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Viktor Suvorov on the beginnings of World War II
September 14, 2009 8:30 AM   Subscribe

Suvorov’s argument is simple. Stalin cleverly lured Hitler into war by offering to divide Poland. This act, Stalin knew, would prompt Britain and France to declare war on Germany. Stalin expected to pick up the pieces. - Eric Margolis

Computer wargamers discuss the claim here. Suvorov presents his own case here. (click on "Media Clips" button in the top-right corner of the page.)
posted by Joe Beese (30 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Glantz has pretty thoroughly debunked Suvorov, notably in his book Stumbling Colossus:

Drawing on evidence never before seen in the West, including combat records of early engagements, David Glantz claims that in 1941 the Red Army was poorly trained, inadequately equipped, ineptly organized, and consequently incapable of engaging in large-scale military campaigns—and both Hitler and Stalin knew it. He provides a complete and convincing study of why the Soviets almost lost the war that summer, dispelling many of the myths about the Red Army that have persisted since the war and soundly refuting Viktor Suvorov's controversial thesis that Stalin was planning a preemptive strike against Germany.



From Wikipedia

Suvorov's view that a Soviet invasion of Germany was imminent in 1941 is not shared by the majority of historians.

A noteworthy rebuttal of Suvorov's thesis is contained in Colonel David Glantz's work Stumbling Colossus: The Red Army on the Eve of World War. Glantz views Suvorov's argument as "incredible" on a variety of fronts: first, Suvorov rejects without examination classified ex-Soviet archival material, and makes highly selective picks from memoirs. Glantz points to this as a serious methodological flaw. Further, Glantz argues, Suvorov's thesis is strongly contradicted both by ex-Soviet and German archival material, and the facts do not support the argument that the Red Army was prepared to invade Germany.[1] On the contrary, the appalling lack of readiness, poor training level, and abysmal state of deployments show that the Red Army was unprepared for static defense, much less large-scale offensive operations. Glantz's conclusion is that "Stalin may well have been an unscrupulous tyrant, but he was not a lunatic."

Commenting on the existing plans for Soviet preemptive strike Robin Edmonds argues that "the Red Army planning staff would not have been doing its job if it had not devoted some time between 1939 and 1941 to the possibility, at some future date, of a pre-emptive strike against Wehrmacht"[2]. David Brandenberger notes that recently published pre-1941 German analysis of Soviet military readiness also do not support the major Icebreaker's thesis demonstrating that Soviet preparations were assessed to be "defensive" by German intelligence."[3]

Although Suvorov claims that an attack date of July 8, 1941 had been selected, this is contradicted by the evidence as presented by Glantz and others. There were no stockpiles of fuel, ammunition, and other stores held in forward areas as would have been needed if an invasion was about to be mounted. Major ground units were dispersed into small garrisons rather than being concentrated at railheads, as they would have been had they been preparing an invasion. Units were not co-located with their own transportation assets, leaving, for example, major artillery units immobile. Air Force aircraft were parked in neat, tightly-packed rows along their airfields rather than dispersed. Over 50% of all Soviet tanks required major maintenance on June 22, 1941. If an invasion were being planned, these maintenance tasks would have been completed. Most Soviet armor units were in the process of re-organizing into new Tank Corps; the German invasion caught these units in the midst of this reorganization. Such a large-scale reorganization is inconsistent with an impending invasion.

The origin of Suvorov's thesis may lie in the fact that Marshal Zhukov did suggest a pre-emptive strike on Germany early in 1941. Zhukov recalled this plan later but claimed either that the plan was rejected by Stalin or didn't reach the leader at all. This doesn't sound too convincing, though, as military historian Mikhail Meltyukhov has pointed out. First, it is hard to believe Zhukov's claim that he had given the top secret document to a secretary so that the latter could deliver it to Stalin. Second, the claim by Suvorov rejectors that the document doesn't have signatures really proves nothing. It is known that during those years official military documents were almost exclusively passed without proper formatting.[4]

Another major Icebreaker's issue in a lack of documentary evidences.[5] Cynthia A. Roberts notes that the book contains "virtually no documentary sources", and therefore "has been viewed in the West as an anti-Soviet tract". [6]

Summarising the western scholars' opinion on Icebreaker Hugh Ragsdale concludes that the book is "generally considered discredited" by now,[7] whereas Jonathan Haslam notes that Suorov's claims "would be comical were it not taken so seriously".[8] According to the latter, "there is a significant segment of opinion in Germany that wishes to rehabilitate the Nazi past, and the end of the Soviet regime created an atmosphere favorable to the publication of the book."

posted by Comrade_robot at 8:36 AM on September 14, 2009 [12 favorites]


Poor, poor misunderstood Hitler.
posted by Artw at 8:38 AM on September 14, 2009


You know who else invaded Poland?


