Chapter 3.6. The Cask and the Hoops

 For many years any discussion on the likeness of Stalin’s and Hitler’s regimes was strictly prohibited. The few Soviet color films that were made didn’t show the fascist flag in its true color – red. But then, in 1990-s historians’ and publicists’ silence burst up as a broken dam: every similar feature and common point was brought up from the past, recollected and documented. Even the songs were remembered: one country sang “Higher, and higher and higher", and the other - “mein Fuhrer, mein Fuhrer, mein Fuhrer <…>”. It is about time to recollect two most important matters in which the two totalitarian regimes differed.

           Hitler came to power on the tide of a nationalistic rise which he orchestrated. “Germany above all” was the key motto to Hitler’s ascension to power. It played the same role as Lenin’s brilliant motto “steal the stolen”. But to steal from fellow Germans and rob people of the same blood the Nazis strictly forbade. They strived to unite the nation, while the Bolsheviks were only obsessed with setting the employees against employers, the soldiers against the officers, workers against peasants, the left against the right and the right against the left…

                The Germans didn’t have to suffer from raskulachivanie (during 1929-1930 all Russians peasants who had enough property to be classified above lower-working class were sent to Syberia as “capitalists”. Their possessions were distributed among poorer peasants and the communist party activists), neither had they millions of “evil-doers” unmasked and dealt with. The whole charge of mass hatred, which was necessary for the dictatorship to function, wasn’t aimed inside but outside – at Germany’s enemies. The fruit of this strategy exceeded all expectations: to the very last day of the war a German soldier shed his blood to save his Fatherland from “Asian Bolshevik hordes” or “mercenaries of the western Jewish plutocracy”.

Against this background, the theory and the practice of Bolsheviks seem a rare kind of idiocy. Admitting that more and more World and European wars were unavoidable (even desirable) Lenin and his followers declared patriotism a “dangerous and harmful atavism of the lowly bourgeois mentality”. During the First World War they called for brotherhood with enemy soldiers. After the Bolsheviks had seized the power, they drove every trace of nationality away from the army, even rid its name of it. The military wasn’t converted to “Russian army” or “Soviet army” according to the name of the state, but a “Peasant`s and Worker`s Red Army". Soldiers turned to “Krasnoarmeitsi” (Red Army members), while all the enemies were the “belye” (the white): Belo-pollacks, belo-chinese and belo-finns…

                After all, Lenin’s actions are understandable. Having spent his best years at immigrant cafes in Paris and Zurich, in close company with fanatical sectarians, he got estranged from Russia’s daily life and started to believe that a Russian man would fight a war "to give land to peasants in Granada". But would comrade Stalin, an immoral mercantile and a cold-hearted realist do the same? Of course he recovered his wits later, dismissed the Comintern, fetched the icons of the “tsar generals” out from the stores, and named Alexander Nevsky the creator of Leo Trotsky’s Red Army… But all that happened a little late, and being late in the war is deadly dangerous.

                Even more important than difference in ideology is the difference in the system within which two dictatorships existed. By the start of the Soviet-German war Hitler fulfilled a great deal of his promises. Stalin and the Bolsheviks fooled the simpletons that trusted them at every turn. Hitler united all the Germans in one state, gave every worker a job and a decent salary, created an impressive system of social assistance for maternity and infancy, multiplied the territory of the Reich and led the German army through the triumphal arch in Paris. Besides, he never hurt the old German elites who agreed to cooperate with the new power.

          Hitler was not afraid to portray Stalin’s “state of workers and peasants” in a realistic manner. In his radio address to the nation on the 3rd of October 1941 he declared: “Our soldiers came to the lands ruled by the communist power for 25 years. Those who still had any communist ideas in mind returned cured of them. They went along the streets of this “heaven”. It is just a weapons factory to produce weapons against Europe, built by sacrificing citizens’ living standards”.

         The Bolsheviks fulfilled only a single promise out of multitude they had given: to cut to the root all gospoda (lords) as a class. hey cut them all indeed, with vengeance and took a lot of other people along. Any other things that were promised they didn’t bother to do. There was no sharing of what the Bolsheviks "expropriated from the expropriators": they left all the loot to themselves. Despite the immense resource extorted from the tsar family, aristocracy, the church and private business, the real welfare level of the population was as low as it had been in 18-th century.

                Instead of the "equality" which was promised, there appeared a kind of “new nobility”, people flew planes, drove gleaming Packards, dwelled in the palaces of the Great Princes and enjoyed the Emperor’s beaches. In other words the “new nobles” lived the life of American millionaires in the country of the poor and of cannibals. The promises "to house the worker’s families in palaces" resulted in the few palaces that remained became overcrowded filthy communal barracks.

                The promises to give “factories to the workers” resulted in ex-employees becoming slaves without the right to quit a job at the factory, where they got trifle wages for three shifts a day; and a full-score labor camp sentence for being half an hour late. In 1940 “people’s courts” made 2300 thousand sentences. The “political” convicts made only 25-30% of the whole number of the repressed. The main part of GULAG ( Glavnoe upravlenie lagerey, the Main office of the labour camps) victims were sentenced for 5 years of labor or less, which means that they were convicted for stealing a bag of communal potatoes, for a drill broken because of lack of experience, or for not fulfilling the planned minimum of labor days. Barons’ lands, captured by the peasants in 1917 were seized from them, along with property, freedom and often – life. The poverty in which a Novgorod or Smolensk peasant longed his days shocked the German soldiers who just refused to believe that people in European territory could live like that.

