Marshal Joseph Stalin, Premier of the Soviet Union. In the 20 years between the Two World Wars, Stalin gained undisputed leadership of the Communist Party by murdering all of the other leaders of the Russian Revolution who had once shared power with him. He maintained control of the Soviet Union by a ruthless reign of terror in which millions of its citizens were arrested and condemned to death, or almost certain death in Siberian labor camps. Most of these arrests were made in a series of organized "Purges" targeted at specific groups or institutions in society, e.g., engineers, teachers, or former landowners; but many of these arrests were made entirely at random. The lesson being that no ...view middle of the document...
This was war, in all but name, but Stalin seemed unconcerned.
Hitler had often boasted that he was the enemy of Communism, but in 1939, Stalin concluded the Russo-German Non-Aggression Pact with him. By this Treaty, Hitler would allow the Soviet invasion of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland, and would make his Rumanian allies cede their province of Moldavia to the USSR as well. In return, Stalin agreed to divide Poland with Germany. This was not a wise move, for while the USSR would gain more territory than Germany, this removed all the buffer-zones between them and left the Soviets more exposed to attack. Also, by invading these little countries, Stalin lost any chance of an alliance with the British and French to stop further Nazi expansion.
In the 21 months that followed the German invasion of Poland, that marked the official start of War between Germany, France and Britain, Stalin showed a nearly fatal faith in Hitler's promises. He took "his" half of Poland and tried to occupy the other territories "given" to him under the treaty. In Moldavia and the three Baltic Republics, he succeeded, but his brutal methods destroyed any hope that the population would be thankful that he had saved them from the Nazis. In Poland, for example, he had 4,000 of the officers of the defeated Polish Army taken to the Katyn Forest and shot!
The invasion of Finland, which should have been easy for the Red Army, showed how badly the Great Purge had undermined its leadership and morale. Though greatly outnumbered, the Finns gave the Soviet invaders heavy casualties and managed to save most of their country. In the West, Churchill made a speech ridiculing the incompetence of the Red Army, while Sweden and the United States sent modern fighter aircraft to the Finns. But these results did nothing to shake Stalin's confidence. Although officer purges ended, he was utterly unprepared for the Nazi attack to come.
On 21 JUN 41, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. The combination of Red Army disorganization, unreadiness, popular hatred for Stalin and his own military incompetence let the German invaders reach the suburbs of Leningrad and Moscow. They were halted by overstretched supply lines, the beginning of winter, and ZHUKOV, one of the very few generals who had been missed by Stalin's purges.
By the time of the Invasion of Russia, France had been beaten and the British Commonwealth had stood, essentially alone, against Germany and Italy, for a year. Churchill, desperate for any help he could find, began to portray Stalin as Britain's good and faithful ally, Uncle Joe. (Churchill is reported to have said, "If Hitler were to invade Hell, I should have to say a few...