Oh....right...
posted by Electric Dragon at 8:40 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Suvorov is an idiot.

If you want to hear it from the horse's mouth, read "Lost Victories" by Field Marshall Eric von Manstein. Von Manstien, the Germans' greatest planner and operational leader during the Second World War, thoroughly debunked this theory, stating that Stalin was neither deployed to defend or attack. Instead, Manstein looked at the Soviet deployment and concluded that Stalin was trying to have it both ways in his dispositions--putting his forces in between a distant defensive position and a forward offensive one. Then, if German collapsed, he would go on the offensive but otherwise would try to defend from this middle ground. Manstein concluded that by trying to have it both ways, Stalin put himself in a terrible, exposed position.

Given that Manstien commanded the 56th Panzer Corps of Army Group North, I think he was in a position to know.

Suvorov is just trying to sell books, primarily amongst German rightists. He knows better.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:43 AM on September 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh, it should also be noted that any theory that relies entirely on selective quoting of Soviet memoirs and completely ignores the fact that not a single one of Hitler's generals wrote that this was a reason for invading the Soviet Union ... well, pretty shaky ground. C'mon. Hitler wrote down why he was planning to invade the rest of Europe, and it wasn't that Stalin was coming.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:45 AM on September 14, 2009


Unlike in Diplomacy, nations in real-life wars do not begin with equal chance of victory.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:45 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Stalin cleverly lured Hitler into war by offering to divide Poland.

He also "cleverly" lost millions of soldiers, dozens if not hundreds of general officers, and a gigantic chunk of his population and industrial production.

Quite the plan he had there, huh?
posted by Ironmouth at 8:46 AM on September 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


Hitler wrote down why he was planning to invade the rest of Europe, and it wasn't that Stalin was coming.


Comrade_robot is right on here. Hitler wrote a book after Mein Kampf in 1928 as the party really started to pick up steam. It was called the "second book" or the "secret book." His advisors read it and begged him not to publish it for fear of the political consequences. It laid out his entire plan, which was to knock out France and become allied with Britain so that his rear would be free to complete the total aim of his foreign policy--the conquest of Soviet Russia. When he gained power, he did exactly that.

I remember as a history TA, the students would all unanimously state that "gee if Hitler had only stopped, he'd be remembered as a genius." Except there was no plan to stop. The whole plan was to set the stage for a gigantic invasion of Russia.

And that, my friends, is why Adolf Hitler was an idiot.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:51 AM on September 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


Here's an early gem from the comments thread on the Margolis piece:

WW2 was simply a cumulation of the war between Christdom Europe and the zionists financial elite for future control of the globe. The zionist financial elite won that war and it is their version of history we all learn about. Europe was destroyed to make way for the new soviet Europe, or more commonly known as the EU seeing as the architects of the NWO had to wear new cloths after the stain of their Russian purges, collectivization, and show trials during the 1930's and 40's. They are still out there today walking around in different suits in different halls of power with the same mind set and same ideological bent and contempt for the individual liberties we all cherish... and in time they will use another engineered travesty to ruin the old order and move their agenda forward another step. They far from 'lost' the cold war... no one has ever had to account for their crimes.

From somebody calling himself Eagleone. I'm guessing that the eagle in question is a bald eagle, and spent September 12 waving a placard that compares Obama to Hitler using grainy photographs and poor grammar.

Now, Margolis can't control who comments on his blog and what loony conspiracy theories those people spout, but the fact that somebody was there with his finger on the "post comment" trigger so fast indicates that he's at the very least a regular reader, and that Margolis is saying something that resonates with him.
posted by Shepherd at 8:52 AM on September 14, 2009


What is it with all the apologies that poor old Hitler just wanted a nice peaceful Europe with ethnic Germans under one government these days? In related news, there is Buchanan's revisionist whine that WWII was all the fault of Poland and England for not negotiating over Danzig. Now granted it's quite reasonable to argue that the extreme reparations faced by Germany made it ripe for a Nazi takeover. But the argument that the Axis governments were victims of a military and diplomatic honey pot strikes me as beyond the pale.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:59 AM on September 14, 2009