                Except for several individuals all military men, engineers, economists, diplomats of old Russia who willingly joined the Bolsheviks never saw July, 1941. They were executed or sent to labor camps to rot.

                Those facts were too significant for any form of propaganda to function. That is why tovarish Stalin (during the thirty years of his reign) never visited a kolkhoz or a factory and never danced a horovod (traditional Russian dance, usually performed by birthday or New Year parties; “to dance horovods” also means “make friends”) with the children. He never sought the love of masses and probably didn’t believe it existed. He needed obedience, absolute and unquestionable, and he used the only method he knew to attain it - terror, monstrously cruel mass terror. Stalin was convinced that total fear would be the ideal foundation for his power, and “no demons from hell would break it”.

                But that was the biggest mistake in his life.

                Of course there is no point in arguing that fear of punishment is a powerful instrument to control human behaviour. But it is absurd to believe that an oppressed nation could be led to fight the Great Patriotic War. Stalin, being a poorly educated son of a drunkard shoemaker, just couldn’t cope with the difficult task of determining a reasonable measure of fear and oppression. His generals, scared through all their lives remained professionally-incompetent, cattle without honor and faith raised to the heights of power were not able to meet difficult administration challenges.

                During all years of his undivided and uncontrolled reign in Russia Stalin never understood the idea of wise Russian proverb «klin klinom vyshibajut) ("fight fire with fire") The horrible damage dealt by the Wehrmacht, replaced the old fear with a new one, and chekist’s (chekist – member of the ChK - a soviet version of GESTAPO) pistol seemed to soldiers insignificant before the thundering of cannons and the metallic growl of tank tracks. And then Stalin’s empire, bound by terror and controlled by terror started to creak and fall apart.

           Like a cask, which had its hoops smashed.

 

         Salvation came from somewhere Stalin could not even expect. The wonderful escape from inevitable downfall impressed the nation's leader so much he could not help it and announced it in public. However, he quickly came to his senses and never said something like THAT any more. But in November 1941, in his speech at a solemn meeting devoted to the bolshevist revolt anniversary, Stalin suddenly told the truth: "Hitler's stupid policy turned peoples of the USSR to sworn enemies of today's Germany" (172).  These words give a simple and brief reason of why a fight for redistribution of robbers' loot between the two bloody dictators finally turned into the Great Patriotic War of the Soviet people.

          Hitler made a long run of clamant mistakes while the victory over Stalin's empire virtually fell into his hands. The primary mistake was the strategic purpose itself to defeat the enemy with pure military force. A hundred and a half of German divisions could not occupy the country spread from Brest to Vladivostok and from Murmansk to Ashkhabad. The only way to destroy the Soviet Union was to blow it up from the inside (which actually happened in exactly half a century), and the only purpose of the warfare could be initiating such blow. But Hitler, that narcissistic monster imagining himself to be an instrument of "Providence", was not able (or just did not want) to realize these plain triusms. However, the process of intrinsic decay of the Soviet state went on with an increasing speed regardless of the initial plans of Hitler's staff.

          Armed revolts started in the national suburbs of the USSR (the Baltics, Western Ukraine, with the North Caucasus and the Kuban somewhat later), which resulted in self-proclaimed "states" with their administrations coming to power in Lvov, Riga and Kaunas. Most of the population of the central regions of the country met the Germans not with flowers but with a mixed feeling of distrust and expectations. A million and a half Red Army soldiers had been captured by the Germans by the start of autumn, and this number became more than twice as much during September and October, 1941. Actually, it was a huge "army intake" with command staff, military professionals of all kinds and with gigantic store of ammunition and weapons – from rifles to KV tanks – which had not vanished without a trace, but rather remained in great quantities on the territory controlled by the Wehrmacht.

          Wehrmacht generals saw the situation in the Red Army and in PW camps at close distance and suggested Hitler many times to utilize this unique situation to bring the USSR out of war as soon as possible. It seemed highly realizable to retry an adventure of years 1917 and 1918 when Germany contributed to the change of power in Russia, made peace with the new government (the Brest treaty) and gave itself some room for an offensive at the Western front. Taras Boulba's formula ("I gave you birth, and I will put you an end") could be easily applied by the Germans to the bolshevist regime in Russia.

          One could create several "independent states" allied to Germany (like Slovakia or Croatia) upon the ruins of the Soviet Union, and these states would provide the Wehrmacht with food, raw materials for the war industry and supporting units. However, all those racist ravings about the "Slavonic inferiority" in a fanciful mix with fear of the Eastern giant deep in Hitler's sick mind made him say he did not need any alliance with the Slavonic "subhumans", and the only thing the Wehrmacht was to do was to simply defeat the Red Army quickly. Later he stopped answering these suggestions at all. After commander of the "Center" army group Field Marshal von Bock had sent his project of a "liberation army" of 200 thousand volunteers and a Russian administration in Smolensk to Berlin, he got his report back in 1941 with Keitel's indorsement: "Such ideas are not to be discussed with the Fuhrer".

         I'll say it again for the most prejudged and inattentive readers: the foregoing is not a story of "how wonderful everything could have been". This is some sad thinking about the fact that everything could have been even worse than it was, although one would ask – what could be worse than that? There was no shallow point in the flames of a world war, so Stalin's defeat would only mean titanic gain in Hitler's positions, who could easily obtain gigantic resources of the richest land in the world, apart from millions of obedient workers accustomed to everything. The regime that could be set up on the territory "liberated" from NKVD and bolshevist power would probably differ from the Stalin's one in the color of banners and titles on the doors to high offices. However, it's entirely possible that names of many office owners would have remained the same.

