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Stalin's Wars

Stalin's Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953

Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 496
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  • Book Info
    Stalin's Wars
    Book Description:

    This breakthrough book provides a detailed reconstruction of Stalin's leadership from the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 to his death in 1953. Making use of a wealth of new material from Russian archives, Geoffrey Roberts challenges a long list of standard perceptions of Stalin: his qualities as a leader; his relationships with his own generals and with other great world leaders; his foreign policy; and his role in instigating the Cold War. While frankly exploring the full extent of Stalin's brutalities and their impact on the Soviet people, Roberts also uncovers evidence leading to the stunning conclusion that Stalin was both the greatest military leader of the twentieth century and a remarkable politician who sought to avoid the Cold War and establish a long-term detente with the capitalist world.By means of an integrated military, political, and diplomatic narrative, the author draws a sustained and compelling personal portrait of the Soviet leader. The resulting picture is fascinating and contradictory, and it will inevitably change the way we understand Stalin and his place in history. Roberts depicts a despot who helped save the world for democracy, a personal charmer who disciplined mercilessly, a utopian ideologue who could be a practical realist, and a warlord who undertook the role of architect of post-war peace.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15040-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-ix)
  4. List of Maps and Figure
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xv)
  6. Chronology of Major Events
    (pp. xvi-xxii)
  7. 1 Introduction: Stalin at War
    (pp. 1-29)

    In the pantheon of twentieth-century dictators Joseph Stalin’s reputation for brutality and criminality is rivalled only by Adolf Hitler’s. Yet when he died in March 1953 his passing was widely mourned. In Moscow weeping crowds thronged the streets and there were displays of mass public grief throughout the Soviet Union.¹ At Stalin’s state funeral, party leaders queued up to eulogise their dead boss in reverential tones that suggested the passing of a saint, not a mass murderer. ‘The deathless name of Stalin will always live in our hearts, in the hearts of the Soviet people and of all progressive humanity,’...

  8. 2 Unholy Alliance: Stalin’s Pact with Hitler
    (pp. 30-60)

    The Nazi–Soviet pact of August 1939 was not Stalin’s first foray into the field of foreign affairs but it was by far his most significant and dramatic since coming to power in the 1920s. On the very eve of the Second World War the enmity that had bedevilled relations between Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany since Hitler came to power in 1933 was declared dissolved as the two states signed a treaty pledging non-aggression, neutrality, consultation and the friendly resolution of disputes.

    The first public inkling of this extraordinary turn of events was the announcement on 21 August 1939...

  9. 3 Grand Illusions: Stalin and 22 June 1941
    (pp. 61-81)

    After Molotov’s failed negotiations in Berlin the signs pointing to a Soviet–German war grew ever more ominous. As Stalin told Dimitrov on 25 November, ‘our relations with Germany are polite on the surface, but there is serious friction between us’.¹ Dimitrov was ordered to begin a Comintern campaign in Bulgaria in support of Moscow’s proposal to Sofia that the two countries sign a mutual assistance pact, an offer reactivated after Molotov’s return to Moscow from Berlin.² Once again the Bulgarians politely declined the Soviet offer, and signalled their intention to align with the Axis by signing the tripartite pact.³...

  10. 4 War of Annihilation: Stalin versus Hitler
    (pp. 82-117)

    The German invasion of the Soviet Union began a little before dawn on Sunday 22 June 1941. Leading the assault across a 1,000-mile front were 152 German divisions, supported by 14 Finnish divisions in the north and 14 Romanian divisions in the south.¹ Later, the 3.5-million-strong invasion force was joined by armies from Hungary and Italy, by the Spanish ‘Blue Division’, by contingents from Croatia and Slovakia, and by volunteer units recruited from every country in Nazi-occupied Europe.

    The invasion force was organised in three massed army groups: Army Group North attacked from East Prussia and fought its way along...

  11. 5 Victory at Stalingrad and Kursk: Stalin and his Generals
    (pp. 118-164)

    For 1942 Hitler was planning another blitzkrieg campaign in Russia. Its scope and aims were to be very different from those of Operation Barbarossa. Notwithstanding its great victories in 1941 the Wehrmacht had taken a severe battering at the hands of the Red Army and was no longer capable of waging a multi-pronged, strategic offensive on the Eastern Front. By March 1942 the Germans had suffered 1.1 million dead, wounded, missing, or captured – some 35 per cent of their strength on the Eastern Front. Only 8 out of 162 divisions were at full strength and 625,000 replacements were needed....

