that without the patriotism towards Soviet Russia creating the biggest impotence towards the Russian war effort.
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Topic: Strength of the Soviet Economy
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