         Luckily for the humanity, Hitler lost his unique chance given to him by the many years of Bolsheviks plundering Russia. He didn't even try to "sweeten the pill" and turn his aggression against the USSR into a "liberation campaign". The captured Red Army soldiers abandoned by the Soviet state were driven together like cattle onto huge fields enclosed in barbed wire and were famished with hunger and dysentery. Fascist leaders proved to be better than the GlavPUR (Chief Political Directorate) propagandists and managed to show the Red Army soldiers that being captured did not guarantee life. Liberation of Red Army soldiers of certain nationalities initiated by the army command was stopped on November 13, 1941. After that an early and severe winter came, which killed two thirds of the captives of 1941 through cold, hunger and diseases.

          The occupational administration showed the stunned population in the similar firm and clear manner that "the Germans are a cultured nation" formula is to be forgotten, and one has to get accustomed to the "new order" which proved to be even simpler than the old one: instant execution for any fault. People were told in defiant sincerity that serving to the "superrace" made the only reason to live for those who would be left to live. Not everyone would, however. Horrible scenes of the Jews genocide, massacre of captives, shooting of hostages, public executions – these were the things that shook the population in the regions occupied. Even those who welcomed the German invasion in 1941 expecting changes for the better were terrified and thought about the impossibility of life with this "new order".

           Yes, millions of leaflets falling down from German planes promised the Red Army soldiers enough food and return home after the end of war. But the "wireless telephone" of rumors kept working, and amazingly effective. So, day after day and month after month millions of Soviet people started to realize that the war they had to fight and die at was not supposed to free yet some other "brethren by class" somewhere in Zanzibar or to support the final triumph of the "Carl Marx everlasting doctrine", but rather to give themselves, their families and children a chance to live and hope for a better future.

          That's when the Great Patriotic War began.

          Let us not fall into oversimplification. Life of a many-million human community is far much more complex than any abstract scheme. The formula above ("an empire bound and managed by terror") does reflect the dominant of the Stalin's state, but is rather a journalistic oversimplification of the reality. A poetic phrase "the whole Soviet people like one single man" is only good for a song.   

          The Soviet society was rather heterogeneous. Implementing the boosted industrial modernization with mere trench work (supported by technology stolen from the West) was impossible. The modernization era brought to life a many-million "army" of energetic and ambitious young people, children of janitors and keepers, which had their way to the top of the social hierarchy opened by the revolution. The Soviet power was the "our beloved Soviet power" for those young engineers and hard workers.

          This was an amazing generation which managed to cover the way from under a rotten straw roof of a country hut to a lecture hall of a metropolitan University, from a student's bench to a director's office of a huge factory. High social mobility, an intoxicating "times of fairy tales came true" feeling is probably a much more powerful "social hallucinogen" that material comforts as such. Stalin understood it, supported the "rushing and storming" Soviet youth skillfully, used ambitious "candidates" to provide continuous staff turnover on the upper floors of the administrative pyramid. All the power of the totalitarian state propaganda machine was applied to Soviet youth to shape an image of tangible and close bright future to which "all the ways in our country are open" in their minds. This extremely active although a relatively small social layer got to be the "Chief Command reserve" which helped to keep Stalin's state away from a complete wreck in the critical moment.  

         Finally, the author does not intend at all to bring the whole history of war down to sociology or – more than that – to a description of psychological effects and affects. "But, Basmanov, dost thou know Wherein our strength lies?/ Not in the army, no. Nor Polish aid,/ but in opinion – yes, In popular opinion.", says one of the characters of the "Boris Godunov" drama by Pushkin. Nice said – but one should remember that it's not "popular opinion" alone that the army stands upon, but it's also order and discipline. A military leader's role is great, and where commanders and commissars managed to preserve order and control and to keep their soldiers safe from the total panic, there the enemy got a deserved rebuff in the very first battles. There were such divisions, regiments, battalions and batteries in each segment of the front. Tens of thousands Red Army soldiers and officers started their Patriotic war at dawn of June 22, 1941. Deep in the chaos of a general stampede without neighbors and communications – and without any hope to stay alive – these stubborn batteries and battalions made the Germans deploy from march to combat formations over and over again, brought down the attack tempo and took the enemy down a peg or two.

         "Company in distress makes trouble less". The nameless heroes of the first days of war did not get even this cold comfort. They were to die in obscurity without the knowledge of the fact whether they had managed to bring the one common Victory closer. Most of them got neither any awards, nor any glory, not even a gravestone. But it was them who saved the country with their self-sacrifice. They won the precious time that the deep revolt in the people's attitude to the war required to take place. Let's not forget the Red Army's huge material and technical support, the numbers and quality of Soviet weaponry. Even a single platoon of KV tanks (3 units) could shoot down and destroy a Wehrmacht's mechanized column; even one pillbox post covered in invincible stone walls could stud the bank of a frontier river with bodies of German soldiers…

          Finally, one should not forget the factor of nature and geography. It may not be absolutized but it would be absurd to deny the fact that vast fields of Russia absorbed and dissolved the invasion army. It was quite easy for Napoleon. His army marched at Moscow in a column, stretched into a long thread. The Wehrmacht started its offensive on a front from Kaunas to Peremyshl (about 700 km on the straight), and by the end of year combat actions took place on a front from Tikhvin to Rostov-on-Don (1600 km on the straight). German routes of communications were being continuously expanded. Each shell and each liter of fuel had to cover the great distance of 1500-2000 kilometers before it got to the front. These communication routes had to be secured, as well as provided with anti-aircraft defense and garrisons. As the autumn came, country roads of central Russia turned into an all-over sea of mud impassible for the Wehrmacht's vehicles.