If the Soviets had destroyed the Ploesti oil refinery in '41 how long would Germany still be able to roll tanks before the Soviets could attain some kind of military parity?
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:00 AM on September 14, 2009


Ironmouth: "He also "cleverly" lost... dozens if not hundreds of general officers"

Well, clearly Stalin didn't mind "losing" officers when it suited him. :-)

And yes, judging by Stormfront's appearance in the Google results for the book, Hitler apologists are clutching this theory to their hate-filled bosoms. But that's irrelevant to the quality (or lack thereof) of Suvorov's case.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:03 AM on September 14, 2009


I remember as a history TA, the students would all unanimously state that "gee if Hitler had only stopped, he'd be remembered as a genius." Except there was no plan to stop. The whole plan was to set the stage for a gigantic invasion of Russia.

Even if he'd stopped, Hitler would have been in big trouble. IIRC (the book's at home), Tooze points out that the Germans used a lot of financial trickery and not paying for stuff in order to pump up their military. If Hitler had not launched the war, the German economy would have been in big trouble.

Even conquering France, &c., was big trouble, because now while you had (in theory) the rest of Europe's productive capacity, now you also were responsible for raw materials and feeding everybody, which Germany was already not doing too hot at just for itself. Hitler not being a very nice person, he insisted that food be redistributed away from everybody but the Germans, and was pretty much going to starve to death all the ethnic groups he didn't like.

Which kind of killed the productive power of the newly occupied territories because people don't work very well when they're starving. So there was a strange tug of war between "We need more food for the German people!" and "We need to feed workers or this factory is useless, and we can't just find new trained machinists after you've starved all the old ones to death!"
posted by Comrade_robot at 9:07 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


So -- no WMD in Russia either, huh?
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:07 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know who else invaded Poland?

Pope John Paul in a bubble?
posted by rough ashlar at 9:10 AM on September 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


I wrote the shortest history book on WWII, just now. Here it is, exclusively for MeFites:

1929 - World Economy goes kaput
1930 - People all over the world start drinking heavily and talk shit
1931 - Japan, frustrated that no one understands the shit they're talking invades the only country that sorta does...
1934 - Amphetamines readily available in much of the world
Around that time - Power is given to those who are wacked out enough to believe the shit they talk
1939 - Europe takes a page from Asia and decides "Enough talk, let's throw down."
1939 to 1945 - Lulz
1945 - Two big booms. Everyone realizes this shit has gone too far.
1946 - Hangovers, bitching, and a lot of "What the fuck was that about?"
1995 - History Channel launched. Round the clock replay of the scores and highlights of the biggest shitfest ever filmed
1996 to Today - Needless heavy editing and analysis of the footage and documentation
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 9:12 AM on September 14, 2009 [20 favorites]


None of the linked articles seem to address it, so I'll ask here: How does Suvorov address the Winter War? It's always been my understanding that this failed power grab of Stalin's was the reason why Hitler thought the Soviet Union was weak. Mannerheim inflicted staggering losses on the Soviet Union, giving Germany the idea that country could be dominated as easily as Poland. I'm willing to grant Stalin a good amount of cunning, but throwing an invasion of Finland to confuse Hitler is way too much.
posted by boo_radley at 9:33 AM on September 14, 2009


How does Suvorov address the Winter War? It's always been my understanding that this failed power grab of Stalin's was the reason why Hitler thought the Soviet Union was weak.

He always thought the Soviet Union was weak. It is a mistake to think of him as reacting to things and then deciding to invade the Soviet Union because the opportunity presented itself. Everything he did was to get Lebensraum via an invasion of European Russia. It was a scripted play calling plan.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:38 AM on September 14, 2009


I'd like to retract the above -- Margolis makes it clear in other blog posts, upon further reading, that he's not a loon and doesn't seem to do much to overtly attract them.
posted by Shepherd at 10:00 AM on September 14, 2009


I wrote the shortest history book on WWII, just now. Here it is, exclusively for MeFites:

tl;dr
posted by total warfare frown at 10:00 AM on September 14, 2009


World War II as animated GIF.
posted by preparat at 10:24 AM on September 14, 2009 [10 favorites]


This guy is calling Stalin a liar! Slanderous!
posted by Mister_A at 11:49 AM on September 14, 2009


Suvorov is a pulp fiction type of author; in Russia, where he is well known, of course, there isn't any kind of effort by historians to address any of his books, because everyone either knows what they're worth or enjoys believing in them regardless of their connection to history. In one of his books, he relates a story of how he was made to cut down a huge, wet and rotten (and for that reason uncuttable) piece of wood with an axe as an army recruit and makes it into an overreaching metaphor for the Soviet Army and the whole of Soviet Union. That sort of thing makes up 95% of his books.

