Name and Place for October 21 (’14)
Germany and Russia were dangerous places in the 1930’s. They should’nt have been. Both were rising powers, the former in Western and Central Europe, the latter in Asia and Eastern Europe. All within their borders should have blossomed with nationalistic fervor and pride, but their leaders, wracked by paranoia (especially towards the end of their lives), couldn’t restrain their murderous impulses. Stalin was especially brutal, which is saying a lot when in the company of Hitler. Here’s a snippet from Albert Marrin’s Stalin: Russia’s Man of Steel:
Mikhail Tukhachevsky was Stalin’s main target. After serving heroically in the Civil War, he’d become Red Army chief of staff. Thanks to Tukhachevsky, the Red Army had the largest tank force in the world and was the first to have regular paratroop units. Popular among the people, Tukhachevsky was seen as a possible rival to Stalin. Stalin, who blamed him for (Stalin’s) failure in the Polish war, now took his revenge. Tukhachevsky and others were arrested in June 1937 on charges of spying for Germany. At a secret trial, the forged Gestapo letters were used as proof of their guilt. All went to the firing squad.
Their deaths opened the way for a massacre of Soviet officers. During the next year, the Red Army lost 3 of its 5 field marshals, 14 of its 16 army commanders, 60 of its 67 corps commanders, 136 of 199 division commanders; the Red Navy lost all 8 admirals. In addition, the army lost half its officer corps, 35,000 men ranging from colonels to company commanders. Some die for ridiculous, almost comical, reasons. During a war game, a general Lukirsky attacked the U.S.S.R from the west. His plan was so good that his army—the “Blueforce”—could only be stopped outside the capital. Lukirsky was shot for “letting the enemy get to the gates of Moscow.” In one year Stalin killed more Soviet officers than Hitler would during the entire Second World War.
This—Stalin’s purge of the Red Army and Navy—was the singular reason the Nazis were able to dismantle the Soviet Union so quickly between the surprise invasion of May/June 1941 and August of 1942 through February 1943 when, barely, at the industrial heart and river of Stalingrad, they held their ground against the Nazi war machine. The front began to stabilize with Moscow and Leningrad still holding steady, Soviet fresh recruits filling the ranks, and eventually, counter-attacks beginning to offer relief from constant Nazi presses.
Had Stalin not allowed his ego-maniacal and paranoid atheism to rule his heart, the history of the 20th century may have looked quite different.