         Having lost a quite feasible chance to get rid of the Eastern front by means of politics, Hitler did not even make his best to use the German vast military potential to win a victory in the battlefield. Dozens of Wehrmacht divisions, many hundred thousand servicemen, millions of reservists deep in the heart of Germany got themselves ready for "operations of the after-Barbarossa period", while troops in the Eastern front dwindled in fierce battles. Even the relatively moderate casualties that the German troops suffered in summer 1941 did not get completely compensated with equipment and personnel. The Germans did not come to Moscow. Bloodless from many months of a continuous battle, Wehrmacht divisions crawled to it at their last gasp. There, in the snow-white fields near Moscow, the freezing remains of the Eastern army were defeated by tens of fresh Red Army divisions transferred from the Siberia and Far East…

 

        ... Certainly, establishing an exact date of "The Great Turn" is out of the question. There can be no such "switchers" to initiate an instant deep revolt in the minds of a great multinational people. Nevertheless, one has to point out some quite rational criteria and reasonable timeframes.

           Let's open the "Secrecy label removed" collection of statistical documents once again. We'll take a look at page 152 this time.  It contains a table of permanent (killed and lost in action) and sanitary (wounded and sick) losses among the personnel of the army in the field broken up into quarters of each year of war.

          Sad experience of the many military conflicts of the 20th century tells us there is some rather stable ratio of killed to wounded in combat actions. It's 1 to 3. Three wounded per one killed man. By the way, this was the ratio of casualties in the Wehrmacht in 1941. Perhaps these figures reflect some fundamental correlation between the "strength" of a human body and the damage effect of weaponry of the first half of the 20th century. One way or another, in the context of a "normal war" (please forgive me such a cynical term) sanitary losses must make up 75% of total casualties. To be more exact, this figure must be even higher that 75%, as there are diseased apart from the wounded, and there must obviously be plenty of them among the people who spent months in pits full of mud.

         But what does table 72 tell us?

         Sanitary losses made up only 24.66% of total losses in the third quarter of 1941 (that is, in the first three months of war). In other words, the ratio of permanent to sanitary losses turned out to be 3 to 1 instead of 1 to 3. This is a very gloomy "miracle". It conceals a great amount of captives and deserters (which actually made up most of the permanent losses of the Red Army in the summer of 1941). It also hides the tragedy of the wounded left over to the enemy, not evacuated to the rear and thus not included into sanitary losses.

        Relative sanitary losses almost doubled in the fourth quarter of 1941 and made up 40.77%. These ratios are still very far from the situation in a normal army at war, but the changes are obvious.

        65. 44% in the first quarter of 1942. That’s almost "normal". 

        47.48% and 52.79% in the second and third quarters respectively. The Germans got through the winter, regained their strength and once again headed the many thousand prisoners from the "traps" near Kerch and Kharkov. But note: the terrifying summer 1941 situation never repeated itself !

         By the end of 1942 relative sanitary losses rise up to the nearly "normal" value of 67.25%.  Then we have the following numbers up to the victorious May of 1945: 79, 75, 76, 77, 79, 78... A qualitative and principal change in the structure of casualties is absolutely obvious. The switch from 3/1 to 1/3 cannot be explained with mistakes in statistical measurements. A qualitative change in the state of the army at the turn of 1942 and 1943 is obvious. The army stopped "dispersing", which resulted into the number of captives and deserters decreasing to only a few percent of the total casualties.

 

          I apologize to everyone who could inadvertently be offended by this cynical arithmetic of a human tragedy. I promise you, I understand the blasphemy of this "percent game", while these figures conceal millions of killed and wounded people. But there's nothing to be done: the job of a military historian is hardly more attractive than a pathoanatomist's one. I'm telling you: both a historian and a pathoanatomist do their job not because of a sick liking for the putrid smell, but rather to find out the final, always belated but the most accurate diagnose...

 

 

 

For many years any discussion on the likeness of Stalin’s and Hitler’s regimes was strictly prohibited. The few Soviet color films that were made didn’t show the fascist flag in its true color – red. But then, in 1990-s historians’ and publicists’ silence burst up as a broken dam: every similar feature and common point was brought up from the past, recollected and documented. Even the songs were remembered: one country sang “Higher, and higher and higher", and the other - “mein Fuhrer, mein Fuhrer, mein Fuhrer <…>”. It is about time to recollect two most important matters in which the two totalitarian regimes differed.