He's not trying to appeal to German right, either. Mostly, he's just trying to sell books and the way to do that is to write some shocking revelation about wwII, or stalin, or kgb. The whole thing about Stalin's plan of attack is in fact trying to appeal to russian right, the argument goes that Stalin was not an idiot who was caught with his pants down, instead, he had an intelligent plan in place and the only trouble was that his timing was a few days off.
posted by rainy at 1:18 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Suvorov is a pulp fiction type of author; in Russia, where he is well known, of course, there isn't any kind of effort by historians to address any of his books...

We got one of those in America too. Has he slept with Bill Maher?
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 2:54 PM on September 14, 2009


I've been noticing an awful lot of attempted re-casting of WW2 -- what happened, what things meant, etc.

It all seems rather...sudden. And a little forced. Obviously there are geopolitical games afoot, but has anyone really nailed down the link between the present Great Game and the stories being told?
posted by effugas at 4:03 PM on September 14, 2009


has anyone really nailed down the link between the present Great Game and the stories being told?

Probably the ongoing rehabilitation of Comrade Stalin.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:34 PM on September 14, 2009


Well, it depends what you mean by attempted re-casting.

For example, for many years after the Second World War, much of the history (in American circles, anyway) of the German-Soviet bit of the war was written (entirely contrary to that phrase that commonly gets bandied about victors) by German generals. Oddly enough, nobody really questioned these stories told by Germans which told of highly trained Germans brilliantly fighting, thwarted only by Hitler, whom nobody liked anyway, and by the sheer mass of the Red Army. Since nobody was really available to say anything different what with the whole "Iron Curtain" they had going on back then, everybody was all, sure, whatever, sounds good.

Then the Soviet Union fell, and some fellows had the bright idea of learning to read Russian and having a look at the old (declassified) archives. And it turns out that, well, OK, maybe taking a German general's memoirs which was titled something like "How I was totally Awesome all the Time and Never Ever Made a Single Mistake and We're Just Going to Skip a Chunk of 1943 Because Nothing Important Happened Here Really, Just Assume I was On Vacation Or Something" at face value wasn't necessarily, well, the best course of action.

So that's kind of re-casting.

There was a very popular (though utterly ridiculous) "FDR allowed the Japanese to sink the US Fleet at Pearl Harbor" conspiracy theory a decade ago which I haven't heard much about recently, though the people who I knew who were really into it were, I think, wanting to believe it because they believed the US shouldn't have any involvement in foreign affairs, which included WWII, and it's difficult to argue that you shouldn't fight somebody who is all blowing up your stuff.

Then there's also the, er, troubling Holocaust denial and such, which I assume is happening these days because people are dying, and it's much harder to deny the Holocaust if other people are like, "Er, no, actually, I was _there_..."
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:26 PM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Unlike in Diplomacy, nations in real-life wars do not begin with equal chance of victory.

Even in Diplomacy, nations do not begin with equal chances of victory.

Don't pull the green blocks!
posted by Arandia at 7:53 PM on September 14, 2009


How does Suvorov address the Winter War? It's always been my understanding that this failed power grab of Stalin's was the reason why Hitler thought the Soviet Union was weak.

IIRC, his argument is that the Soviets actually "did pretty well" in the Winter War, all things considered: that the Finnish line of fortifications was "unbreakable" (he relates a story of how he fed the data about the fortified line into an American military analysis program and the program told him to throw a few nukes here and there to soften things up before sending in the tanks or something like that), yet the Soviets still managed to break it (so what if it cost a few hundred thousand lives). And of course this "brilliant" victory also convinced everyone that the Soviets were a bunch of pussies, making Hitler less cautious.
posted by daniel_charms at 11:04 PM on September 14, 2009


American neo-cons have been doing their best to paint Nazism and Communism as two different words for the same thing. I won't provide links, but it's pretty easy to see why.

American neo-cons are idiotic, desperate, and fuckwitted goat-fuckers.
posted by bardic at 12:35 AM on September 15, 2009


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