10 myths about Stalin’s role in WWII
The Caucasian Knot (an online news site that covers the Caucasus region) provides background info about famous myths and provides reliable information related to Joseph Stalin’s role in WWII’s developments, as well as the most popular misconceptions about his actions before the war and during the hostilities.
Myth #1: ‘Stalin was unaware of the German attack’
“Various versions are voiced nowadays as to whether the precise date of launching the war and its plan were known to us in advance. The General Staff learned about the date of the German troops’ attack from a defector only on 21 July and we reported it to J.V. Stalin right away.
He immediately gave his consent to put troops on a war footing. Apparently, he had previously received such important news through other channels...,” read the memoirs of Marshal Georgy Zhukov, fully published in 2002.
Myth #2: ‘The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact delayed the beginning of war’
“It’s a widespread belief, but it’s completely wrong.
First of all, it’s immoral that the Soviet Union colluded with Nazi Germany. This collusion would imply the division of the territories of other states. ‘Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Finland were divided between the USSR and Germany’ – this is also a grossly immoral fact.
Secondly, having signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, we became Germany’s allies, and that was the very reason why Germany started the war in Poland. If we had announced that we were allies of Britain, France and Poland, and in case of an attack on Poland we would have rendered assistance to the latter, then Germany would have never dared attack Poland.
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is not only a crime of the Stalinist regime, but also one of the reasons for the breakout of WWII, an episode of which was the Great Patriotic War,” believes Andrey Zubov, a Soviet and Russian historian, theologian and political analyst.
Myth #3: ‘Stalin himself intended to attack Hitler’
“It’s the most vicious falsification of the war. Even the German documents show evidence that people from Hitler’s entourage reported to him as follows: ‘The USSR intends to comply with the Non-aggression Pact conditions, and aggression shouldn’t be expected in the coming months,’ ” says Georgy Kumanyov, the Head of the Russian Military History Center at the Institute of Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Myth #4: ‘It was personally Stalin who won the war’
“It wasn’t Stalin, but rather the party as a whole, the Soviet leadership, our heroic army, its talented generals and valiant warriors, the entire Soviet people, who secured the victory in the Great Patriotic War,” Nikita Khrushchev, the Central Committee First Secretary, claimed at the historical closed-door session of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, on 25 February 1956.
Myth #5: ‘Stalin preferred not to focus on his role in WWII’
“Generally speaking, it would be nice for one to know that the myth about Stalin’s irreplaceable role in our ‘victory’, about him being ‘a man of genius’, who crushed the enemy, was invented… by Stalin himself.
In 1948, a brief biography of the leader was published, the text of which was edited by Stalin himself. Moreover, it was he who wrote down the passages, praising his own military merits. And it is quite understandable, because it was necessary to justify himself for the mediocre, if not criminal, decisions that he made.
He was well-aware of it, equally as millions of people who experienced the consequences of Stalin’s ‘military genius’,” said Vitaly Dymarsky, editor-in-chief of the ‘The Dilettante’ historical magazine.
Myth #6: ‘’Cleansing on the top notch of the army didn’t affect its combat capacity’
‘Comrade Stalin is quite guilty of eliminating military personnel before the war, which affected the army’s combat capacity. For that very reason he, before starting to hear the plan for the forthcoming operation, brought the conversation around to the personnel issue, so as to test me…
During this conversation, Comrade Stalin repeatedly mentioned generals, who had been released from prison before the war and who fought well. ‘And who is to blame for sending those poor, innocent people to jail?’ I timidly asked Stalin. ‘Who, who…’ Stalin responded in an irritated manner.
‘Those who sanctioned their arrest, those who were heading the army at that time,” – an excerpt from the memoirs of Andrey Ivanovich Yeremenko, the Soviet Union Marshal.
Myth #7: ‘’Soldiers went into assault, shouting ‘’For the Motherland! For Stalin!’
“It’s an absolute myth, which was already propagated back in that period. Those were political instructors who would cry out: ‘For the Motherland! For Stalin!’ They had to do that, because if a political instructor hadn’t cried it out, then he would have been facing serious consequences.
As for the rest, the rank and file, and even the commanders, they never even recalled Stalin when carrying out an attack…
They shouted: ‘Mother!’, they shouted some swearwords, just yelled something to muffle their fear, but that certainly wasn’t the ‘Motherland or Stalin’. Just ask any front-line soldier, though they are few of them left,” says Nikolay Svanidze, a historian and journalist.
Myth #8: ‘There were no interethnic conflicts during Stalin’s rule’
“Many people either don’t know or don’t want to know that there were mass arrests, deportations and executions on ethnic grounds during Stalin’s ruling. Whole nations were declared ‘enemies’. Could that have contributed to interethnic consolidation?
There are numerous documents evidencing that there were acute conflicts on national grounds. Stalin left a very burdensome legacy in this regard,” believes Oleg Khlevnyuk, a research fellow at the International Center of WWII History and Sociology of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, an author of the book ‘Stalin. New Biography of a Dictator’.
Myth #9: ‘Stalin’s role in WWII was downplayed’
“No one has ever erased Stalin from history. He, in contrast, quite easily crossed out his opponents, as well as those whom he eliminated, from encyclopedias and blanked them out from all books.
Stalin remained on the pages of the Great Soviet encyclopedia, equally as in all other encyclopedias, as well as in school history textbooks, and even in a more glamorous form than he actually deserved,” says Yan Rachinskiy, a member of the board of the Russian ‘Memorial’ society.
Myth #10: “Stalin’s Order #227 fundamentally changed the course of war’
“Order #227 (No one step back!) had a double meaning. On the one hand it strengthened the troops’ tenacity and decreased the number of cases when they yielded ground without order.
On the other hand, the commanders often ordered a retreat too late, as they were apprehensive to order any retreat without the highest sanctions, which resulted in troops being entrapped. Stalin hoped that the Red Army soldiers would fight more strenuously and inflict heavy losses to the enemy if they were threatened by execution and penal battalions.
In reality, sometimes it was quite the opposite. Scared of being reprimanded, the commanding officers sometimes ordered a retreat too late which resulted in additional losses,” – an abstract from the book “The Mythical War. The Second World War Miracles” by historian Boris Sokolov.