 

           Hitler came to power on the tide of a nationalistic rise which he orchestrated. “Germany above all” was the key motto to Hitler’s ascension to power. It played the same role as Lenin’s brilliant motto “steal the stolen”. But to steal from fellow Germans and rob people of the same blood the Nazis strictly forbade. They strived to unite the nation, while the Bolsheviks were only obsessed with setting the employees against employers, the soldiers against the officers, workers against peasants, the left against the right and the right against the left…

                The Germans didn’t have to suffer from raskulachivanie (during 1929-1930 all Russians peasants who had enough property to be classified above lower-working class were sent to Syberia as “capitalists”. Their possessions were distributed among poorer peasants and the communist party activists), neither had they millions of “evil-doers” unmasked and dealt with. The whole charge of mass hatred, which was necessary for the dictatorship to function, wasn’t aimed inside but outside – at Germany’s enemies. The fruit of this strategy exceeded all expectations: to the very last day of the war a German soldier shed his blood to save his Fatherland from “Asian Bolshevik hordes” or “mercenaries of the western Jewish plutocracy”.

Against this background, the theory and the practice of Bolsheviks seem a rare kind of idiocy. Admitting that more and more World and European wars were unavoidable (even desirable) Lenin and his followers declared patriotism a “dangerous and harmful atavism of the lowly bourgeois mentality”. During the First World War they called for brotherhood with enemy soldiers. After the Bolsheviks had seized the power, they drove every trace of nationality away from the army, even rid its name of it. The military wasn’t converted to “Russian army” or “Soviet army” according to the name of the state, but a “Peasant`s and Worker`s Red Army". Soldiers turned to “Krasnoarmeitsi” (Red Army members), while all the enemies were the “belye” (the white): Belo-pollacks, belo-chinese and belo-finns…

                After all, Lenin’s actions are understandable. Having spent his best years at immigrant cafes in Paris and Zurich, in close company with fanatical sectarians, he got estranged from Russia’s daily life and started to believe that a Russian man would fight a war "to give land to peasants in Granada". But would comrade Stalin, an immoral mercantile and a cold-hearted realist do the same? Of course he recovered his wits later, dismissed the Comintern, fetched the icons of the “tsar generals” out from the stores, and named Alexander Nevsky the creator of Leo Trotsky’s Red Army… But all that happened a little late, and being late in the war is deadly dangerous.

                Even more important than difference in ideology is the difference in the system within which two dictatorships existed. By the start of the Soviet-German war Hitler fulfilled a great deal of his promises. Stalin and the Bolsheviks fooled the simpletons that trusted them at every turn. Hitler united all the Germans in one state, gave every worker a job and a decent salary, created an impressive system of social assistance for maternity and infancy, multiplied the territory of the Reich and led the German army through the triumphal arch in Paris. Besides, he never hurt the old German elites who agreed to cooperate with the new power.

          Hitler was not afraid to portray Stalin’s “state of workers and peasants” in a realistic manner. In his radio address to the nation on the 3rd of October 1941 he declared: “Our soldiers came to the lands ruled by the communist power for 25 years. Those who still had any communist ideas in mind returned cured of them. They went along the streets of this “heaven”. It is just a weapons factory to produce weapons against Europe, built by sacrificing citizens’ living standards”.

         The Bolsheviks fulfilled only a single promise out of multitude they had given: to cut to the root all gospoda (lords) as a class. hey cut them all indeed, with vengeance and took a lot of other people along. Any other things that were promised they didn’t bother to do. There was no sharing of what the Bolsheviks "expropriated from the expropriators": they left all the loot to themselves. Despite the immense resource extorted from the tsar family, aristocracy, the church and private business, the real welfare level of the population was as low as it had been in 18-th century.

                Instead of the "equality" which was promised, there appeared a kind of “new nobility”, people flew planes, drove gleaming Packards, dwelled in the palaces of the Great Princes and enjoyed the Emperor’s beaches. In other words the “new nobles” lived the life of American millionaires in the country of the poor and of cannibals. The promises "to house the worker’s families in palaces" resulted in the few palaces that remained became overcrowded filthy communal barracks.

                The promises to give “factories to the workers” resulted in ex-employees becoming slaves without the right to quit a job at the factory, where they got trifle wages for three shifts a day; and a full-score labor camp sentence for being half an hour late. In 1940 “people’s courts” made 2300 thousand sentences. The “political” convicts made only 25-30% of the whole number of the repressed. The main part of GULAG ( Glavnoe upravlenie lagerey, the Main office of the labour camps) victims were sentenced for 5 years of labor or less, which means that they were convicted for stealing a bag of communal potatoes, for a drill broken because of lack of experience, or for not fulfilling the planned minimum of labor days. Barons’ lands, captured by the peasants in 1917 were seized from them, along with property, freedom and often – life. The poverty in which a Novgorod or Smolensk peasant longed his days shocked the German soldiers who just refused to believe that people in European territory could live like that.

                Except for several individuals all military men, engineers, economists, diplomats of old Russia who willingly joined the Bolsheviks never saw July, 1941. They were executed or sent to labor camps to rot.

                Those facts were too significant for any form of propaganda to function. That is why tovarish Stalin (during the thirty years of his reign) never visited a kolkhoz or a factory and never danced a horovod (traditional Russian dance, usually performed by birthday or New Year parties; “to dance horovods” also means “make friends”) with the children. He never sought the love of masses and probably didn’t believe it existed. He needed obedience, absolute and unquestionable, and he used the only method he knew to attain it - terror, monstrously cruel mass terror. Stalin was convinced that total fear would be the ideal foundation for his power, and “no demons from hell would break it”.

                But that was the biggest mistake in his life.