  12. 6 The Politics of War: Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt
    (pp. 165-191)

    From the very beginning Stalin saw the war with Hitler as a political and diplomatic contest as well as a military struggle. The war, and the peace that followed, would be won or lost not only on the battlefield but through the political alliances each side formed. For Stalin the Grand Alliance with Britain and the United States was as much a political alliance as a military coalition. Until mid-1943 Stalin’s diplomatic efforts within the Grand Alliance focused on ensuring that Hitler, and anti-communist elements within Britain and the US, did not succeed in splitting the Soviet–Western coalition. In...

  13. 7 Triumph and Tragedy: Stalin’s Year of Victories
    (pp. 192-227)

    In the annals of Soviet history 1944 became the year of the ‘ten great victories’. The original author of this heroic tale was Stalin, who used the ten ‘crushing blows’ against the enemy as a means of structuring his account of military developments in 1944. The occasion was his speech on the 27thanniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution and it was a good example of Stalin’s use of narrative technique in his wartime pronouncements, which typically analysed the course of the war in the form of a sequential story of battles and operations. In this case the events in question...

  14. 8 Liberation, Conquest, Revolution: Stalin’s Aims in Germany and Eastern Europe
    (pp. 228-253)

    After de Gaulle left Moscow Stalin’s next big diplomatic assignment was the Yalta conference of February 1945. It was Roosevelt’s idea to hold a second meeting of the Big Three and he originally hoped to hold the conference in Scotland in September 1944, but Stalin demurred about the date because of military commitments and then suggested a Black Sea port as a venue. Stalin hated flying and he could travel to the Black Sea coast by train. By this stage, however, the American presidential election was in progress and it was decided to postpone the conference until after Roosevelt’s inauguration...

  15. 9 Last Battles: Stalin, Truman and the End of the Second World War
    (pp. 254-295)

    The Red Army resumed its advance to Berlin in January 1945. In an offensive known as the Vistula–Oder operation Soviet armies swept through Poland and into East Prussia and eastern Germany. By the time the offensive petered out in February 1945 advance units of the Red Army were within 50 miles of the German capital. The Vistula–Oder operation was the largest single Soviet offensive of the Second World War. The two main fronts involved in the operation deployed 2.2 million troops and possessed more tanks and aircraft – 4,500 and 5,000 respectively – than the whole of the...

  16. 10 The Lost Peace: Stalin and the Origins of the Cold War
    (pp. 296-320)

    As the Second World War drew to a close Stalin foresaw a great future for the Grand Alliance. The success of Potsdam augured well for the first meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM), the body established by the Big Three to negotiate the postwar peace settlement. Its first task was to draw up peace treaties for the minor Axis states – Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, Italy and Romania. The Soviets prepared for the CFM confident that the tripartite spirit of co-operation displayed at Yalta and Potsdam would be sustained and that negotiations with their Grand Alliance partners would result...

  17. 11 Generalissimo at Home: The Domestic Context of Stalin’s Postwar Foreign Policy
    (pp. 321-346)

    ‘We won because we were led to victory by our great chief and genius of a commander, Marshal of the Soviet Union – Stalin!’ declared Zhukov at the Victory Parade in Red Square on 24 June 1945.¹ Four days later a decree was published announcing that Stalin had been promoted to Generalissimo – the first person to hold such rank in Russia since Alexander Suvorov, the great Tsarist commander of the Napoleonic Wars. At the Potsdam conference, however, Stalin told Churchill that he hoped he would continue to call him Marshal. Neither did Stalin like the Generalissimo’s uniform and he...

  18. 12 Cold War Confrontations: Stalin Embattled
    (pp. 347-371)

    Soviet foreign policy during the last five years of Stalin’s reign was a kaleidoscope of seemingly contradictory elements. The collapse of the Grand Alliance in 1947 provoked widespread fear that the cold war would soon develop into a ‘hot war’. Stalin’s own public statements warned of nefarious activities by western warmongers, especially ‘Churchill and his friends’. But he also talked down the war danger and insisted on the possibility of the peaceful coexistence of communism and capitalism. As the cold war intensified Stalin welded the Soviet sphere of influence in Eastern Europe into a tightly controlled bloc. But he faced...

  19. 13 Conclusion: Stalin in the Court of History
    (pp. 372-374)

    In the Soviet Union the re-evaluation of Stalin’s leadership began soon after his body was laid to rest in the Lenin Mausoleum in March 1953. In May 1954 Marshal V.D. Sokolovskii, Chief of the Soviet General Staff, published an article inPravdaon the ninth anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War. It did not even mention Stalin except in a passing reference to the ‘banner of Lenin and Stalin’.¹ In December 1954New Times, the Soviet journal of international affairs, published an article on the 75thanniversary of Stalin’s birth that emphasised the extent to which he had...

  20. Notes
    (pp. 375-429)
  21. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 430-446)
  22. Index
    (pp. 447-474)