                Of course there is no point in arguing that fear of punishment is a powerful instrument to control human behaviour. But it is absurd to believe that an oppressed nation could be led to fight the Great Patriotic War. Stalin, being a poorly educated son of a drunkard shoemaker, just couldn’t cope with the difficult task of determining a reasonable measure of fear and oppression. His generals, scared through all their lives remained professionally-incompetent, cattle without honor and faith raised to the heights of power were not able to meet difficult administration challenges.

                During all years of his undivided and uncontrolled reign in Russia Stalin never understood the idea of wise Russian proverb «klin klinom vyshibajut) ("fight fire with fire") The horrible damage dealt by the Wehrmacht, replaced the old fear with a new one, and chekist’s (chekist – member of the ChK - a soviet version of GESTAPO) pistol seemed to soldiers insignificant before the thundering of cannons and the metallic growl of tank tracks. And then Stalin’s empire, bound by terror and controlled by terror started to creak and fall apart.

           Like a cask, which had its hoops smashed.

 

         Salvation came from somewhere Stalin could not even expect. The wonderful escape from inevitable downfall impressed the nation's leader so much he could not help it and announced it in public. However, he quickly came to his senses and never said something like THAT any more. But in November 1941, in his speech at a solemn meeting devoted to the bolshevist revolt anniversary, Stalin suddenly told the truth: "Hitler's stupid policy turned peoples of the USSR to sworn enemies of today's Germany" (172).  These words give a simple and brief reason of why a fight for redistribution of robbers' loot between the two bloody dictators finally turned into the Great Patriotic War of the Soviet people.

          Hitler made a long run of clamant mistakes while the victory over Stalin's empire virtually fell into his hands. The primary mistake was the strategic purpose itself to defeat the enemy with pure military force. A hundred and a half of German divisions could not occupy the country spread from Brest to Vladivostok and from Murmansk to Ashkhabad. The only way to destroy the Soviet Union was to blow it up from the inside (which actually happened in exactly half a century), and the only purpose of the warfare could be initiating such blow. But Hitler, that narcissistic monster imagining himself to be an instrument of "Providence", was not able (or just did not want) to realize these plain triusms. However, the process of intrinsic decay of the Soviet state went on with an increasing speed regardless of the initial plans of Hitler's staff.

          Armed revolts started in the national suburbs of the USSR (the Baltics, Western Ukraine, with the North Caucasus and the Kuban somewhat later), which resulted in self-proclaimed "states" with their administrations coming to power in Lvov, Riga and Kaunas. Most of the population of the central regions of the country met the Germans not with flowers but with a mixed feeling of distrust and expectations. A million and a half Red Army soldiers had been captured by the Germans by the start of autumn, and this number became more than twice as much during September and October, 1941. Actually, it was a huge "army intake" with command staff, military professionals of all kinds and with gigantic store of ammunition and weapons – from rifles to KV tanks – which had not vanished without a trace, but rather remained in great quantities on the territory controlled by the Wehrmacht.

          Wehrmacht generals saw the situation in the Red Army and in PW camps at close distance and suggested Hitler many times to utilize this unique situation to bring the USSR out of war as soon as possible. It seemed highly realizable to retry an adventure of years 1917 and 1918 when Germany contributed to the change of power in Russia, made peace with the new government (the Brest treaty) and gave itself some room for an offensive at the Western front. Taras Boulba's formula ("I gave you birth, and I will put you an end") could be easily applied by the Germans to the bolshevist regime in Russia.

          One could create several "independent states" allied to Germany (like Slovakia or Croatia) upon the ruins of the Soviet Union, and these states would provide the Wehrmacht with food, raw materials for the war industry and supporting units. However, all those racist ravings about the "Slavonic inferiority" in a fanciful mix with fear of the Eastern giant deep in Hitler's sick mind made him say he did not need any alliance with the Slavonic "subhumans", and the only thing the Wehrmacht was to do was to simply defeat the Red Army quickly. Later he stopped answering these suggestions at all. After commander of the "Center" army group Field Marshal von Bock had sent his project of a "liberation army" of 200 thousand volunteers and a Russian administration in Smolensk to Berlin, he got his report back in 1941 with Keitel's indorsement: "Such ideas are not to be discussed with the Fuhrer".

         I'll say it again for the most prejudged and inattentive readers: the foregoing is not a story of "how wonderful everything could have been". This is some sad thinking about the fact that everything could have been even worse than it was, although one would ask – what could be worse than that? There was no shallow point in the flames of a world war, so Stalin's defeat would only mean titanic gain in Hitler's positions, who could easily obtain gigantic resources of the richest land in the world, apart from millions of obedient workers accustomed to everything. The regime that could be set up on the territory "liberated" from NKVD and bolshevist power would probably differ from the Stalin's one in the color of banners and titles on the doors to high offices. However, it's entirely possible that names of many office owners would have remained the same.

         Luckily for the humanity, Hitler lost his unique chance given to him by the many years of Bolsheviks plundering Russia. He didn't even try to "sweeten the pill" and turn his aggression against the USSR into a "liberation campaign". The captured Red Army soldiers abandoned by the Soviet state were driven together like cattle onto huge fields enclosed in barbed wire and were famished with hunger and dysentery. Fascist leaders proved to be better than the GlavPUR (Chief Political Directorate) propagandists and managed to show the Red Army soldiers that being captured did not guarantee life. Liberation of Red Army soldiers of certain nationalities initiated by the army command was stopped on November 13, 1941. After that an early and severe winter came, which killed two thirds of the captives of 1941 through cold, hunger and diseases.

          The occupational administration showed the stunned population in the similar firm and clear manner that "the Germans are a cultured nation" formula is to be forgotten, and one has to get accustomed to the "new order" which proved to be even simpler than the old one: instant execution for any fault. People were told in defiant sincerity that serving to the "superrace" made the only reason to live for those who would be left to live. Not everyone would, however. Horrible scenes of the Jews genocide, massacre of captives, shooting of hostages, public executions – these were the things that shook the population in the regions occupied. Even those who welcomed the German invasion in 1941 expecting changes for the better were terrified and thought about the impossibility of life with this "new order".

           Yes, millions of leaflets falling down from German planes promised the Red Army soldiers enough food and return home after the end of war. But the "wireless telephone" of rumors kept working, and amazingly effective. So, day after day and month after month millions of Soviet people started to realize that the war they had to fight and die at was not supposed to free yet some other "brethren by class" somewhere in Zanzibar or to support the final triumph of the "Carl Marx everlasting doctrine", but rather to give themselves, their families and children a chance to live and hope for a better future.

          That's when the Great Patriotic War began.

          Let us not fall into oversimplification. Life of a many-million human community is far much more complex than any abstract scheme. The formula above ("an empire bound and managed by terror") does reflect the dominant of the Stalin's state, but is rather a journalistic oversimplification of the reality. A poetic phrase "the whole Soviet people like one single man" is only good for a song.   

          The Soviet society was rather heterogeneous. Implementing the boosted industrial modernization with mere trench work (supported by technology stolen from the West) was impossible. The modernization era brought to life a many-million "army" of energetic and ambitious young people, children of janitors and keepers, which had their way to the top of the social hierarchy opened by the revolution. The Soviet power was the "our beloved Soviet power" for those young engineers and hard workers.

          This was an amazing generation which managed to cover the way from under a rotten straw roof of a country hut to a lecture hall of a metropolitan University, from a student's bench to a director's office of a huge factory. High social mobility, an intoxicating "times of fairy tales came true" feeling is probably a much more powerful "social hallucinogen" that material comforts as such. Stalin understood it, supported the "rushing and storming" Soviet youth skillfully, used ambitious "candidates" to provide continuous staff turnover on the upper floors of the administrative pyramid. All the power of the totalitarian state propaganda machine was applied to Soviet youth to shape an image of tangible and close bright future to which "all the ways in our country are open" in their minds. This extremely active although a relatively small social layer got to be the "Chief Command reserve" which helped to keep Stalin's state away from a complete wreck in the critical moment.  

         Finally, the author does not intend at all to bring the whole history of war down to sociology or – more than that – to a description of psychological effects and affects. "But, Basmanov, dost thou know Wherein our strength lies?/ Not in the army, no. Nor Polish aid,/ but in opinion – yes, In popular opinion.", says one of the characters of the "Boris Godunov" drama by Pushkin. Nice said – but one should remember that it's not "popular opinion" alone that the army stands upon, but it's also order and discipline. A military leader's role is great, and where commanders and commissars managed to preserve order and control and to keep their soldiers safe from the total panic, there the enemy got a deserved rebuff in the very first battles. There were such divisions, regiments, battalions and batteries in each segment of the front. Tens of thousands Red Army soldiers and officers started their Patriotic war at dawn of June 22, 1941. Deep in the chaos of a general stampede without neighbors and communications – and without any hope to stay alive – these stubborn batteries and battalions made the Germans deploy from march to combat formations over and over again, brought down the attack tempo and took the enemy down a peg or two.

         "Company in distress makes trouble less". The nameless heroes of the first days of war did not get even this cold comfort. They were to die in obscurity without the knowledge of the fact whether they had managed to bring the one common Victory closer. Most of them got neither any awards, nor any glory, not even a gravestone. But it was them who saved the country with their self-sacrifice. They won the precious time that the deep revolt in the people's attitude to the war required to take place. Let's not forget the Red Army's huge material and technical support, the numbers and quality of Soviet weaponry. Even a single platoon of KV tanks (3 units) could shoot down and destroy a Wehrmacht's mechanized column; even one pillbox post covered in invincible stone walls could stud the bank of a frontier river with bodies of German soldiers…

          Finally, one should not forget the factor of nature and geography. It may not be absolutized but it would be absurd to deny the fact that vast fields of Russia absorbed and dissolved the invasion army. It was quite easy for Napoleon. His army marched at Moscow in a column, stretched into a long thread. The Wehrmacht started its offensive on a front from Kaunas to Peremyshl (about 700 km on the straight), and by the end of year combat actions took place on a front from Tikhvin to Rostov-on-Don (1600 km on the straight). German routes of communications were being continuously expanded. Each shell and each liter of fuel had to cover the great distance of 1500-2000 kilometers before it got to the front. These communication routes had to be secured, as well as provided with anti-aircraft defense and garrisons. As the autumn came, country roads of central Russia turned into an all-over sea of mud impassible for the Wehrmacht's vehicles.

         Having lost a quite feasible chance to get rid of the Eastern front by means of politics, Hitler did not even make his best to use the German vast military potential to win a victory in the battlefield. Dozens of Wehrmacht divisions, many hundred thousand servicemen, millions of reservists deep in the heart of Germany got themselves ready for "operations of the after-Barbarossa period", while troops in the Eastern front dwindled in fierce battles. Even the relatively moderate casualties that the German troops suffered in summer 1941 did not get completely compensated with equipment and personnel. The Germans did not come to Moscow. Bloodless from many months of a continuous battle, Wehrmacht divisions crawled to it at their last gasp. There, in the snow-white fields near Moscow, the freezing remains of the Eastern army were defeated by tens of fresh Red Army divisions transferred from the Siberia and Far East…

 

        ... Certainly, establishing an exact date of "The Great Turn" is out of the question. There can be no such "switchers" to initiate an instant deep revolt in the minds of a great multinational people. Nevertheless, one has to point out some quite rational criteria and reasonable timeframes.

           Let's open the "Secrecy label removed" collection of statistical documents once again. We'll take a look at page 152 this time.  It contains a table of permanent (killed and lost in action) and sanitary (wounded and sick) losses among the personnel of the army in the field broken up into quarters of each year of war.

          Sad experience of the many military conflicts of the 20th century tells us there is some rather stable ratio of killed to wounded in combat actions. It's 1 to 3. Three wounded per one killed man. By the way, this was the ratio of casualties in the Wehrmacht in 1941. Perhaps these figures reflect some fundamental correlation between the "strength" of a human body and the damage effect of weaponry of the first half of the 20th century. One way or another, in the context of a "normal war" (please forgive me such a cynical term) sanitary losses must make up 75% of total casualties. To be more exact, this figure must be even higher that 75%, as there are diseased apart from the wounded, and there must obviously be plenty of them among the people who spent months in pits full of mud.

         But what does table 72 tell us?

         Sanitary losses made up only 24.66% of total losses in the third quarter of 1941 (that is, in the first three months of war). In other words, the ratio of permanent to sanitary losses turned out to be 3 to 1 instead of 1 to 3. This is a very gloomy "miracle". It conceals a great amount of captives and deserters (which actually made up most of the permanent losses of the Red Army in the summer of 1941). It also hides the tragedy of the wounded left over to the enemy, not evacuated to the rear and thus not included into sanitary losses.

        Relative sanitary losses almost doubled in the fourth quarter of 1941 and made up 40.77%. These ratios are still very far from the situation in a normal army at war, but the changes are obvious.

        65. 44% in the first quarter of 1942. That’s almost "normal". 

        47.48% and 52.79% in the second and third quarters respectively. The Germans got through the winter, regained their strength and once again headed the many thousand prisoners from the "traps" near Kerch and Kharkov. But note: the terrifying summer 1941 situation never repeated itself !

         By the end of 1942 relative sanitary losses rise up to the nearly "normal" value of 67.25%.  Then we have the following numbers up to the victorious May of 1945: 79, 75, 76, 77, 79, 78... A qualitative and principal change in the structure of casualties is absolutely obvious. The switch from 3/1 to 1/3 cannot be explained with mistakes in statistical measurements. A qualitative change in the state of the army at the turn of 1942 and 1943 is obvious. The army stopped "dispersing", which resulted into the number of captives and deserters decreasing to only a few percent of the total casualties.

 

          I apologize to everyone who could inadvertently be offended by this cynical arithmetic of a human tragedy. I promise you, I understand the blasphemy of this "percent game", while these figures conceal millions of killed and wounded people. But there's nothing to be done: the job of a military historian is hardly more attractive than a pathoanatomist's one. I'm telling you: both a historian and a pathoanatomist do their job not because of a sick liking for the putrid smell, but rather to find out the final, always belated but the most accurate diagnose...

Mark Solonin became the first who dared to say: But the emperor has no clothes! The very first step, the simplest comparison of the number of airplanes, announced as being destroyed on land (800 units), with the total number of Soviet AF, deployed on the Western USSR borders (more than 8.500 units), as well as a comparison of the number of airfields being attacked (66) with the total number of airfields in the Western military districts (613), knocks over like skittles. However, the content of a 600-page long research "At the Airfields That Seemed to Be Asleep is much deeper; questions which the author is asking, are much more complex than unmasking of obvious nonsense.
A real story of the Soviet-Finnish military conflict is much more astonishing than any other incredible invention. In 1945 an invincible, multi-million army of Stalins empire controlled the enormous territory, stretching between Yellow Sea (Northeast China) to the Adriatic, from Tehran to polar Kirkenes (Norway); Soviet tanks went through the squares in the Prague, Wien, assaulted Danzig (Gdansk), Budapest and Berlin but couldnt break the Finnish resistance, a country whose population (including babies to old men) was much smaller than the size of Red Army. Only three European capitals participants of WWII, werent captured by enemys forces: Moscow, London and Helsinki.
Every step, every try as well as a documented, fair and unprejudiced answer to these three issues lead the researcher to a deadlock of unsolvable, at first sight, contradictions. Why Stalins empire, after years of preparation for the Big War, having concentrated all resources of the richest country in the world, and, finally, having amassed the biggest army size in the world, suffered a crushing defeat in the summer of 1941? Why Stalin, who didnt believe his closest comrades, did believe to Ribbentrops signature in the non-aggression pact? Why the Soviet Union utterly militarized totalitarian empire found itself to be the only participant of the WWII, which started mobilizing its Armed Forces not before the start of combat actions (as did everybody else) and not even on the date of Hitlers invasion, but only on the second day of the war, on June 23, 1941? Why hours before the German invasion fighter regiments of Soviet AF received a day-off, while surface-to-air divisions were withdrawn to the far home front airfields? These are among the questions that will be addressed in my book.
Copyright Mark Solonin
Developed by brandangels.ru
Using site materials with reference only to solonin.org